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July 19, 2005

Of Guantanamo and Azkaban

A shadowy figure leading a campaign of terror against civilians. A government floundering in its response, alternating between denial and misdirected crackdowns. "Suspects" led off in chains, their civil liberties violated. This is the wizards' world in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It also may be her view of George Bush's America in 2005.

In a crucial scene halfway through the sixth volume of Rowling's planned septet, Arthur Weasley, a Ministry of Magic official fighting the Voldemort-led Death Eaters, tells Harry Potter:

I wouldn't mind if we were getting anywhere, but of the three arrests we've made in the last couple of months, I doubt that one of them is a genuine Death Eater… the top levels want to look as though they're making some progress, and "three arrests" sounds better than "three mistaken arrests and releases."

Fifteen pages later, the Minister of Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour (who replaces the appeaser Cornelius Fudge before the book begins) tells Potter it's his duty to help the Ministry by lending his public support to its effort. With Weasley's words fresh in his mind, Harry replies:

Yeah, and others might say it's your duty to check out that people really are Death Eaters before you chuck them in prison. You're doing what Barry Crouch did. You never get it right, you people, do you? Either we've got Fudge, pretending everything's lovely while people get murdered right under his nose, or we've got you, chucking the wrong people into jail…

The reclusive Rowling makes it tough to be sure what she intends to say about today's "war on terror," but that isn't keeping Gelf from speculating, nor did it bar other blogs (see Slate's roundup) and the Miami Herald, among others.

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