Senators who torture the truth

Daniel Henninger devotes his weekly Wall Street Journal column to the mind-boggling letter sent by Democratic Senators Feinstein and Levin along with their friend John McCain (Republican, I probably don’t need to remind you) to Sony Pictures protesting the film Zero Dark Thirty. “Zero Dark Thirty is factually inacurrate,” these solons write, “and we believe that you have an obligation to state that the role of torture in the hunt for Usama Bin Laden is not based on the facts, but rather part of the film’s fictional narrative.”

Feinstein has posted the letter here. She’s proud of it. I wrote about the letter earlier this week in “Torturing the truth.”

Henninger’s column is the less aptly headlined “Hollywood forgets 9/11.” Henninger refers to the authors of the letter by the initials FLM. His column has a personal edge, expressing indignation that is entirely appropriate to the occasion. Here Henninger gets down to business:

[I]n their letter to Sony there is no mention of Sept. 11, or the London bus and subway bombings, or Khobar Towers or any of the other acts of terror shown in “Zero Dark Thirty.” Senators. Feinstein and Levin wanted attention drawn to their report on the CIA’s interrogations and detentions, for which committee staff “reviewed 6 million pages of records.”

So what exactly did the senators say that caused Hollywood to head for the gopher holes?

“We believe,” FLM wrote to Sony Chairman Michael Lynton, “the film is grossly inaccurate and misleading in its suggestion that torture resulted in information that led to the location of Usama bin Laden.” The movie’s “suggestion”? Only a politician would have the skill to hang condemnation around a slippery word like “suggestion.” But it worked. Sen. Feinstein completely unbalanced public discussion of the movie.

Suddenly it was a film about waterboarding, rather than what Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal produced: The story of U.S. intelligence officers spending years digesting an incomprehensible flow of half-baked data, making mistakes and wrong calls, some getting blown up themselves by suicide bombers and finally, after three of them ride around teeming Peshawar in a Jeep with some tracking device, they nail the identity of bin Laden’s courier. On May 2, 2011, bin Laden was dead. That’s “Zero Dark Thirty.”

But not for Dianne Feinstein or the Hollywood hundreds. Here’s her denunciatory letter’s best part: “The use of torture in the fight against terrorism did severe damage to America’s values and standing that cannot be justified or expunged. It remains a stain on our national conscience. We cannot afford to go back to these dark times. . . . You have a social and moral obligation to get the facts right.”

This letter gives moralism new meaning. “We cannot afford to go back to these dark times.” How true.

If one sits to the end of the long credits for “Zero Dark Thirty,” you’ll see these last words about those dark times: “The filmmakers wish to especially acknowledge the sacrifice of those men, women, and families who were most impacted by the events depicted in this film: the victims and the families of the 9/11 attacks; as well as the attacks in the United Kingdom; the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan; in Khobar, Saudi Arabia; and at the Camp Chapman Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan. We also wish to acknowledge and honor the many extraordinary military and intelligence professionals and first responders who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Hollywood won’t do this Sunday. Instead, the members of the Academy will take a seat beside the intimidations of three U.S. senators. It is going to be an evening to remember in Hollywood’s most unusual history.

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