Weekend at Bernie’s goes to Abu Ghraib

I am obsessed with the movie Weekend At Bernie’s – I think it’s arguably the best premise comedy ever made, and has the funniest joke of any film I’ve seen (when Richard, awkwardly staring at the hot summer intern Gwen who he wants to talk to just says “my aunt is very sick” – if you saw it you’d know what I mean) and I watch it twice a year. When I was switching from VHS it was the only DVD I owned.

Natch, I got a kick out of this (and a shudder) – from Errol Morris’s piece in today’s Times about Abu Ghraib.

A prisoner (the one whose corpse the pretty girl with the green gloves is smiling over with the thumbs up in that photo) has been accidentally killed during interrogation:

Swanner [14] called on his cell phone for assistance and several other C.I.A. officers arrived.[15] It’s presumably not O.K. to kill prisoners. Several additional M.P.’s arrived, including Capt. Christopher Brinson. Capt. Donald Reese and Lt. Col. Steve Jordan. Jordan soon notified Colonel Pappas, the commander of the prison. [16]

The top brass at the prison — essentially everyone who was anyone — were present and involved in a heated discussion of what to do next.[17] According to Jordan, Pappas made it clear that he wasn’t going to take the fall for what amounted to the death of an O.G.A. prisoner. [18, 19]

Hydrue Joyner described [20] the scene as a version of the movie “Weekend at Bernie’s,” where two sad-sack employees pretend that their murdered boss is still alive so that they can avoid being implicated in his death. Indeed, when al-Jamadi was finally entered into the prison log book on November 5, 2003 (since he was a “ghost” detainee without an identification number), he was simply identified as “Bernie.” A good joke.

Everyone always ends up at Bernie's sooner or later
It’s early, and my sense of moral outrage doesn’t kick in until about 10am. Nonetheless, I’ll make a stab at the talking points:

1: As usual with the torture/prison treatment/etc., I blame the culture passed down from the top, not the seven bad apples from Abu Ghraib. When you imply a connection between Iraq and 9/11 and treat the Geneva Conventions like they are rules what what order to use different forks at fancy dinners, you get Abu Ghraib.

2: When you spend enough time in a war zone, especially in a prison where prisoners are dying by the lot, you start to forget what death is. It’s like when my friend Pam and I go fishing and on a really good day when we catch tons of fish and start playing air guitar to “Barracuda” on a dead Barracuda. The dead factor is just gone because there’s so many damn dead fish.

3: Weekend at Bernie’s belongs to the ages.

P.S. When Sen. Tim Johnson, Democrat of South Dakota went into a coma shortly after the Dems won their one-vote majority in 2006 (had he died, Gov. Mike Rounds, who is an asshole, would’ve appointed the new Senator, most certainly a Republican), I was talking to my very funny friend Cameron – she said “I know what to do. Pull a Weekend at Bernie’s.”


One Response

  1. I read that article a couple of days ago and have been meaning to write a little something on it. Morris is right, the pretty girl’s eyes are not smiling.

    The “Bernie” reference had me rolling my eyes in the article because depravity as the common denominator seemed to elude the consciences of all involved. The Abu Ghraib man suffered a miserable death.

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