Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hurt Feelings

"Frankly, I was offended by it," Vice President Cheney said on Larry King Live. "For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don't take them seriously."

Mr. Cheney, who is famous for wearing his big heart on his Vice Presidential sleeve, wasn’t lying when he said his feelings were hurt. Wouldn’t you be hurt if someone said that you had something to do with bad stuff happening when you had absolutely nothing to do with the bad stuff, and even if you did it wasn’t your fault, and you probably didn’t even know about it, and, even if you did know about it, what were you supposed to do because you were about a thousand miles away the whole time?

Lots of very important people all over Washington are feeling pretty bad on Mr. Cheney’s behalf for what these people, most of them foreigners, said happened to them, which wasn’t even true and you can’t prove it, and besides everybody does stuff like this, and anyway none of it can be traced back to Mr. Cheney because he’s that kind of manager. Most of these foreigners who told Amnesty International that they had been mistreated and even tortured by Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq and Guantanamo are people who hate America, apparently just because of a few bumps and bruises and being posed for dirty pictures and for being held naked in uncomfortable positions for three years without charges.

"Occasionally there are allegations of mistreatment," Cheney said. "But if you trace those back, in nearly every case, it turns out to come from somebody who had been inside and released to their home country and now are peddling lies about how they were treated."

They were let go and then they complained. How typical is that? Did they complain right away? No. Did they say something when they were being flown at 50,000 feet over water in a cargo jet with easy opening doors by military personnel dressed identically to their former torturers? No. And now, all this time later, we’re supposed to believe them. “Guantanamo isn’t the Helmsley Palace, my Muslim friend,” said a senior White House official who refused to be identified.

And why were they let go? Because we figured out after a long long time of careful, polite interrogation with the gloves off that they were actually probably innocent. But because they were Muslims all this time, we had to be extra extra sure they weren’t just lying about being innocent. We couldn’t just let them go right away. These people are really crafty, especially the ones who are innocent.

And how are we supposed to know for sure they really are innocent? Heck, almost all of the people we jailed since 9/11 have turned out to be completely totally innocent, but how were we supposed to know that? We’d look pretty stupid if we just let them go, especially if we’d paid a big whomping reward to the people who turned them in. They’d just be laughing at us if we let them all go without getting rough. They’d think we were sissies.

If you let innocent people go without roughing them up a little, and waterboarding them so they almost drown, and letting dogs bite their genitals, and then getting them wanked up in front of women G.I.s, and making them pretend to have sex with each other, and taking dirty pictures of them which you say you plan to use to humiliate them in front of their families and friends, the terrorists win. You’d think, after all that stuff happened to them before we let them go because they were innocent that they’d be so delighted to be free that they’d say thank you. But no, they go out and blab about what happened to them during their three years being held without charge, in solitary confinement with no clothes and the lights off. So if it was dark what difference does it make if they didn’t let them have pyjamas? What a bunch of crybabies.

So wouldn’t your feelings be hurt if you were Dick Cheney? What a mean, selfish, hurtful thing for these foreigners, most of whom look exactly alike, which is exactly like terrorists, to say to a man with a heart condition. These people should be ashamed. They are the ones who should be embarrassed, not us, and certainly not Dick Cheney. Where does it say in the Koran that it’s O.K. to hurt the feelings of a man who’s over sixty years old and has already had several heart attacks and has no proven ties to the enormous frauds taking place in Iraq apart from being on their payroll?

“It’s absurd. It’s an absurd allegation. The United States is a country that promotes freedom around the world,” President Bush said of the report, which compared Guantanamo to a Soviet-era gulag. He said the Amnesty allegations were based on interviews with detainees, who hated America and were trained to lie, reported MSNBC.

Trained to lie… These people were trained to lie. The president himself said it. If anyone should know about someone being trained to lie, he should. How, exactly, are we supposed to believe people who were trained to lie? Did we let them go back to their own countries because they lied to us when they admitted being terrorists to make us stop torturing them? Think very carefully because this might be a trick question: was it the torture that trained them to lie about being terrorists, or were they lying when they said all along that they were nothing but innocent cabdrivers with rivals who wanted to get rid of them so they could steal their business and marry their sisters? Should we ask our brave allies who turned them in?

“We promote freedom around the world.” The President said those exact words. It makes you flush with pride. I could give you lots of examples of places where good old American freedom is happening. For instance in Uzbekistan, where we outsource some of our more creative interrogation techniques, people are allowed to cheer openly in the streets in favor of the beloved leader. Every day at a specified hour, Uzbekis applaud the leader when he appears on their televisions, without being told or prompted with electrodes. This is the same beloved leader who is now even more deeply revered because he has switched from boiling detainees in oil all at once, to boiling them one anatomical part at a time in plain water, which is less expensive and better for the environment. Uzbekistan is one staunch ally that isn’t squandering U.S. taxpayer dollars. When they shoot protesters they make the family pay for the bullets. Don’t get me started on how democracy is on the march in Egypt.

But this is far from the main point, which is how terribly hurtful and mean it is for people to say America violates human rights. What a terrible thing to say about anyone, whether they have a comfortable outside income from quasi-military multinational corporations or not. Not only does it hurt the feelings of the brave people in Military Intelligence and in the Pentagon who are actually to blame, but it hurts the feelings of the Vice President of the United States who thinks the Geneva Conventions are quaint. A senior administration official has said on background that Mr. Cheney has cried, real hard, several times about these things Amnesty International says America did to people the Vice President has never even met, which he had nothing to do with, and even if he did you can’t prove it.

According to a senior White House official who agreed to comment without attribution, the Vice President is considering measures to take, internationally, in concert with our democratic allies, to prevent this sort of hurtful, irresponsible talk by human rights groups who want the terrorists to win. Some of the measures under consideration are waterboarding, forced sex with animals and creative uses of electricity.

Monday, August 08, 2005

"The Look"

I got the look the other night from my son. This is all very new to me. I may have gotten the look over an infraction a few weeks earlier but I wasn’t paying attention. I was completely unprepared for this. My son is 13, at which age the glands begin to produce the hormones that produce the look in a spontaneous and natural way, like facial hair. What I am trying to say is that the look is nothing personal and nothing new and is no reflection on me personally, other than a reflection on my questionable judgment 13-plus years ago.

My son loves me and respects me every other half-hour, it’s only when I open my mouth in public that he experiences the momentary panic of all teenagers, which produces the hormone, which produces the look. The sequence occurs with breathtaking speed. It is a latent reflex. Doctors have a device for measuring it now, sort of like the rubber hammer they use on your knee, only much more expensive, so it is usually only used in the cases of very rich teenagers and latent adolescents like our president, who gave the look to his father in 2003 after family friend Brent Scowcroft criticized his (Bush Jr.s) judgment in taking the nation to war. Impulsiveness is part of being an adolescent and if you are man enough to question that impulsiveness you should be prepared to get the look big time. The former president (Bush Sr.) has gone back to piloting large fun-boats off the Maine coast and keeping his and his friends’ mouths shut. Nobody cares what Brent Scowcroft thinks anyway. I am learning to be more self-aware too.

What we all need to realize, as adults, is that this new horrified reaction to our old familiar parental selves isn’t about us, it is about them; it is about the anxiety of youth. Our offspring are growing up, and growing up means finding a sudden increase in powers beyond their comprehension. It’s a frightening thing to wake up one morning and find that you can suddenly affect the world around you in profound ways. To find that your senses are inexplicably tuned to a much higher level, and all for the purposes of perceiving how stupid your parents are, and how your parents’ behavior, especially the tiniest criticism, might reflect on you. I remember when I was a teenager and realized that my parents were stupider than I had thought previously.

And it wasn’t only them, it was their whole generation, the entire power structure. A power structure devoted full-time to suppressing my newly discovered requirements to drive expertly at high speeds with as many friends in the car as possible. Today’s youth must also add the necessity of staying in touch via cell-phone with the friends that couldn’t fit into the car. Our president is keenly aware of enormous new responsibilities undreamed of as recently as a few years ago when he was still driving into neighbors’ garbage cans. Does he need everybody else telling him how to do his important job? No. He has it all under control. Did you think he didn’t have 9/11 totally covered before it happened? As if. So if he gives you that look, Mr. Reporter, it is because he’s trying really hard to do his very best and he doesn’t need the rest of us bugging him. I understand from a quick read through the medical literature that the hormones that produce the look never really turn off in some people. They remain, for all practical purposes, teenagers all their lives. Have you ever noticed how youthful the president appears?

When I was a teenager some of my peers were less focused on the important job of resenting our parents’ warnings to drive carefully and screw around responsibly, and way too focused on other things that were none of their business, like a war that was going on in Vietnam, and whether negroes ought to be allowed to vote, or women to hold jobs instead of bearing children one after another. There were lots of arguments over these things during the 1960s, which produced anxiety in young people, which produced even more hormones. Our president was right there, branding fraternity emblems into the backsides of freshmen. He was giving the look to protesters and other killjoys big time then.

What we were too callow and self-centered to realize was that wars like Vietnam and Iraq are a perfectly natural outlet for young people whose bodies are producing the hormones that produce the extreme self-consciousness that produces the look. When the look leads to confrontation and to acts of violent impulsiveness it’s good to have somewhere for that impulsiveness to go. Our men and women in uniform are giving people the look 24/7 in Baghdad today, and the young people of Baghdad are giving it right back again. Self-doubt is natural among adolescents. Self-doubt–anxiety–perceived threat–anger–the look–impulsive violence. This is a natural cycle, which is exactly why there are wars. Luckily our president has surrounded himself with grown-ups (most of them hand-picked by his dad) who are not latent adolescents, who understand that foreign countries are a better place for that impulsive violence to take place, and if, in the process, we can get more gas to drive efficiently at high speeds in our cars with all our friends while talking on our cell-phones, all the better. National policy isn’t that complicated when you begin to understand adolescent hormones.

So when you get the look from your teen, just smile the same smile you got from your parents in the late 1960s. Smile in the secure knowledge that our president has found the perfect outlet for their adolescent rage. (And his own.) Hopefully our kids will be able to prove how much smarter they are by taking the mess we’ve stuck them with and making something out of it. Something that looks less like a colossal failure. The best of them will probably die trying to fix that failure, leaving the ones who opted out, the obedient cowardly ones, the ones who waved flags and cheered, young people like our president, to pick up the process and repeat it in another thirty years.

There is a cruel beauty to all of this, isn’t there?