A wakeup call for non-violent
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Great Pretzel Swallower's
I was beginning to accept The War for what the Great Pretzel Swallower had proclaimed it to be (in so many malapropisms): a Fight for my Freedom to Party. A fight for my freedom to fly, shop, drink champagne, wear miniskirts and, of course, have lots of sex. If any values were worth defending, these were.
Sure, we seemed to be bombing more out of revenge for our wounds and lust for a nice friendly place to lay our pipeline than anything the least bit noble. But at least we gave the impression that we were trying to conduct a relatively "humane" war. I was impressed with our government's apparent concern for the Afghan people (unlike Vietnam). We tried not to kill civilians, though sometimes, of course, when you're bombing the crap out of a country, it can't be helped. We dropped food packets; too bad they looked just like landmines, confusing the now-dead or maimed children who grabbed them. We helped women get on the road to liberation; who doesn't want to see what's under that burqa? We encouraged Afghans to play long-forbidden music, and hey, everybody loves music-except those Evil-Doer, No-Fun Talibans.
In short, we not only won The War on the Battlefield (though not many of our guys stepped onto an actual battlefield-too dangerous), but we were winning the War of World Opinion. That is, we were doing some topnotch PR.
Then I saw The Picture. You know, the one that appears to have been taken on the set of a gay male heavy S&M training film or a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph. About eight or nine submissives are shown kneeling, their knees grounded into the gravel, their legs crossed and shackled under them, their arms manacled in front, their hands bizarrely mittened. They are blindfolded with black, high-tech-looking goggles, earplugged (or are those earphones?) and practically gagged with surgical masks and electrical tape, their day-glo orange outfits blowing in the Cuba Libré breeze, revealing sections of their naked flesh. One of the Orange Men appears to be losing his pants. Obviously, he can't pull them up.
Above this trussed-up, sensory-deprived platoon of bad boys stand two taut Marines (a third is in the distance), clad in crisp camouflage, their heads shaved around the sides, a modern spin on the Medieval bowl-cut. The Marine closest to the camera is leaning over the Orange Men in a casually menacing posture. And, in what's probably just an innocent juxtaposition of objects, a long fence pole seems to be emerging from his pants. And yes, if you squint, it looks like an elongated erection, slim but stiff, towering like a sword over his helpless, senseless captives.
Big Stick, indeed.
The shocking part is that this Guantánamo S&M scene was not snapped by a plucky journalist's lens. The Pentagon officially released it. This is what they want us to see. Does that mean that this is the mild stuff? This is where they just plug up their ears, not their other orifices?
Maybe the Pentagon released The Photo because it's so racy. Maybe they wanted our hearts to race, our spirits to soar at the image of our Marines boldly dominating and humiliating The Enemy. Maybe this is the Revenge of the Raving Castrati after the pain and phallic humiliation of 9.11.
Maybe the shrinks at the Pentagon think we'll feel better about ourselves upon seeing a young US Marine with a Big Stick in his pants lording it over a harem of hapless, hogtied Orange Men made to bow down before their Masters in utter, abject-and in the case of Orange Man #2 and possibly #3, even bare-assed--submission.
Is this Pentagon Porn?
Doubtless, for some Americans, it is. I myself haven't been able to stop staring at The Photo for the last two days, and that's not just because I'm writing this. Actually, I started writing this because I was staring at it, even finding it to be, I confess, weirdly erotic in that perverse way that Hardcore Male-on-Male Sado-Masochistic Porn often is.
Actually, the original photograph is a voyeur's delight. The photographer invites the viewer/voyeur to peer through a hole in a barbed wire fence, to sneak a peak on some state-of-the-art torture, heavy bondage, a little sense denial, maybe some brainwashing (what are they listening to on those earphones anyway?), a bit of wretched mortification.
The Orange Men look like extreme submissives into heavy sensory deprivation. Except they aren't "into" it. Though, maybe, they are. After all, we're told that they're suicidal, so heavy masochistic fetishes would go with that. But the fact is that we don't know what they're into. We don't really know who they are. We don't seem to know what to do with them. We don't even know what to call them.
"Whatever they are, they're not Prisoners of War!" chorused the Great Pretzel Swallower (GPS) and Ayatollah Asscraft, not eager to give these Evil-Doers any extra privileges.
So, what are they, Prisoners of Love? In a way. Consensual S&M (Sadomasochism) and D&S (Dominance and Submission) relationships are often very loving, because the Masochist actually enjoys enduring the pain, and the Submissive longs to surrender to the Master or Mistress whose primary concern is the welfare of their Submissive/Masochist. Nonconsensual S&M is pretty much the opposite, though sometimes, as in cases of domestic violence, the partners feel a kind of toxic love for each other.
It sure looks like a twisted, toxic lovefest going on behind that fence.
Here's another message this photo sends to the world: American soldiers are civilized. They're high-tech. They don't storm into villages and rape the women (too dangerous!) like those funky Serbs and Northern Alliance guys. No. The American military (perhaps a bit gayer than most, what with all the homo-erotic recruitment advertising), prefers to express its testosteronic bloodlust by kidnapping residents of the offending country, then dressing them up in garish, creepy little S&M outfits, and making them get down on their knees and grovel for…? Well, those photos won't be released by the Pentagon. But I hear that NYPD Officers Volpe and Bruder are giving a special seminar at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base on how to use a plunger handle as an interrogation tool (unconfirmed sources). Talk about Giuliani Time…
But enough about minor players. As I study The Photo, I can't help but think of our avenging hero, our smirking leader, the Great Pretzel Swallower, wounded in action while watching TV. I could never imagine our Commander-in-Chief in battle (too dangerous!), but I can easily see him in the role of the cocky Marine with the pole in his pants, as President of Yale's mystical, medievalesque Skull & Bones Society, subjugating the freshmen initiates in some quasi-ceremonial, beer- and coke-soaked parody of the heroic and obscene rites of war.
Then there's the embarrassing fact that we never did catch Osama. So we got these guys who we're vaguely referring to as higher-ups in the Taliban and Al Qaeda network. Notice how the fantasies about Bin Laden and what we were going to do to him have disappeared? I had my own Osama Fantasies, visions of forcing the big pig to have a sex change operation, then sending him back to the Taliban to live as woman. But no more. Now Osama appears to have either died quietly of kidney failure or slipped away to the suburbs of Zürich. This is not a sexually satisfying ending. This doesn't make an American feel his dick at all! So here we are then, putting these Orange Men through their paces. They are our "Osama Surrogates." Our terrorist punching bags. Our bitches. Our Thanatos Therapy. Like the woman at home beaten by her husband when he loses a fight at work.
Another reason for calling them Prisoners of Love: As reported by Molly Ivins, Retired US Army General Bernard Tranor said "Well, they like to spend a lot of time on their knees anyway."
Oh, yeah. On your knees. I know you love it. I'm your Mecca now, baby. Pray to me.
But calling them Prisoners of Love is kind of sappy, and implies some modicum of consent. So, they're calling them "detainees." Sounds rather French and not so bad, like being a "guest." Remember when that other Evil-Doer Saddam Hussein called American hostages "guests"? That went over real well.
This is not going over well either, this hardcore Pentagon Porn. After all, one person's porn is another person's outrage. Government leaders and people around the world are outraged by The Photo, disgusted by our cocky, international law-breaking display of power over our virtually kidnapped captives. Aroused or not, they are not amused. Suddenly, we are losing the PR War.
Quick, Rummy, get re-write! Fire the dude who released The Photo! What happened to the old Pentagon PR team that brought us food packets and smart bombs? Did they all go on vacation? Do they think this War is over? This is just soooo embarrassing. Not for the stupid Taliban with the bare asses. For us. It's one thing to be exposed. It's another to expose yourself.
America is choking on this one like a pretzel we chewed too fast.
"Probably unfortunate" was how Rummy dryly described the incident, then protested that the detainees weren't trussed up in their S&M outfits all that long, and we shouldn't jump to conclusions from this one photo. Perhaps, we should see their other outfits. Perhaps, we should see their cages.
We're told their conditions are not "comfortable" (why should a terrorist be comfortable?), but they are "humane." They are being fed bagels and cream cheese (not so culturally sensitive, but never mind), granola (is that for the Marin County Talib?) and Fruit Loops. Hey now, some of their starving refugee relatives would give up their Kalishnakovs to get their lips around a plastic spoonful of Fruit Loops.
Desperately seeking spin, and having gone a little fruit loopy, Rummy, Asscraft and the gang have tried calling the Orange Men "illegal combatants." But illegal according to which law? The country they were living in was invaded. Maybe they were on the wrong side, maybe they didn't have uniforms, and maybe war itself should be illegal, but as long as it isn't, those guys are as much legal warriors as any. And if they've done something illegal, why haven't they been charged?
Americans are not exactly storming the Pentagon over this, but some are pretty appalled. A coalition of lawyers, clergy and professors, led by LA civil liberties attorney Stephen Yagman (best known for cases involving police abuse), and including former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and USC law professor Erwin Chemerinsky, filed a petition in a US District Court demanding that the detainees be identified, taken before a court and told of the charges against them. What, give them due process? Well, why not? They're not Prisoners of War.
While we try to figure out what they are and what to do with them, we are holding them like sheep bound for slaughter or chickens in a coop. Rummy says all the S&M gear was for safety purposes only. The warden at Camp X-Ray, Colonel Terry Carrico, was a bit more forthcoming, saying he was determined at all times to maintain what he called "positive control" over the prisoners. If that includes mind control, it explains the earphones.
We hear that they are here to be interrogated. That's when they try to get the chickens in the coops to lay eggs of information, rewarding them with extra Fruit Loops and chicken feed if they tell tales that will, without a doubt, be used against them.
Yes, I know, these are Evil-Doers, terrorists. They're dangerous. They could hurt somebody. I sure wouldn't want any of them busting in on my broadcast studio, guns cocked, like about 20 members of the LAPD did a couple years ago (yes, my lawsuit is still pending. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to get involved).
Rummy, ever the avuncular pragmatist, reminds us that these guys are not just bad, they're frenzied lunatics, every one of them a bomb waiting to go off, a dickhead ready to explode, a Hannibal plotting to bite off your face if you loosen his surgical mask, ready to take you down if you take off his mittens, able to hypnotize you with his eyes if you remove his blindfold. Maybe so. But don't all violent prisoners have that potential? Should we treat all violent or potentially violent prisoners like this? Apparently, some folks at the Pentagon think we should. And if you've ever been through Men's Central Jail in LA, you know that that's how it's already done (though the blindfolds and earphones are illegal).
It's enough to make you toss your cookies. But I have to chuckle when I think of some of my sex therapy clients, the guys with the extreme submissive male/male fantasies-and there are a lot of them--who have been looking at The Photo and going day-glo green with envy. Some have already called asking for a "Guantánamo Roleplay." The desire to be a victim-a terrorist martyr--is as at least as strong as the desire to be a hero, a winner, a tyrant. It's all an embrace of Thanatos, Death (either killing or dying), as opposed to Eros, Love, Sex, the Life Force, the Bonobo Way. Far better to roleplay it with a sex therapist (or your lover) than play it for real on the World Stage.
Now, don't get me wrong. Legal or not, I don't trust these detainees for a second. I don't like their philosophies. I don't like their religious fanaticism. I don't like their attitudes toward women or sex. I don't like their culture of violence (their behavior would be at least as sadistic if the positions were reversed). I don't like their mangy beards.
But we can't play S&M games with people just because we don't like them. We can't kidnap them, torture them, and hold them captive without saying what we're going to do with them. Well, we can, and we are. And we shouldn't, and we know we shouldn't, but we will. At least, until somebody figures out what the hell to do with the bastards. But what about in the meantime? We can't kill them. We can't really torture them because the whole world is watching. We can't put most of them on trial. We can't get much evidence on any of them (unlike the Israelis who collected mounds of evidence on the Nazis that they "kidnapped" and tried for war crimes). We probably can't get them to say much of any value in terms of preventing further terrorist attacks, and in any case, we can't interrogate them forever. Rummy! Get re-write! We're about to choke on a pretzel we can't cough up!
It's all about exerting power through Thanatos instead of Eros. Since the Horror of 9.11, everyone's been praying to someone. Now it's my turn. I pray to Eros, Aphrodite, Darwin, Gandhi, Margaret Sanger, my Mom and Josephine Baker: Let us follow the Bonobo Way and stop acting like baboons. Let us stop eroticizing violence and war, and try eroticizing sex and peace. It's much safer. At this point in our evolution, it might even be better, PR-wise.
Amen. And A-women too.