Gitmo Sings the Tombstone Blues

I was going to write something about the prisoner suicides at Bush’s Cuban concentration camp, and the Pentagon’s ludicrous "explanation" that the deaths were, simultaneously, both a carefully planned act of "asymmetric warfare" and also an outburst of pure mumbo-jumbo among primitive darkies who had somehow concocted the mystical belief that if three of them died then all the prisoners would be freed.

(Sidenote: The utter contempt in which the Bush Regime holds the American people was clearly on display here: they’re not even trying to make a coherent, plausible defense of the torturous limboland they’ve devised in Gitmo anymore. They just say anything, even if it contradicts itself, anything to muddy the waters, knowing that people – or at least the ever-servile media – will swallow it and move on to the next news cycle. But they also don’t care if people don’t swallow it; the blatant Bushist attitude toward public relations now is: "This is our story, we’re sticking to it – and what are you going to do about it if you don’t like it? Nothing, punk." The self-contradictory explanation of the Gitmo suicides – rational, deliberate, intelligent act of guerilla warfare and crack-brained hoodoo from exotic lands – is strangely reminiscent of the Regime’s take on the 9/11 attacks: an act of war so rationally and intelligently planned that not even the world’s largest intelligence apparatus could detect it, much less stop it – and a lucky shot from a bunch of half-baked kooks dreaming about 72 virgins in Heaven.)

So I was going to write about all this, and how the suicides bring home the morally corrosive nature of torture and inhumane treatment, and how the aggressive, hyper-macho bluster of insecure national leaders create the noxious atmosphere in which atrocity and dehumanization thrive….but then I remembered that Bob Dylan had covered all this more than 40 years ago, in the middle of another godforsaken military adventure that saw torture, murder and mass destruction wielded in the name of democracy and freedom, way back when George W. Bush was still a high-school creep chugging brewskis and chasing tail, long before his apotheosis as the law-transcending War Leader. It was these lines from "Tombstone Blues," from the 1965 album, Highway 61 Revisited:

Well, John the Baptist after torturing a thief Looks up at his hero the Commander-in-Chief Saying, "Tell me great hero, but please make it brief, Is there a hole for me to get sick in?"

The Commander-in-Chief answers him while chasing a fly, Saying, "Death to all those who would whimper and cry!" And dropping a bar bell he points to the sky, Saying, "The sun’s not yellow, it’s chicken."

What more can you say about our current situation? Those who are given the illegal orders from the leaders of a government they have been taught to respect and believe are the only ones who might feel troubled at the moral hell they’ve been plunged into; but the Commander-in-Chief is too full of pseudo he-man blather and sexually anxious swagger to notice or care.

But of course, Dylan wrote these lines four decades ago; this stain goes deep in our republic, it’s been around a long time: the bellicose liars of the Bush Regime are only its latest manifestation.

June 14, 2006

Chris Floyd, Global Eye columnist for the Moscow Times, is the author of Empire Burlesque: The Secret History of the Bush Regime.