Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Do The Ends Justify The Means?

John F. Kennedy addressed the United States during the Cuban Missile Crisis by saying, “The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is that path of surrender, or submission.” But, what exactly is the “cost of freedom” for Americans? Must we preserve the basic values and principles on which the country was founded at all times? Or does it mean continuing to fight for your country no matter the cost as long as we never “surrender.” I will address those questions by analyzing this still from the movie, Zero Dark Thirty, which is an important contemporary artifact because it visually displays the question on if the ends justified the means in the United States War on Terror.

 This still shows Maya, the protagonist dressed plainly, in barren room with wooden walls and plastic chairs. The only decoration and color is a framed American flag, which her back is turned away from. At a first glance this still contradicts much of what the movie is assumed to be about: Americans fighting for their country by torturing, researching and finally capturing/killing Osama Bin Laden. Only when one delves deeper does the real question come out, how far and at what costs will these American CIA operatives go to capture Bin Laden and did the ends justify the means?

 David Grossman, a former lawyer, provided much needed representation to the Guantanamo Bay detainees. He spoke of the physiological harm that United States government officials would inflict on these detainees. While these methods of torture wouldn’t leave any physical marks- the signs of mental deterioration were clear. This brings back the question of how much will the United States pay to keep our freedom. Do these interrogation techniques even provide crucial information that would lead to success on the United States side?

 In the poem, Waiting For The Barbarians, it addresses that the “barbarians” are really serving as more of a solution to the problem, then the actual problem itself. It states, “Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians? Those people were kind of a solution.” The “barbarians” in this poem are actually referring to the United States government officials and how they are the uncivilized, barbaric people. I believe this poem accurately displays how barbaric the United States government is because of how these detainees are locked up, with no court hearing, and tortured in many physical and physiological ways. These detainees are a way of showing the American people that the government is continuing to protect our freedoms by displaying that we have made progress in capturing the “bad guys.”

 A rich, happy, successful society all depends on one child who is enslaved and unhappy, locked up far away, according to the short story, The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas. But what about prisoners from far away countries, locked up, and tortured just to display to the American public that we fighting the War On Terror and protecting our freedoms? “They feel anger, outrage, impotence, despite all explanations,” says the narrator. Surely, people in the United States feel this way toward Guantanamo Bay but eventually they accept that in order to be “safe” and “happy” nothing can truly be done and move on. American citizens turn their back towards these detainees just like in the still how Maya has her back turned away from the flag. Maya seems that she is making a statement on how she feels about United States government use of torture to gain information. While the end result of the movie and real life was the same (Osama Bin Laden was killed), Maya truly seems to wonder if the ends justified the means in capturing Bin Laden. Have Americans truly paid the price for the cost of freedom this time?

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