Tuesday, June 14, 2005

How in the World Did We Ever Win?

Enjoyed this from The Free Republic.

January 13, 1945

MINNEAPOLIS (Routers) The Roosevelt administration reeled today from new revelations of atrocities at German and Italian POW camps in America's heartland, where prisoners have been worked to exhaustion, and many have died. The international community has expressed shock at news of the harsh treatment of the Axis prisoners, eliminating any pretense at moral underpinnings for our war efforts in the Pacific and western Europe.

Produce Farms of Death

For many, the lachrymose terror begins when the prisoners first arrive, as they are housed in an onion-drying shed on the Odegard Farm in Isanti County. Many deaths have been reported, as some of the new arrivals are killed by the veteran prisoners, perhaps while camp guards simply look the other way.

But if they survive the first few days, new horrors are in store for them. There have been reports that prisoners were forced to toil in the fields for eleven-hour days, from seven in the early morning, until the late evening at 6 PM. For this, they get only three dollars a day, with no overtime pay. Thus, the local farmers are benefiting from this cruel war in what many say is tantamount to slave labor. Harvesting potatoes and onions in the fields of despair, many came back to their harsh camps each evening, in tears from the onion fumes (a chemical weapon precursor), dirt and "tater" skins under their fingernails, their lives an unending slog of spud-infested misery.

An Archipelago Of Torture

There is no relief for the POWs when they return to barracks. There have been claims, so far unsubstantiated, that some prisoners have been cruelly tortured, often kept awake at night by camp guards playing the Andrews Sisters on the radio. One poor wretch was reportedly given repeated wedgies by the camp staff until he would reveal the words to all of the verses of "Lili Marlene."

But sadly, in many cases, this goes beyond physical deprivation and hardship--the prisoners' spirituality has often been attacked as well. In many cases, the Germans' beliefs have been ridiculed by their unfeeling captors, with one man's copy of "Mein Kampf" reportedly torn up by an angry prison guard. Some claim that Adolf Hitler's picture is used as a dart board at some of the camps, in plain view of the prisoners.

The situation at the Odegard "Death Farm" isn't unique--such conditions reputedly apply across many camps throughout the upper midwest. Olivia, Owatonna, all the way out to Algona, Iowa--like Manzanar, the formerly bucolic names may now go down in history as a vast network of brutal work camps that will shame America for the rest of its existence.

Good Hamburgers

The administration, of course, attempts to defend the camps.

The commanding officer claimed that "...the Italian POWs in Princeton drew illustrations, carved wood and played sports, including baseball and soccer. The POWs cooked their own meals and some visitors sampling the POWs’ hamburger patties pronounced them the 'best hamburger sandwiches they had ever eaten.'"

"Some of them even were allowed to occasionally sneak out to a county fair, and even mix with some of the local women. And a little more than hugging was going on, if you know what I mean," he said.

But even if true, some say that this just raises even more the issue of cultural sensitivity, with Italian mens' aversion to women being well established.

"Besides," said the head of the ICRC, which has been investigating the situation, "many of these men were irresponsibly allowed access to alcohol and cigarettes with their earnings. Who will take responsibility for the long-term effects on their health?"

Some defenders of the administration claim that the POWs in the US are treated better than any in the world, citing death marches and beheadings in the Pacific, and poor conditions in German camps, in which Jewish prisoners are separated out and shipped off to work camps or worse. But critics say that this is no excuse for our own behavior, and that we must set the highest possible standard.

A World Aghast

The German government expressed outrage at the reported treatment of its prisoners, and their ideology. "National Socialism is an ideology of peace, regardless of all of the warfare and murder perpetrated in its name," sputtered the German ambassador. "We demand that our prisoners be treated in full compliance with the Geneva Conventions, and that the Fuehrer's book be given the appropriate respect." There have been rumors, unsubtantiated so far, that when news of the atrocities reached Berlin and Dusseldorf, there were massive riots, with many deaths.

Senior staffers at the State Department, on background, said that this couldn't help in our efforts to maintain our vital alliances, or in the effort to gain new ones. "This is the kind of thing that makes it necessary for us to go it alone against Germany and Japan, with no allies except for second-rate countries like England, Australia, and Canada," he said. "No decent country, like Soviet Russia, will want to stay on the same side as us when we behave like this."

"We're losing the hearts and minds of the Axis countries, and the war effort is doomed to failure unless we can reverse this."

(Copyright 2005 by Rand Simberg)