Our Schlindler’s List?

schindlers-list-imagesRemember the Arnold Schwarzenegger action movies and the John Wayne type westerns? Someone would stick a gun in the bad guys face and he would break down and start blubbering, "Yeah, I did it."

Perry Mason was more successful than John Wayne. He used psychology.

In the Atlantic monthly in an article by Steven Budianski, a few years back, he wrote about the most successful interrogator of Japanese prisoners of war during WWII. He spoke Japanese, he lived in Japan, and he knew the culture. He said, "The first and most important victory is getting into the mind and heart of the prisoner and achieving an intellectual and spiritual rapport with him." Get it.

When Schindler's List came out we were living in Atlanta and I was running an ad agency in Atlanta. We had living with us a German exchange student by the name of Oliver, a great kid and 16 years old and the same age as our son. Oliver, who had been through the German public schools and was a high school student went with us to see Schindler's List and half way through the movie Oliver broke down.

And throughout the rest of the movie this smart, “all American” German kid, sobbed all the way through that movie and for an hour as we drove home. When he could talk about it...he said words to the effect of: "I knew we did that stuff. We learned that in school. But I really really didn't know we did that stuff - until I saw the movie. I didn't realize it was people."

When we lived in Germany we used to go on day trips and weekly excursions around Europe with our kids. We had sold our business and were working for an international relief organization - it was an “on & off” year off for us. We went to the Dachau Concentration Camp where Josaf Mengele was performing his experiments on people and many people died. We walked through Dachau with our children, and looked at pictures of the people, the bodies stacked up to be put in the crematorium, and walked through the furnaces.

I wonder when the day will come that a generation of Americans, perhaps not even born yet, will walk through a museum at Bagram air force base in Afghanistan, or Abu Ghraib in Iraq, or Guantanamo in Cuba, or perhaps one of the hidden sites inside the United States or in Poland or in Czechoslovakia, and view it as our Dachau.

And we will walk through those museums with our children saying, "Yes, that’s what we did. This is what George Bush, Alberto Gonzalez, and Dick Cheney did. And we are ashamed." And I wonder if our children 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now will watch a movie about what happened. A Schindler's List, about what happened…

--about the 4.5 million Iraqi refugees

--about Iraqi children prostituting themselves because their parents are dead

--1.2 million Iraqi widows

--about the 5 million Iraqi orphans

--and the 1 million dead in Iraq

--The photos of tortured Iraqi prisoners

 A film about when America tortured Iraqi human beings...will Americans break down in tears?


Matt86 (not verified) 10 years 28 weeks ago

Hey everyone, I just signed up! I have been looking and can not find the transcript of the George Bush speech on torture Thom quoted today. I believe the date of the speech was June 26 2003. If anyone has a link to it I thank you.

Anthony (not verified) 10 years 28 weeks ago

Hi Matt, this is my first post on Thom's site. I have been listening to him for about 3 year and I am just signing up and posting. for the first time. Here is the link to the Bush speech http://blogs.tnr.com/tnr/blogs/the_plank/archive/2009/04/22/memories.aspx

I utterly agree with Thom that we will one day be referred to in the same breath as other countries that sanctioned torture. It is truly a un-forgivable degradation to the moral status of America and we owe it to the world to prosecute the perpetrators of this heinous international crime.

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