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Springtime in Guantanamo


Generally it's mistake to use words like Nazi, Fascist and Hitler when we're talking about the Bush administration. But everyone once in awhile something comes along that cries out for a Colonel Klink accent and a rousing chorus of Springtime For Hitler.

The song comes from the film (and later the stage show), The Producers, by Mel Brooks. It's the story of a Broadway entrepreneur, Max Bialystock, who realizes that nobody asks where the money went when a show flops (could that be the plot behind the war in Iraq?). Anyway, Max figures he can oversell shares in the show by 25,000%, provided he's sure the show will fail. He searches for the worst play in the world and finds a paen to the Fuhrer, by Franz Liebkind, once a member of Hitler's household staff.

Bialystock is willing to say whatever it takes to get the rights to Liebkind's play. The following dialogue ensues:

LIEBKIND

... You know, not
many people knew about it, but the
Fuhrer vas a terrific dancer.

BIALYSTOCK
Really, I never dreamed ...

LIEBKIND
(flies into an
indignant rage)
That's because you were taken in by
that verdampter Allied propaganda.
Such filthy lies. But nobody said
a bad vord about Winston Churchill,
did they? Oh no, Vin Vit Vinnie!
(he gestures V for victory)
Churchill, vit his cigars and his
brandy and his rotten paintings.
Couldn't even say Nazi. He would
say Narzis, Narzis. Ve vere not
Narzies, ve vere Nazis. But let me
tell this, and you're getting it
straight from the horse, Hitler vas
better looking than Churchill, he
vas a better dresser than Churchill,
had more hair, told funnier jokes,
and could dance the pants off
Churchill!

BIALYSTOCK
(swinging along)
That's exactly why we want to do
this play. To show the world the
true Hitler, the Hitler you knew,
the Hitler you loved, the Hitler
with a song in his heart.


Today, on the New York Times op-ed page we have "The Guantanamo I Know," by Colonel Morris D. Davis, chief prosecutor of the DOD's Office of Military Commissions.

Colonel Morris begins by quoting Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

GRAHAM
The image of Guantanamo Bay and The reality ... are completely different.

DAVIS
That's because you were taken in by that verdampter Liberal propaganda. Such filthy lies.
No. Davis doesn't actually say that.

He says, "So many embrace a contrived reality."

Then he goes on to say (try this out loud with a Franz Leibkind/Colonel Klink stage Nazi accent):

"Reality is the daily professionalism of its staff, the humanity of its detention centers and the fair and transparent nature of the military tribunals... Detainees receive three culturally appropriate meals a day. That's practically Kosher! (OK, I added that line)... respectful silence... medical care... two hours of outdoor recreation... clean, safe and humane."

Colonel Davis also gives a defense of the practice of permitting coerced testimony that is amazing even by the standards of Bush Apologetics. He says "Any statement by a person whose freedom is restrained by someone in a position of authority can be viewed as the product of some degree of coercion."

See, it's all coercion. There's nothing special about coercion. When you get called down to the principal's office in fifth grade, that's coercion. When your boss says you can't leave until you tell me who stole the paper clips, when the state trooper demands your license, when the cops question someone on Law and Order, it's coercion. Guantanamo, that's just a matter of degree. If you stand in a stress position for five minutes, what's the big deal? Six minutes... six hours... twenty-four hours... just a matter of a few minutes more. Held without charges, beaten by guards, unable to question your accusers, no right to habeas corpus, no contact without the outside world, unable to communicate with your family. Just a matter of degree. Coercion is normal.

So, join me and sing one more chorus:

Springtime in Guantanamo

And America.


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Larry Beinhart is the author of Wag the Dog, The Librarian, and Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin. All available at nationbooks.org. Responses can be sent to beinhart@earthlink.net