by director/co-writer Gavin Hood
“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” ― Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches
9/11, Osama, Bush, Afghanistan, Powell, WMD, OSP, Iraq, Obama, drone strikes, ISIS, Syria, refugees, Trump, walls, Fake News…
It’s been a maddening, confusing two decades that has left many of us disillusioned, angry and uncertain. Can anyone be trusted? Is it all just too complex to fathom? Are the basic concepts of personal integrity and human decency—those simple ideals we teach our kids—dead? Is cynicism our only refuge?
I had been battling these unhealthy feelings for some time when producer Ged Doherty, with whom I’d made Eye in the Sky, asked if I’d ever heard of Katharine Gun.
I had not.
“She was a British spy who leaked a top secret NSA memo about an illegal spying operation designed to push the smaller, non-permanent UN Security Council members into voting in favor of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.”
“The UN didn’t vote in favor of an invasion,” I said. “Bush and Blair relied on false intelligence claiming Iraq had WMD to justify going to war.”
“Yes, of course,” said Ged. “Everyone knows that now. But imagine if they’d secured a UN resolution authorizing war as they initially tried to do? There’d have been no need to rely on WMD. If the UN had backed the war, Bush and Blair would have had perfect legal cover for their invasion.”
“They’ve never been held legally accountable for their WMD lies anyway,” I said, “so what’s the point of telling this story?”
“Hope,” said Ged. “It’s a simple story of personal integrity that gives me hope.”
“Hope.” Sounds a bit worthy I thought. But I was intrigued enough to fly to London and meet with Katharine. And over a week of listening to her not quite so simple story, asking questions and taking notes, her quiet integrity drew me into a film-making journey that has restored my faith in basic human decency and the power of individual conscience.
Conscience, that “still small voice” we do not always listen to, but, when we do, banishes cynicism and raises us to a better, kinder place.