No 'Casablanca' today

American leaders of the Manifest Empire, not the Nazis of the Third Reich, are today's bad guys. The hero Rick Blaine would be neutral and would tell the Nazi Maj. Strasser that he's staying out of it.

Hell, where would he go, what would he do? Fleeing with Capt. Renault to free French Africa, they would be spotted and wiped out by a predator drone. The American Empire is as unrelenting but much more powerful than the Third Reich ever was. And as merciless: see "enhanced interrogation," which our leaders simply transliterated from the Gestapo handbook. We hold prisoners in cells "four feet high, four feet long, and 20 inches wide" for up to seven days. No standing up straight or sitting or lying down. Just like in Auschwitz, as an American noted in a letter to The New York Times. Those who investigated the practice concluded that such confinement was "reasonable." Like Maj. Strasser, "We have ways of making you talk."

Gitmo detainees commit suicide after four years of harsh imprisonment; we call it "asymmetrical warfare" or a "public relations ploy." Outside observers rightfully compare such remarks to those of sadistic torturers.

Our attorney general defines torture as "physical pain equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." If the tortured person does die, the perpetrator is off the hook because that was not the intent of the sadism. My country 'tis of thee.

The CIA's top counterterrorist is fired because he opposed detaining suspects in secret prisons and subjecting them to torture. That official is lucky we don't (yet) have a Russian Front.

Abu Ghraib, disappearances at home, special "renditions" of detainees to torture dungeons overseas, the wholesale wasting of Iraq, spying on all Americans without seeking a probable cause warrant, the locking up of American citizens in solitary confinement without benefit of counsel or even hope for a public trial: all Americans as "the usual suspects."



I am sorry; we cannot make a "Casablanca" today.

Gerald Cavanaugh