Monday, June 20, 2005


The indespensable Mark Steyn is simply one of the finest political writers on the scene today. This piece, Facing the Music - Mark Steyn on Democratic complaints about Guantanamo , is so good that it screams to be pasted in its entirety, rather than excerpted. Enjoy:

Been following the latest horrifying stories from what Amnesty International calls the "gulag of our time"? John Kass of The Chicago Tribune was outraged by the news that records by Christina Aguilera had been played at Guantanamo at full volume in order to soften up detainees. He thought they should have used "Dance, Ballerina, Dance" by Vaughn Monroe, over and over and over.

Well, readers had plenty of suggestions of their own, and so the Tribune's website put together a list of "Interro-Tunes" - the most effective songs for aural intimidation, mood music for jolting your jihadi. A lot were the usual suspects-like the Captain and Tennille's blamelessly goofy "Muskrat Love", which, as I recall, put the Queen to sleep at a White House gala, though the Duke of Edinburgh sat agog all the way to the end. Someone suggested Bob Dylan's "Everybody Must Get Stoned", which even on a single hearing sounds like it's being played over and over. I don't know what Mr Kass has against "Ballerina", which is very pleasant in the Nat "King" Cole version. But he seems to think one burst of "Dance, ballerina, dance/And do your pirouette in rhythm with your aching heart" will have the Islamists howling for the off-switch and singing like canaries to the Feds. Who knows? I sang "Ballerina" myself once on the radio long ago, and, if it will discombobulate the inmates, I'm willing to dust off my arrangement and fly down to Guantanamo, if necessary dressed liked Christina Aguilera. If they want an encore, I'll do my special culturally sensitive version of that Stevie Wonder classic, "My Sharia Amour".

By now, one or two readers may be frothing indignantly, "That's not funny! Bush's torture camp at Guantanamo is the gulag of our time, if not of all time." But that's the point. The world divides into those who feel the atrocities at Gitmo "must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -Pol Pot or others" (in the widely quoted words of Senator Dick Durbin), and the rest of us, for whom the more we hear the specifics of the "atrocities" the funnier they are. They bear the same relation to the gulags (15-30 million dead), the Nazi camps (nine
million dead) and the killing fields of Cambodia (two million dead) as Mel
Brooks‚ "Springtime For Hitler" does to the original. Nobody complained at
Auschwitz that the guards were playing the 78s of The Merry Widow (the Fuhrer's favorite operetta) with the volume knob too high. When that old KGB hand Yuri
Andropov succeeded Brezhnev as the big guy in the Kremlin, he was reported in
the western press to be a big Glenn Miller fan. But to the best of my knowledge
no-one suggested he was in the basement of the Lubyanka torturing the inmates
with "I Got A Gal In Kalamazoo".

The first time the full-blast junk-pop treatment caught the eye of the media was a decade and a half back, when US troops bombarded the Panamanian strongman General Noriega with the Bobby Fuller Four's "I Fought The Law (And The Law Won)". In those days, nobody reckoned it was torture. But these days torture seems to be in the ear of the behearer. Because the jihadi find western culture depraved - and I'm not necessarily in disagreement on that, at least where Christina Aguilera's concerned -we're obliged to be extra-super-duper-sensitive with them.

Says who? Again, the more one hears the specifics of the "insensitivity" of the American regime at Guantanamo, the more many of us reckon we're being way too sensitive. For example, camp guards are under instructions to handle copies of the Koran only when wearing gloves. The reason for this is that the detainees regard infidels as "unclean". Fair enough, each to his own. But it's one thing for the Islamists to think infidels are unclean, quite another for the infidels to agree with them. Far from being tortured, the prisoners are being handled literally with kid gloves (or simulated kid-effect gloves). The US military hand each jihadi his complimentary copy of the Koran as delicately as white-gloved butlers bringing His Lordship The Times of London. When I bought a Koran to bone up on Islam a couple of days after 9/11, I didn't wear gloves to the bookstore. If that's "disrespectful" to Muslims, tough. You should have thought about that before you allowed your holy book to become the central motivation for global jihad.

I'm not arguing the merits here so much as the politics. There's certainly a discussion to be had about how to categorize these people. As things stand, they're not covered by the Geneva Conventions -they're unlawful combatants, captured fighting in civilian clothes rather than uniform, and, when it comes to name, rank and serial number, they lack at least two thereof, and even the first is often highly variable. As a point of "international law", their fate is a matter entirely between Washington and the state of which they're citizens (Saudi Arabia, mostly). I don't think it's a good idea to upgrade terrorists into lawful combatants. But if, like my namesake the British jurist Lord Steyn, you feel differently, fine, go ahead and make your case.

Where the anti-Gitmo crowd went wrong was in expanding its objections from the legal status of the prisoners to the treatment they're receiving. By any comparison -ie, not just with Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot - they're getting better than they deserve. It's the first gulag in history where the torture victims put on weight. Each prisoner released from Guantanamo receives a new copy of the Koran plus a free pair of blue jeans in his new size: the average detainee puts on 13 pounds during his stay, thanks to the "mustard-baked dill fish", "baked Tandoori chicken breast" and other delicacies. These and other recipes from the gulag's kitchen have now been collected by some Internet wags and published as The Gitmo Cookbook.

Judging from the way he's dug himself in, Dick Durbin, the Number Two Democrat in the US Senate, genuinely believes Gitmo is analogous to Belsen, the gulags and the killing fields. But he crossed a line, from anti-Bush to anti-American, and most Americans have no interest in following him down that path.You can't claim (as Democrats do, incessantly) to "support our troops" and then dump them in the same category as the Nazis and the Khmer Rouge. In the hermetically sealed echo chamber between the Dem leadership, the mainstream US media, Hollywood, Ivy League "intellectuals" and European sophisticates, the gulag cracks are utterly unexceptional. But, for a political party that keeps losing elections because it has less and less appeal outside a few coastal enclaves, Durbin's remarks are devastating. The Democrats flopped in 2002 and 2004 because they were seen as incoherent on national security issues. Explicitly branding themselves as the "terrorists' rights" party is unlikely to improve their chances for 2006.

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