Olympus Has Fallen and the rise of arbitrary power

By Julian Mann, The Commentator

Torture is one of the nastiest incarnations of arbitrary power. That is why Christian civilisations, based on the belief that all human power is accountable to Jesus Christ, once Himself a victim of torture, should have no truck with it

The US President in Olympus Has Fallen, the new film about a terrorist takeover of the White House, is very unlike the current incumbent and even less like Bill Clinton. With a penchant for amateur boxing with the Secret Service agent who later betrayed him, he has the air of a neo-conservative about him.

The script does not tell us whether he approved of the torture meted out by the ‘good guy’ agent on two Korean terrorists bound and gagged in a White House room. One of them has a knife stuck in his throat and the other is knifed in the leg before proffering the required information. The ‘good guy’ even boasts that he has been trained to extract information from people like them.

In the world of the film, the pragmatic argument for torture is watertight. The men are definitely guilty and the information extracted is necessary to rescue the President from the White House bunker and save America from a nuclear catastrophe.

The film ends with the President ushering in an era of national renewal and blessing America in the name of God. Guantanamo Bay would appear to be part of this neo-con New Jerusalem.

Neo-conservatives are able to advance powerful pragmatic arguments for waterboarding terror suspects, demonstrated by the late Christopher Hitchens to be without doubt a form of torture. Information extracted in this manner can save lives. Furthermore, Christian-influenced societies that, unlike Islamic regimes, make a separation between church and state have traditionally protected the pragmatic sphere, the world of what works, from the straitjacket of ideology.

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