April 22, 2009

About Torture

It's all very simple:

Before actually having any suspects in custody from the War on Terror, officials in the Bush Administration took a program created to help captured American soldiers resist torture techniques crafted by the Red Chinese in the Korean War to illicit false confessions and reverse-engineered it so that they could APPLY those techniques in a way that would illicit false confessions about a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda to justify an invasion of Iraq.

Anyone who says the techniques helped prevent terrorist attacks on Los Angeles are wrong. That presumed attack was thwarted months before the torture even started.

And, consider this - after being waterboarded 180 times, KSM never gave up Osama Bin Laden.

Effective, huh?

Anyone who says it's not torture is wrong. The United States has prosecuted people as war criminals for using these very same techniques going back as far as the Spanish American War.

Anyone who says that 9/11 was so extraordinary that we had to violate the law is wrong. Is Al Qaeda really more dangerous that the Nazis or Mutual Assured Destruction? Get real.

Or, actually, let me put it to you this way: Let's assume that there is a ticking time bomb. Let's assume you have absolute proof that an attack is imminent and you have a suspect in custody that you are absolutely sure knows how to prevent it but he'll only talk if you break the law and violate him physically in some way. And let's assume, by torturing him, you prevent an attack and save millions of lives.

We are STILL a nation of laws, with a court system where you're judged by a jury of your peers. When the dust has settled, you should still have to stand trial and answer for your crimes. Because if a jury of your peers agrees that you made the right decision, they'll acquit you. The law is upheld with the people kept safe. Problem solved.

And if the jury DOES convict you, but the President knows that you did a great service for this nation, he can pardon you.

But the law is still the law. We don't just pretend that torture is OK. It's not OK. And if you think the circumstances are so dire that you're required to do some awful things, you should be man enough to stand up, say it proudly, and take your lumps because you believe in America and our system of laws.

To do otherwise, to say the law shouldn't apply to you, I'm sorry, that's just fundamentally un-American.

You want to know how you're REALLY supposed to interrogate prisoners? Read "The Interrogators", about the first guys on the ground in Afghanistan and how they got real actionable intelligence without resorting to torture.

But I think my man Shepard Smith said it best:

April 20, 2009

No. 1 on the call sheet

This interview with J.J. Abrams about his process for the new "Star Trek", coupled with a Fast Company article about McG, where he likened directing a big budget movie to being hired as the CEO of a $200 million company that only gets to launch one product, put a new idea in my head.

So, I'm about a month away from starting serious casting for my feature film, and it occurred to me, for as many actors who want to be stars, how many of them are conscious of the responsibilities, from a filmmaking perspective, that stardom brings?

I'm reminded of a conversation Tom Cruise and Jada Pinkett Smith had with Tavis Smiley
just before the release of "Collateral", where Tom said, at the time, "I've never lost the studio money". It struck me at the time because, honestly, it hadn't occurred to me that he, as the star, felt personally responsible for making sure that the people who invested their money in his performance would see a return on their investment.

As a director, I'm reminding myself that it's not just important to cast someone who can give a performance, but someone who can also be a responsible filmmaker: supporting the performances for the other actors, treating onset crew with proper respect, being engaged in the evolution of their character with the director and the writer, using their fan base to promote the film, and, in many, many cases, helping to bring in the money to make sure there even IS a film to make in the first place.

It sounds like J.J. was very blessed by Chris Pine's onset presence. He was the star of the film, and he knew it, and acted appropriately.

I hope other actors are taking note - if you want to be a star, act like one. And that doesn't mean being a diva. It means being someone that a filmmaker and a producer and a studio and your castmates can put their trust and faith in. Being a star is about having broad shoulders.

Anyway, just something on my mind right now.