Probably should’ve seen this coming: Conservatives are now criticizing – mildly, but still – the White House decision to hire actor Kal Penn of “Harold and Kumar” fame. Apparently they’re not big fans of certain scenes in Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.
I’ll let National Review’s Mark Hemingway explain:
But when the White House said that Penn had passed the background check, I wonder if anyone actually watched his films? Specifically, the scene from Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay that portrays U.S. servicemen as raping the inmates at Guantanamo. You can watch the scene here — but be forewarned it’s quite graphic.
To be clear, I have ZERO beef with the film having a satirical point of view — making fun of the president and how he conducted the war on terror is completely fair game. Hegseth and I would even admit to enjoying the first Harold and Kumar film as something of a guilty pleasure. Moreover, given this magazine’s position on marijuana legalization, I hardly think we’re reflexively anti–stoner comedy around these parts.
But when you portray members of the U.S. military doing their assigned duty honorably as rapists and homophobes — well, then I think a lot of people would rightfully have a problem with that. I’d certainly like to know if the commander in chief condones such a portrayal, and whether it does honor to the White House to employ someone who thinks that this is acceptable. Penn has the freedom to make whatever films he likes, and from what I’ve seen he’s a talented actor. I realize that the film was going for laughs, but nonetheless, a simple apology from Penn might go a long way here.
Because there was no use of sex as a torture weapon at Gitmo. Right? Right?
He told 60 Minutes about one interrogation in particular, in which he translated for a female interrogator who was trying to break a high-priority prisoner — a Saudi who had been in flight school in the United States.
“As she stood in front of him, she slowly started to unbutton her Army blouse. She had on underneath the Army blouse a tight brown Army T-shirt, touched her breasts, and said, ‘Don’t you like these big American breasts?’” says Saar. “She wanted to create a barrier between this detainee and his faith, and if she could somehow sexually entice him, he would feel unclean in an Islamic way, he would not be able to pray and go before his God and gain that strength, so the next day, maybe he would be able to start cooperating, start talking to her.”
But the prisoner wasn’t talking, so Saar said the interrogator increased the pressure.
“She started to unbutton her pants and reached and put her hands in her pants and then started to circle around the detainee. And when she had her hands in her pants, apparently she used something to put what appeared to be menstrual blood on her hand, but in fact was ink,” says Saar.
“When she circled around the detainee, she pulled out her hand, which was red, and said, ‘I’m actually menstruating right now, and I’m touching you. Does that please your God? Does that please Allah?’ And then he kind of got pent up and shied away from her, and she then took the ink and wiped it on his face, and said, ‘How do you like that?’”
Then, the interrogator sent the prisoner back to his cell with a message.
“She said, ‘Have fun trying to pray tonight while there’s no water in your cell,’ meaning that she was gonna have the water turned off in his cell, so that he then could not go back and become ritually clean. So he then therefore could not pray,” says Saar.
“I know that the individual that we were talking that night was a bad individual. Someone who I hope never — I hope he’s in captivity forever, I hope he never goes anywhere. But I felt awful that night. I felt dirty and disgusting.”
Now, granted, this isn’t precisely what was depicted in Harold and Kumar. But nobody ever said the movie was a documentary. But it goes to show the audacity of the pro-torture camp: Depicting a form of torture is a shameful slur on the good name of our military. Actually doing it? Nothing could be more patriotic.