Friday, February 17, 2006

Who Needs Gin When We've Got Rummy?

Our secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld (aka "Rummy"), today dismissed calls from U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, and the European Parliament, to shut down the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Rummy told reporters for Reuters that there is "no torture," that all violations to code of military justice are being handled, those culpable punished, "And by golly, that's the way it ought to be." Is it just me, or does the phrase "by golly" sound a bit like a nonsequitur, especially in light of the latest photos to surface from Abu Ghraib?

Even Don Quixote would envy the way in which our government has rounded up what Rummy calls these "bad people," or terrorists. Isn't it reassuring, as we approach President's Day, to know that our current foreign policy can be spelled out in terms that even a four year old would understand. And, indeed, maybe only a four year old can understand being incarcerated without charge, for four years, and with no end in sight.

Why would the one and only extant supreme organization of nations issue a report that accuses the U.S. of torture, arbitrary detention, denial of access to counsel, denial of access by counsel to evidence, denial of being charged with a specific crime, and/or a specific sentence, and the absence of even the remotest prospect of a fair trial, military or criminal? Rumsfeld insists that the report's authors, at the U.N., never bothered to stop by the naval base in Cuba for a cup of tea . He also observes that the International Committee of the Red Cross had visited the detention camp, and didn't suggest it be closed down. If the secretary of defense is so confident about this, why doesn't his administration release the findings of the ICRC, as well as transcripts of interviews they conducted with detainees?

Arguably, the only thing that gets absorbed into the bloodstream quicker than whiskey, vodka, or gin is power, sheer, undiluted, unadulterated power. While they may not be long on vocabulary, if nothing else, our esteemed leaders are not short on ideology, the four-letter kind that poses as a culture of life, but is instead a culture of bomb. Nothing can be more explosive, or expletive, than an idea run afoul of reason and, as we have witnessed, the politics of preemption are those of concealing grave, complex, notions behind simple words and phrases.

It only takes two to play gin rummy, as you know, a game in which the goal is to divide cards into sets, and keep the point value of unmarked sets low. In this game of cards our government is playing, Bush vs. the World, there is no question that the point value of those remaining sets is sinkng lower and lower daily, along with this president's job approval rating.

If only it were possible to channel that other George, the one with the wig and the wide grin, and sit him in the room where Rummy was speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations, in New York, today, and give him the opportunity to ask one question, and only one question, of the secretary of defense, do you have any ideas as to what that question might be? Would the first president of the United States, the first George W., ask Mr. Rumsfeld where he learned to count cards? Or would he want to know how anyone that far up the food chain, by golly, can order humiliation and religious persecution the likes of which would make any proper forbear on his way over, on the Mayflower, want to turn around and go home.

Rummy also told the good Foreign Relations folks that "Any single example of abuse that's ever been sited has been investigated and to the extent appropriate, people have been punished." It's reassuring to think that our government is concerned with meting out punishment where wrongdoing is concerned, but maybe the first president would want to know, too, along with the rest of us, what "extent" is appropriate where torture itself is concerned?

Even George Washington might agree that we lost our virginity on 9/11, and have been getting screwed ever since.