John Ashcroft, Keep Your Mouth
Off My Wife!
be the first to admit that sitting here in this garden shed drinking
Jim Beam and feeding pork rinds to my dog Bingo (a black mutt of the
type we call a "piss hound" around here) may not be the be the best
vantage point from which to examine national security affairs.
However, it must be said that when the nebulous tendrils of U.S.
security policy begin to reach down this far into everyday life, far
enough to rattle a 57-year-old pee dribbler such as myself, it sure
as hell can be called pervasive, at the very least. Not only
pervasive, but also downright personal too. John Ashcroft publicly
insulted my wife. I kid you not. I never thought I'd see the day
when I would be ready for a balls-to-the-wall scrap with the
Attorney General of the United States. I really didn't. So last week
I sent him a nasty note, from which I quote, in order to explain to
you, dear reader, the sordid details:
Then again, maybe not. Ever since George W. Bush---whom we call "Sparky" around our house---stepped onto the Capitol steps and placed his beefy paw on the Good Book, my big-picture-guy notion of the U.S. presidency, my image of the president as "the man with the plan," has been shot to hell. In fact, I find myself turning cranky at the very mention of the president's name, which could be attributable to the Jim Beam, or it could be my prostate acting up again. I dunno. But from where I sit, it looks like more planning goes into our local Elk's Club picnic than happens in the presidential cabinet these days. Neither Sparky nor the other three horsemen of the chicken hawk apocalypse ever give us a rationale for anything, at least not until after the deal goes down, which does not exactly spell P-L-A-N to me. And even then, the rationale or plan will not stay put, but rather shifts around like a whore in church. What's more, members of the president's own team keep defecting and telling us the White House cabinet members are peddling big wheel tricycles around the oval office without any real plan, other than getting reelected, giving voting rights to unborn fetuses, and killing "the bad guys." Personally, this has not been comforting. I doubt Bingo likes it much either.
If that were all, it would certainly be enough to make me double my dose of Prevacid. But now I find that I may be an "enemy combatant" and not even know it. At this very moment the president and his crew are arguing in the Supreme Court that certain American citizens, even those arrested inside the United States, are "enemy combatants," a non-legal term invented out of thin air, yet expected to be recognized in the Supreme Court of the United States. In any case, once an American citizen is singled out as an enemy combatant by the president, lo and bedamned, he or she morphs into a U.S. military captive---a prisoner of war. Well, actually, not even that lucky because the captive in this case is not quite entitled to the rights of POWs, much less those of an American citizen. They are not entitled to a lawyer or a jury trial, and can and are being kept locked up in a windowless cell for as long as the president sees fit. Which means forever, if the president happens to be having a bad day. So if, for example, John Ashcroft or Don Rumsfeld ever find my sympathetic email correspondence with Muslim Middle Eastern friends, WHOOSH! I could suddenly become an enemy prisoner of the U.S. military...shitting in a crapper between interrogations in an undisclosed location, instead of lounging on a bag of potting soil pondering all this with Bingo. A seemingly small action on my part could lead to huge disaster. It's one of those chaos theory butterfly wing things.
In the meantime though, I am surely being defended abroad, though precisely what threat to this potting shed the Iraqis represented, I cannot say. The Pentagon spends hundreds of billions a year on sci-fi techno-toys now swarming like giant steel insects across the skies and the miserable bombed-out mud brick moonscapes of the Middle East---only to be blown up by semi-literate, sandal wearing villagers wielding cell phone detonators, for crap sake. (Not a real confidence builder there, Sparky.) Yes, I must confess to doubt. For the life of me I cannot see how any American with more than two fingers of forehead can find reassurance in reports of U.S. troops gunning down Muslim demonstrators, or bombing Iraqi neighborhoods in the process of liberation and democratization. One might suspect that snuffing all those Iraqis---the collateral damage---and the current photos of American torturers shown on worldwide TV will breed more resentment and at least a few new terrorists, say, a few hundred thousand. Somehow it smells like the same pile the Israelis stepped into when they began doing those things to the Palestinians. It could be that Iraqis love stepping out to pick up the morning paper amid gunfire and mangled body parts. Somebody needs to check this out.
I have always been accused of going all the way around my elbow to get to my thumb; this article is no exception. We started out bitching about John Ashcroft sneering at my better half (I do not intend to drop the matter, John. Keep your mouth off my wife!) and ended up in Iraq. Everything seems to end up there these days, doesn't it? Maybe it is because Iraq is where this malignant, festering boil on the American geopolitical buttscape, the one that started as a pimple in the White House, comes to a head. But what do I know? Say goodnight Bingo.
Joe Bageant is a senior editor for Primedia History Magazine group and a connoisseur of home grown tomatoes.
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