My curiosity piqued by the newly released Senate report on CIA torture, I just watched Errol Morris’ The Unknown Known. The part where Donald Rumsfeld metaphorically chalks up a victory to himself is a pretty good metaphor for the entire documentary (2:46-3:46 above). Morris asks Rumsfeld about torture memos, but not the testimonies of Guantanamo detainees that have been public for nearly a decade, many of which make torture seem routine (though to harp on Rumsfeld would be unfair, as brutal force-feedings have continued under every sec-def and president since).
If the documentary is supposed to be objective journalism, Morris fails for leaving out quality information, opting instead to construct a narrative that treads lightly yet sequentially over Rumsfeld’s 30+ years of service in the Pentagon. Insofar as art is propaganda, however, and Morris has an agenda to push–which he clearly does–Rumsfeld wins again, regularly outwitting Morris in their battle to frame issues. Rumsfeld is clearly as intelligent as he is unempathetic toward the people he’s helped kill. If nothing else, Rumsfeld’s honesty makes the movie worth watching.