Thursday 16 Aug 2018 | 06:17 | SYDNEY
Thursday 16 Aug 2018 | 06:17 | SYDNEY

Torture: Can we 'handle the truth'?


Sam Roggeveen


27 April 2009 18:00

When a blogger uses a scene from a middlebrow Hollywood thriller to illustrate a point about contemporary politics, I'm like a moth to the flame. As far as I'm concerned, blogging was invented for that kind of chatter.

So hats off to The American Scene's Peter Suderman for employing the famous 'You can't handle the truth!' scene in A Few Good Men to make his point against the use of torture. I endorse his argument, with a couple of caveats. First, I think Suderman identifies the wrong line from Jack Nicholson's speech as 'key'. Here's what really sums it up:

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it.

Nicholson's character, Nathan Jessep, is essentially saying that the legal process he's caught up in is illegitimate, since any means are allowable in securing the state and it is improper to question such means. In other words, he's saying the rule of law is irrelevant in international affairs, something many realists also believe.

Second (and this is a broad observation about the film rather than a criticism of Suderman's post), the film undermines its message about the importance of observing the rule of law by engaging in some pretty crude class politics. The good guys are all well-educated blue-staters, while the villains are either amoral bullies like Jessep or bible-thumping Southerners like Keifer Sutherland's Lt Kendrick.

Still, I love the film, and I don't care how nutso his beliefs or how weirdly he carries on, Tom Cruise is outstanding at his craft and this is a crackerjack performance:

A teaser: since we're on the subject of pop culture and politics, I promise to one day write a post arguing that Kenny Rogers' Coward of the County is a perfect distillation of Just War theory.