Pretzel Logic

From a piece first published on January 18, 2002, in The Moscow Times:

The bloviations of public hypocrisy are a never-ceasing wonder to behold. The art of mouthing sanctimonious twaddle while peddling murderous hardball on the side requires a degree of moral dislocation – an almost total divorce of word from deed, of image from reality – rarely seen outside madhouses, government offices, televised pulpits and certain caves in remote Afghanistan.

And these days there are no more adept practitioners of this dark art than those mighty Twin Towers now holding up the values of Western Civilization – George W. Bush and Tony Blair.

As we all know, the snack-challenged American prez can scarce ope his upper orifice without intoning noisome pieties about his own "good heart," his love of God and his humble struggle to walk each day in the footsteps of Jesus. Of course, we also know that he is responsible for more state-sanctioned killings than anyone else in modern American history; that he has given himself the power to assassinate anyone on earth, anywhere, anytime (even without those dandy new tribunal powers he awarded himself last year); and that through his connections to the Carlyle Group – that shadowy broker of backroom deals and bristling ordnance – his family and cronies will personally profit from every war and rumor of war he can stir up throughout the world. A sanctimonious death-dealing hypocrite, in other words, on a par with that other heaver of holy upchuck, Osama bin Laden.

Bush churns out moral idiocy so fast it's hard to keep up, but last week brought us a particularly glaring example. The U.S. military is now amassing captured members of Al-Qaeda at its peculiar military base in Cuba. (We almost said "alleged members of Al-Qaeda" before we remembered the First Rule of Bush Jurisprudence: everyone is guilty until proven innocent – and sometimes even then.) The captives – having first been forcibly shaved in an act of deliberate religious humiliation – are now being caged and chained and subjected to, er, "intense interrogation."

This treatment is a violation of the Geneva Convention, of course; but Bush has decreed that these men are "unlawful combatants," not prisoners-of-war (despite all his soaring rhetoric about the September attacks being "an act of war" and so on). Therefore, in the chilling words of Pretzie's squinty henchman, Donald Rumsfeld, these human beings "have no rights." And because they are technically on foreign soil, they cannot avail themselves of the protections of the U.S. legal system. (Those that have not yet been shredded by the Great Pretzel and that other chicken-hawk draft-dodger, John Ashcroft, that is.)

Thus the captives can be trussed up, tortured and killed at the pleasure of Jesus' favorite little sunbeam, Pretzie. However, the Pentagon has forbidden the national press to show pictures of the prisoners as they disembark in their wretched state. And what is the justification for this ham-handed censorship? It's simple, say the brass: such media intrusions on the captives' privacy would be a violation of – you guessed it – the Geneva Convention.