Thursday, May 27, 2004

Perils of Pope Pauline

Personally, I don't like to talk about abortions. It isn't that I have any problem discussing such controversial issues as abortions represent. It's just that, personally, I can't have any. Abortions, that is.

For, contrary to any previous claims to the contrary, I am not now, and never have been, a woman. Thus, there is not now, and never has been, a pregnancy option on the old Wesmobile. Since I can't get pregnant it is extremely unlikely that I would ever have to decide whether I should get an abortion or not. I might want to decide such a thing. I might even want to have to decide it. But I wouldn't have to decide it.

Likewise the Pope doesn't have to decide whether he should get an abortion. Like 100% of all other Roman Catholic priests, the Pope, AKA Bishop 001, isn't a woman, has never been a woman, and if he became a woman at this late date he wouldn't be allowed to be pope anymore. There can't be a Pope Joan Pauline.

If the Pope became pregnant, they would snatch his pointy hat and curly stick away, refer him to a home for wayward girls, and call together the Electoral College of Bishops to do that weird thing they do with the colored rocks and the smoke and elect a new man to lead the club.

So it is something to wonder at that not only does the Pope want to decide who else should get abortions, but that he feels equipped to decide this issue himself, personally, without even so much as asking for input from anyone, like for instance a woman, who might ever have need to decide whether to get one.

Ordinarily what the Pope decides on behalf of all women, none of whom get any say in the matter, wouldn't be a huge concern of mine, since my one-time relationship with the Roman Catholic Church suffers from considerable neglect. But now one of their lesser bishops is forcing me to jump into the gravy and roll around in it, if you know what I mean.

Here's the deal. Some pea-brain bishop in Colorado heard that some other bishops were saying that politicians who are pro-choice shouldn't be allowed communion. Having a pea-brain, this Bishop Michael Sheridan decided that just punishing the politicians for disagreeing with him wasn't enough. He would punish the voters themselves. So if you're in his diocese and you vote for a pro-choice candidate for, say, the presidency, no more Body of Christ for you.

Never mind that he doesn't know who votes for whom. As he puts it, "God knows." He has the power of guilt working for him, and he takes for granted that these, his people, are guilt-ridden people. He relies on the honor system for now. (Maybe later he will scour rolls of campaign contributors.)

Now if you have followed me so far you should have caught the fact that I do not now regularly consume Christ Body, nor do I live in Bishop Pea-Brain's diocese. So you could very well be asking, "Wes, why the hell do you care?"

I'll tell you why I care. I don't want to trade my American citizenship in for citizenship in a New Christian Iran of America, where some Roman Catholic bishop sets himself up as the Ayatollah of Colorado Springs and starts issuing fatwahs against anybody who doesn't vote for his candidate.

I want a government that doesn't try to tell me that holding someone's head under water and pretending to drown them doesn't constitute inhumane treatment. I'm still waiting to hear George W. Bush order such treatment stopped at Guantanamo. What's taking so long? Do we have to wait for the Wizard to make him human?

I want to be proud of my country. I want the people in my country to vote for a president who would not dismiss the Geneva Convention under any conditions.

I want Americans to have a free choice between torture and not-torture. I also want them to be able to freely choose against unjust wars, pre-emptive wars, and/or wars of economic exploitation.

I take this all very personally. I don't want my country to torture in my name.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Torture Simplified

Warning: this won't be one of my more humorous efforts. Not only is the subject too sad, but I also think that I shouldn't have eaten that tuna fish casserole for lunch yesterday.

Continuing from last time and speaking of the value of a free press, has anyone out there reflected on the fact that CBS now plays an essential role in the briefing of the president?

If it weren't for 60 Minutes II, Bush wouldn't have known about the severity or the extent of Abu Ghraib abuses. Bush should publicly thank the 60 Minutes crew and invite them all to dinner at the White House. Bush should use the occasion to ask CBS to advise our military intelligence officers on how you actually learn things. For example they could explain to them that humiliating your sources doesn't work.

Or he could get Bob Woodward. Woodward got Bush and all sorts of administration officials under Bush to open up to him. I'm sure he didn't precede his interrogation of Bush by "softening him up" Pentagon style. He probably did it the way I would do it, by telling Bush what a great guy he is and what a cool president he's been, and "that tie looks absolutely fabulous on you, Sir," and "I'll bet you'll go down in history as the most compassionately conservative president we've ever had."

If I threw up during any of that I could blame it on something I had for lunch.

What we have here is a failure to communicate, on a scale so grand and epic it outdoes Hollywood. One hardly knows where to begin.

How about the fact that the Pentagon directed that some prisoners should receive "softening up" treatment prior to interrogations? Maybe that would be a good start.

So last October, when the Red Cross discovered that Iraqi prisoners were kept naked in dark barren cells for days at a time, and the interrogating officer said that the practice was just "part of the process," he was really describing a process that had been approved by the Pentagon.

Now to be fair where fair isn't deserved, the Pentagon's directive requires that such procedures only be used under orders from the top. But how does the Red Cross know who ordered what they saw? And how does the private who carries out the order in the prison to strip a prisoner know whether the original order came from a general or whether it came from the M. I. officer standing next to him telling him to do it?

The problem is, the description of what the Pentagon allows in the way of "softening up" (bad but not so bad) and the verbal descriptions of what was actually done are too easy to line up. I can easily imagine Rumsfeld, busy as he must be what with protecting the free world and expanding its borders by bombing the unfree world to bring freedom to it, would quickly skim a report of wrongdoing by prison guards at a military prison and not be alarmed.

He could have thought, "Oh, this isn't all that bad. They just got a little carried away doing what we told them to do. Hell, that's why we have a professional army, so we can expect our guys to have initiative."

Likewise it would have been easy to dismiss the Red Cross complaints. A general reviewing the complaints could easily convince him/herself that the Red Cross was misinterpreting the evidence. He/she could think that what they really saw was soldiers carrying out procedures that the Pentagon allows, procedures that would look similar to the abuse that was actually seen.

Meanwhile, Rumsfeld reminds us all that it's abuse, not torture. That is so true, Rummy, and we thank you all from deep in our hearts for pointing that out to us.

Torture is when I threaten to electrocute you if you don't tell me where you hid the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. Abuse is when I threaten to electrocute you so you'll tell me an hour from now where you hid the nonexistent weapons. See the difference?