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The Silence of the Vultures
by Leilla Matsui
May 24, 2004

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It's unlikely the US will ever fully recover from its latest self-inflicted gun shot wound. The photos of US military personnel torturing Iraqi detainees in the now infamous Abu Ghraib prison are proving to be the equivalent of a silver bullet for the Bush regime.  Despite all the face saving talk of how they have highlighted America's democratic traditions of judicial transparency by owning up to them, (well, sort of) the administration really had little choice in the matter.  The most damning of these atrocity exhibits would have eventually been leaked to the public, anyway, with consequences even more dire for the Bush presidency and the already failed war effort in Iraq. For the US, it has ultimately come down to a choice between a splatteringly swift gun blast to the tonsil regions, or the even less palatable prospect of swallowing cyanide in a neat little pellet.  

Like some lurchingly wild-eyed Yeti, letting rip one last agonizing death scream while uprooting everything in its path, the former behemoth known as the American Empire now looks as if it's down for the count and flatlining fast.  The circling vultures are keeping a calm and wary distance as they listen for its pulse to recede. But now it looks as if these  predators  -- the same ones who brought the war to us in battle hungry chorus of celebratory shrieks -- have little appetite for the choicest morsels of conspiracy and cover up.

The death of independent contractor/possible Mossad operative Nick Berg has provoked a similarly distasteful reaction among the vultures.  Despite the mounting questions and inconsistencies surrounding his gruesome beheading, America's entertainment based media has obediently backed away.  Even as the scent of gun smoke and conspiracy rises up under their own pointy little beaks, America's hawkish media has gone to great lengths to resist Nick Berg's succulently arranged head on a silver platter.  In a predictable reversal of priorities, they set their sights instead on the flag wrapped corpse of Pat Tillman - a man with a skull so thick that not even the correct spelling of "Afghanistan" could penetrate it.

The vultures are similarly silent on the subject of torture and sexual degradation which was not only condoned as an acceptable method of interrogation, but officially sanctioned at the highest level in the military chain of command.  Notice how mainstream hacks in deference to their sensitive Whitehouse masters have replaced "torture" with "humiliation".  By my estimate, at least, the latter is the outcome of squatting in low rider jeans, while the former insultingly understates what happened to Iraqi detainees in US custody.  

The administration's claims that a few rogue elements were responsible for the atrocities carried out at Abu Ghraib and other US run detention facilities has been reinforced, rather than scrutinized by the media with their constant focus on PFC Lynndie England. It has proved less labor-intensive to look no further up than the bottom rung of the military command structure. In all fairness, though, a flesh-eating zombie occupying the country's top military post is no match for the whore of Babylon herself trailing a dog leash, in terms of visual impact.  For that reason, Donald Rumsfeld has been able to distance himself from the combustible allegations that the orders to torture and sexually degrade prisoners were approved by a secret organization within the Pentagon and rubber stamped with his approval.   In his role of human shield to the President, Rumsfeld has bought himself a temporary stay of execution. The Defense Secretary has the corporate media to thank for the extra layer of teflon coating protecting him from the dirt flying up from Seymour Hersh's shovel.  

It wasn't so long ago that the obedient hacks, who received their potty training on the Whitehouse lawn, would have found a heartwarming human interest story in Lynndie England and the other girl guards of Abu Ghraib if  Jessica Lynch hadn't already been invented.  Until only recently, their official duties have primarily focused on inventing all that "good news" coming out of Iraq.  It's not hard to imagine these khaki-clad femme fatales featured in some star-spangled segment on the wonderful opportunities for women in the military (minus the sadistic she-male whip-kitten angle).  

Here was a girl even the President himself could have comfortably chewed the turkey fat with at a KKK rally, or at least a Thanksgiving dinner photo op in a Baghdad mess hall.  In hindsight, "Bring It On" seems almost prophetic  in light of Lynndie England's predilection for prison gang-bangs.  Still, it's debatable whether Bush himself is intellectually up to the task of appreciating the irony of having his words come back to bite him as the porno-imperative to his entire war effort. Such are the contradictions of life for a "war president," especially when your virulent puritanism comes back to assault you in full-frontal, triple "X" technicolor.   

The invasion of Iraq, remember was a "humanitarian mission" meant to "liberate" all those poor, oppressed women cowering under their burqas in...Afghanistan. With each attempt to tear the veils off Muslim women -- whether they like it or not, Americans have only succeeded in exposing the flip side of their own tyrannical puritanism, not to mention an abysmal grasp of geography.  

The sodomization of Muslim lands is no longer a blunt metaphor for American hegemony in the Middle East but a literal description of a long standing foreign policy.  The imaginary moral high ground that the US has used to legitimize the sufferings of Iraqis under its dictatorship can no longer be cloaked in the high flown language of "liberation" and "democratization".  Lynndie England wielding an imaginary rifle butt at her dark skinned conquests has proved to be the most enduring and accurate reflection of the US's real aims in occupying Iraq.  Despite their craftily mumbled "apologies", administration officials can no longer pretend the actions of a few are anything but a reflection of the nation as a whole.  

Even as the smoldering remains of Bush's doomed war effort sends a mushroom cloud warning of the Empire's fate as a super power, the circling vultures overhead  remain willfully oblivious. After feasting on the carcass of Lynndie England, the vultures have little room left for dessert. Which is why Nick Berg's secrets will likely remain in his own severed head, and the orders to sodomize detainees in US custody with a rolled up copy of the Geneva Convention will likely continue to go unexamined.

Leilla Matsui is a freelance writer living in Tokyo, Japan. She can be reached at:

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* The Patriarch Act: Who Wants to Marry a Welfare Queen? 
* Planet Lunch Attacks Mars
* Sex, Lies, Murder, and Videotape
Presidential Placebos: Sugar-Coated Alternatives to Empire-as-Usual

* Give a Hand to the Governor E(r)ect
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* Regime Change Begins at Home Literally