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Jewish World Review May 22, 2003 / 20 Iyar, 5763

Lenore Skenazy

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We have ways of making you sing | Item: U.S. military officials are using heavy metal music and kiddie-show theme songs to mentally break down Iraqi POWs. ... "Trust me, it works," one U.S. operative told Newsweek.

NY Daily News, May 19

Hell's bells! Somebody call Amnesty International! Iraqi prisoners are being subjected to the same kind of unspeakable torture that has left millions of Americans broken, bawling and begging for mercy.

It's called parenthood.

Alternating Barney's theme song with the soundtrack from Vin Diesel's "XXX," American troops apparently will stop at nothing to break Saddam Hussein's henchmen. When necessary, they'll even deploy the "Sesame Street" song. And that's just the stuff we hear about.

Who knows what other torments Baghdad's prisoners must endure? Endless kicks under the table at dinnertime? A steady pile of clothes they are forced to pick up and put in the hamper? All-day field trips they must chaperone as the kids in the back of the bus make rude noises with their armpits?

Who could take it? Not me! Give me the guys with rubber hoses any day! At least they don't sing "99 Bottles of Beer."

Actually, sources say, the real torture cycle goes like this: Guards keep the prisoners awake for 24 hours by blasting them with Metallica (think: a Friday night when your teen is grounded). If this fails to elicit the requisite blubbering, the guards are authorized to roll out the PBS Kids lineup (though not, thanks to the Geneva Convention, the Juicy Juice ad).

So the only difference between Iraqi torture and the American way of life turns out to be that Saddam's henchmen get off easier: Confess a couple of war crimes, and - poof! The stereo goes silent. Someone actually turns off the TV. And, presumably, no one storms out of the room shouting, "I hate you! I hate you!"

If only our own lot were this sweet.

But noooooo. As American parents, we get years of Barney, not just days. Worse, we speak Barney's language. This means that when he sings, "We're a hap-py fam-i-LY" we know he's singing the word "FAMily" wrong. We also know he stole the tune from "This Old Man." Arghh!

Iraq's evildoers also get off easy because their torture doesn't require actual interaction with kids. A cudgel-wielding corporal is nothing compared to a child who has just discovered the joys of copying.

"Allah Akbar!" cries the prisoner. "Allah Akbar!" cries the tyke. "Saddam lives!" cries the prisoner. "Saddam lives!" says the tyke. "Quit copying me!" "Quit copying me!" "I mean it!" "I mean it!" "You win! Here's a map to the weapons of mass destruction!" "You win! Here's a map. ..."

And let us not underestimate the power of knock-knock jokes, either - particularly when practiced by pre-schoolers. "Knock-knock, Mr. Prisoner!"

Prisoner: "Who's there?" Kid: "Banana." Prisoner: "Banana who?" Kid: "Banana I love ice cream! Knock-knock!"

Now - imagine if we gave that knock-knock kid a pair of tap shoes? Or a drum set? Or an empty toilet paper roll to shout through? We'd find Saddam and Osama and Waldo, too! Throw in a Mary-Kate and Ashley-themed slumber party, and there's not a prisoner in the world who wouldn't talk.

Unless, of course, that prisoner is a teenager. Then he'd probably roll his eyes and slam the door. And we'd be only too happy to keep him locked up.

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JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.


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