Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Saving Private Fouty, et al.

I don't know if generals pay much attention to movies, even war movies, but I hope Gen. David Petraeus knows that Saving Private Ryan was largely fiction. True, there was a Private Ryan, and a decision was made at staff level to send him home after all his brothers were killed. But the job of tracking him down was given to a single chaplain, not an entire rifle company. Most troops were fairly busy in the days following the Normandy landings. You know, the Germans. The writers decided that nobody would pay $8.50 to watch Tom Hanks give last rites and ask "Have you seen Private Ryan?" for two and a half hours, so they invented the gallant Captain Miller. Hollywood, huh?

I bring it up because something strange is going on in Iraq. With violence steadily escalating and the situation deteriorating, several thousand American troops have been pulled out of action to look for three POWs. I can't remember anything like this happening in any previous war. Of course, I can't remember a previous war that began with the American government announcing its intention to flout the Geneva Convention and employ torture as an interrogation technique. The assumption was that no American soldier could possibly be captured, or molested in any way, unless his uniform was mussed by Iraqis greeting him as a liberator. This in turn rested on an admixture of wishful thinking, hubris, and mouth-breathing stupidity unique to the Cheney-Bush regime.

I fervently hope that Pvt. Byron Fouty, Spec. Alex Jimenez and Pfc. Joseph Anzack, Jr., are not being treated like inmates at Abu Ghraib, or Bushenwald in Cuba, or the secret hellpits operated by the Central Intelligence Agency all over the world. It would be wonderful if this were an Enlightenment-Era opera by Mozart, where the Turkish pasha surprises everyone by showing mercy to the son of the man who wronged him and sending all the Christian captives home. But who are we kidding? Any minute video of their "enhanced interrogation" may show up on Al Jazeera, and Americans whose idea of first-class intelligence work is derived from 24 will find out why we had treaties to begin with, and why we tried and occasionally executed Japanese and German officers who ignored them.

The case for barbarism was made in the notorious "torture memo" drafted by then-White House consigliere Alberto Gonzales, who was soon rewarded with his very own Justice Department after John Ashcroft was discovered to be infected with a microscopic quantity of scruples. (Researchers believe he picked it up after brushing against Colin Powell at a White House Christmas party.) Memo to future attorneys general: When you are being compared unfavorably with John Ashcroft, and your resignation is being urged by the same bonehead senators who confirmed you less than three years ago, it is time to slither back under the big flat rock. Gonzorrhea hangs on, however, with his tone-deaf lies and shit-eating grin, the face of a regime that has the sensitivity of an autistic warthog. "Yeah, Ah'm lyin', whatch'all gonna do about it?" is the subtext of everything they say and do. Chief Eunuch Rove and his little prince know that nobody is going to turn off American Idol and take to the streets, and the suffering and dying will continue. I really do hope they find those guys, because even a stay at Walter Reed and a photo-op with Bush has to be better than what they're living through now.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Mourning in America

Live from Simi Valley, home of the Rodney King trial, it's Night of the Living Dead. All those Republicans appeared to have measurable vital signs, but the most powerful presence was He Whose Name the Library Bears, Ronald Reagan. (Bush? What's a Bush?) Clearly, what Gore Vidal named the Right Wing of the Property Party has no chance of holding onto the White House unless it can disinter the Gipper and run him for a third term. (Constitutional loophole: he is, technically, dead.) If only Nancy had heard of Jeremy Bentham:

Bentham's most bizarre coup came after his death in 1832. As stipulated in his will, Bentham's embalmed body was dressed and placed on display in a glass cabinet in the hallways of UCL. His body is still there today and, apparently, it is still wheeled in to preside over the annual meeting of university administrators. He also left his estate as an endowment to UCL and tens of thousands of pages of unpublished papers and tracts for successive generations to dig through (which they are still doing).

(from History of Economic Thought, http://cepa.newschool.edu/het/profiles/bentham.htm)

Well, if Celine Dion can sing with Elvis, there's no reason Reagan can't run for president although, technically, dead. From the neck down, this time.