Monday, December 04, 2006

Bush Administration Plays Star Wars

An annoying tic that Republican business executives of my father's generation and a little younger picked up in the early 70s was to mimic various scenes from The Godfather in real business situations and even sometimes in personal life. My mother finally got my father to knock it off but his associates and other people I ran into continued to act out their Godfather fantasies from time to time. The truth is that our country has grown so fast in the last two hundred years that we sometimes forget who we are.

Now Deborah Sontag of The New York Times reveals a new generation of people in the government who this time take the Empire part of the Star Wars series too literally; here's the article:
One spring day during his three and a half years as an enemy combatant, Jose Padilla experienced a break from the monotony of his solitary confinement in a bare cell in the brig at the Naval Weapons Station in Charleston, S.C.
That day, Mr. Padilla, a Brooklyn-born Muslim convert whom the Bush administration had accused of plotting a dirty bomb attack and had detained without charges, got to go to the dentist.

“Today is May 21,” a naval official declared to a camera videotaping the event. “Right now we’re ready to do a root canal treatment on Jose Padilla, our enemy combatant.”

Several guards in camouflage and riot gear approached cell No. 103. They unlocked a rectangular panel at the bottom of the door and Mr. Padilla’s bare feet slid through, eerily disembodied. As one guard held down a foot with his black boot, the others shackled Mr. Padilla’s legs. Next, his hands emerged through another hole to be manacled.

Wordlessly, the guards, pushing into the cell, chained Mr. Padilla’s cuffed hands to a metal belt. Briefly, his expressionless eyes met the camera before he lowered his head submissively in expectation of what came next: noise-blocking headphones over his ears and blacked-out goggles over his eyes. Then the guards, whose faces were hidden behind plastic visors, marched their masked, clanking prisoner down the hall to his root canal.

In The Empire Strikes Back, there's a scene that sort of implies root canal imagery but the original image comes from The Marathon Man starring Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier; Olivier plays a former Nazi concentration camp dentist and Hoffman is the unfortunate victim of Olivier's dental implements.

What are we to make of helmets, face masks, total impersonal behavior and star trooper mentality in these images? Who took these images to heart? Cheney? Bush? Rumsfeld? General Boykin? Of course, there have been other fictional movies and fictional thrillers and fictional TV shows showing such characters. As we know, the Bush Administration has trouble distinguishing between fiction and reality.

Yes, we all remember that terrible day, 9-11, and yes we were concerned about catching real terrorists. Real terrorists, mind you. Not bozos like Jose Padilla who appears to have been more a propaganda find than a terrorist threat. I confess I'm losing track of how many government cases have fallen apart because they were based on the ravings of tortured people willing to say anything to make the pain stop or even based on the fantasies of people handling their cases. For example, the government just paid $2 million to an Oregon lawyer who was briefly held for the 2004 bombing in Spain because it was thought his fingerprints matched those on a plastic bag; the Spanish were astonished because there was no match, not even close, and their belief in American expertise was somewhat rattled after that fiasco. Someone has yet to explain how it all happened.

Having lost their way some time ago, Republicans in Congress still defend Bush and most will continue to do so. Right wing bloggers and pundits will continue to do the same. But a curious thing has been happening across America. By ones, by tens, by hundreds, day after day, Republicans and independents are continuing to turn away from Bush's perverted vision of America. Most Americans want nothing to do with Bush and Cheney's Start Wars, Inc. I suspect more Americans will continue to peel away from supporting our president and his disturbing vision of America.

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