The new film keeps this racist theme alive, but it goes further still, legitimising both torture and extra judicial killing - in line, of course, with the Obama administration's foreign policy preferences. It also includes references to a range of terror attacks, including the July 2005 bombings in London, that had nothing to do with bin Laden (but everything to do with violent reaction against the depredations of Western imperialism). It is, in short, a mendacious apologia for what Henry Giroux has called 'dirty democracy'. The enormous amount of publicity the film has received across all of the media - for several weeks advertisements for the film have dominated public billboards in the UK - indicates just what dark times we are living in.
Another notable aspect of the film is the decision to make the central character a female CIA officer, a choice that legitimizes the involvement of Western women in the torture of Arab men. This is a theme familiar enough from the Abu Ghraib photographs (although Jessica Chastain's Maya, unlike the working class 'grunt' Lynddie England, is an 'educated' woman, which perhaps gives her rather more caché among liberal audiences) and shows that feminism, far from constituting any form of resistance to imperialism, serves as a crucial part of its ideological defence. Indeed, war has long been justified in terms of the defence of women: to take just one recent example, the CIA attempted to make 'women's rights' central to its justification for the war in Afghanistan. Today, meanwhile, women are assured that they can play as important a part as men in the prosecution of imperialist violence and US President Barack Obama recently praised the opening of combat units to women as yet another step toward the achievement of America's founding ideals of fairness and equality: 'Today, every American can be proud that our military will grow even stronger, with our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters playing a greater role in protecting this country we love'.
Most disturbing of all, for US workers at least, is Kumar's suggestion that Zero Dark Thirty 'is a harbinger of things to come. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) signed into law by Obama earlier this month includes an amendment, passed in the House last May, that legalizes the dissemination of propaganda to US citizens'. Hollywood war films have always, of course, served as propaganda vehicles, and many of them - like Zero Dark Thirty - have been produced with financial support or practical input from the Pentagon; but this move legitimises the state's war on the American public. The amendment to the NDAA invalidates the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, which had proscribed the domestic use of psychological operations by the state. As Kumar advises: 'Be ready to be propagandized to all the time, everywhere'.