by Mickey Z.
July 26, 2003
In Phoenix, the average high temperature for the first three weeks of July was 110 degrees...on track, according to the Associated Press, to have the "hottest July since the National Weather Service started keeping records in 1896."
From dogs burning their paws on the sidewalk to melting sneakers fusing their owners to the blistering asphalt, an AP piece ("Feelin' Hot Hot Hot In Phoenix," July 25, 2003) ignored any mention of global climate changes and instead spun colorful tales of the heat wave. Then the article took a darker turn:
"About 2,000 inmates living in a barbed-wire-surrounded tent encampment at the Maricopa County Jail have been given permission to strip down to their government-issued pink boxer shorts." With temperatures inside the tents reaching 138 degrees, prisoners used "pink towels as sweat collected on their chests and dripped down to their pink socks." One inmate was called on to state the obvious: he called the conditions "inhumane."
The man who created this tent city and decided bad boys being forced to wear a girly color was reasonable punishment in Arizona is Joe Arpaio, called "the tough-guy sheriff" by AP. Arpaio was asked how he responded to inmates who complained about the heat wave-induced conditions.
Arpaio simply told them to "shut their mouths," explaining, "It's 120 degrees in Iraq and the soldiers are living in tents and they didn't commit any crimes. (Why am I certain he pronounced it: "Eye-Rack"?)
I couldn't ask for a better segue into the deaths of Saddam Hussein's sons. Over in Eye-Rack (where U.S. soldiers are not committing crimes), Uday and Qusay got a taste of their own medicine, i.e. extra-judicial murder followed by the public parading of mutilated bodies. The New York Times correctly called it a "hit" while the Washington Post deemed the rubout that killed Uday, Qusay, and two others (including a 14-year-old boy): "very good news indeed."
Other responses (besides the $30 million reward for one lucky Iraqi) included:
An unnamed senior US military official in Iraq: "This is a very beneficial hit. They cannot feel anything other than doom, since if we can take down these guys, we can take down anybody."
President (sic) George W. Bush: "Now more than ever Iraqis can know the former regime is gone and is not coming back."
Senator Ted Kennedy: "It's progress."
British Prime Minister: "This is a great day for the new Iraq."
The new Eye-Rack was then treated to gruesome photos of the men killed by an occupying army that gets very upset if its own dead are photographed. Secretary of Defense (sic) Rumsfeld was "glad" he released the photos and Colonel Dan Smith, a retired military intelligence officer, assured us: "We have a tradition of respecting the dead."
Surely Smith was thinking of Eugene B. Sledge, WWII veteran and author of "With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa," who wrote of his comrades "harvesting gold teeth" from dead Japanese soldiers. In Okinawa, Sledge witnessed, "the most repulsive thing I ever saw an American do in the war"-when a Marine officer stood over a Japanese corpse and urinated into its mouth.
But what kind of behavior should be expected when young men are trained to kill? And what happens when they bring that training home? They might create a sweltering prison of tents or find new applications for the mentality that political opponents can be simply killed.
Case in point: Othniel Askew shot and killed Councilman James Davis in New York's City Hall last week. Unlike the extra-judicial hits in Eye-Rack, Mayor Mike Bloomberg called this an "attack on democracy." Just moments before the aforementioned attack on democracy, Davis introduced Askew to a colleague, Councilman Charles Barron, who was taken aback by Askew's edgy aura and "intense handshake." Today, as Big Apple tabloids compete to find the roots of Askew's actions in his alleged homosexuality and/or HIV-positive status, not much is made of Davis's reply to Barron, re: Askew:
"Don't worry; he used to be in the military."
In the military, where crimes are not committed and the dead inspire respect, killing your opponent and displaying his corpse is "progress" (see Ted Kennedy). In civilian life, such conduct just might land you in a 138-degree tent...dressed in pink.
So, watch your step, the pavement is awfully hot...
Mickey Z. is the author of The Murdering of My Years: Artists and Activists Making Ends Meet (www.murderingofmyyears.com) and an editor at Wide Angle (www.wideangleny.com). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.