I CARTOON DAZE
Homeland Security asked the usual dumb questions when I slapped my passport on the counter: what countries did you visit? Business or pleasure? The laser page did not trigger any alarms — yet. I advanced to the carrousel to pick up my luggage. My suitcase had burst apart in Mexico City, spilling incriminating documents all over the terminal floor. Now it came down the ramp swaddled in plastic. As I reached to pull it off, all hell broke loose — bells began to clang, buzzers burped jerkily, strobe lights flashed crazily on and off, and an automated voice on the intercom kept repeating “this is an emergency — walk do not run to the nearest exit.”
I did not walk, nor did anyone else in the San Francisco International arrivals terminal. We were under terrorist attack! The twin towers were coming down upon us! Young and old, some in wheelchairs even, stampeded for the sliding doors, luggage carts tipping, travelers stumbling, elbowing each other in their mad rush to escape as customs inspectors implored us to return to have our suitcases checked for contraband once the emergency had subsided. No one in his or her right mind ever did.
Meanwhile, the escapees kept jostling and tumbling and the bells and buzzers and whistles and lights kept yowling their siren song. Yow! Burrrp! Pow! It was like a Saturday morning kids’ cartoon.
Of course, in the end, the terrorist turned out be some poor schmuck caught smoking in the men’s room.
It was a prescient re-introduction to the land where my father croaked. My month inside the belly of the Dog was kind of like a perpetual cartoon. I often felt like poor Bob Hoskins surrounded by a world full of Roger Rabbits. Cartoons were, in fact, motoring worldwide mayhem. Bim! Baff! Boff! The irreverent Danish magazine Jyllns Posten had published a dozen blasphemous cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad — in one, he wore a turban with a bomb in it, in another the Messenger of Allah was depicted as a pig (the magazine had reportedly turned down caricatures of Jesus Christ as being in poor taste.) The publication of the cartoons had opened the scab of Islamic wrath and the Muslim world was on a murderous rampage from Indonesia to well, Khartoum.
The religious leaders of 57 Islamic nations meeting in Mecca declared fatwa and jihad on the infidel Danes and their damned cheese. In Tehran, a smirking Ahmadinejad announced big-money competition for cartoons of the Holocaust (he doesn’t believe it happened) and spurious drawings appeared in Europe of Anne Frank in the sack with Adolph while she scribbles in her diary.
The Christian anti-Muslim cartoon backlash tumbled Muhammad’s rating to an all-time low in U.S. polls. The New York Times Style section reported that rebel youth were jumping out of the djalabahs and into “extreme Christian clothing.” In Nigeria, Christians slaughtered their Muslim brethren, daubing “Jesus Christ Is The Lord” on mosque walls in their victims’ blood.
Then came the anti-Christian, anti-Muslim cartoon backlash. Churches were neatly stenciled with icons equating the cross to the Swastika in Santa Cruz (Holy Cross) California. And to close the circle, three white boys in Alabama took the crusade a step up and just burned the tabernacles down to the ground.
If you don’t think our nation is being devoured by religious psychosis, consider two recent Supreme Court decisions. Just the other day, the Supremes voted unanimously, with Justice Roberts on board, to uphold the right of a religious cult to guzzle potions brewed from the hallucinogenic Amazonian root Ayahuasca while they gabbed with god. Last summer, that court, with Sandra Day O’Connor still in place, voted to deny brain tumor victims medical marijuana to ease their agonies.
The ultimate cartoon was Cheney plugging his hunting partner in the ticker just like good ol’ Elmer Fudd. Ping! Pong! Blamblam! Senator Lindsey Graham, who shares a similar war-mongering dementia with the veep, reports that Dick Cheney told him that killing small birds kept him “sane.” Blap! Splat! Shazam! The late night joke mongers had a ball with the caper: “This Just In! We’ve learned that Vice President Cheney tortured his hunting partner for an hour before he shot him!” Yuk! Yuk! Did you hear the one about the CIA agent caught rifling housewives’ panty drawers during working hours in Virginia (you could look it up)? Yok! Yok! The U.S. teaming up with Iran to keep Gays out of the United Nations? Tweet! Tweet! Bird flu in of all places, Turkey (and Iraq)? Kaplooey!
Elmer and Daffy Duck scoot off into the sunset and the screen rolls up into a little round porthole where Bugs is cackling, “th-th-th-the-that’s all folks!”
II SCOUNDREL TIME
The problem is that that’s not all folks, and this may be loony tunes but it certainly isn’t merry melodies. These bastards are for real and it’s not really very funny. The title of Lillian Hellman’s slim volume on how HUAC hounded her and Hammitt is an insufficient one to describe these scum and their perverted torture war.
Every day the Seattle Times runs a few inches slugged “Terrorism Digest.” Aside from the usual shorts on Moussaoui, a rumored attack during March Madness, and an elderly ice cream truck driver in Lodi California who is accused of planning to blow up skyscrapers in Hollywood, most of the news is not about terrorism at all but rather the torture of alleged terrorists, perhaps tens of thousands of them in secret torture chambers hidden away in U.S. client states like Bulgaria and Morocco.
Here’s one. Ali Shakal Kaisi was the hooded man on the box with the electric cables snaking from his limbs, the poster boy for the abuse at Abu Ghraib. The photo is now on his business card. Originally, he was arrested for complaining to occupation troops about throwing their garbage on a soccer field in his Baghdad neighborhood. The Pentagon, in a display of perhaps the most hideous chutzpah in the Guinness Book of Records, refuses to comment on Mr. Khaisi’s case because it would “a violation of his Geneva Convention rights.”
Connoisseurs concede that Bush et al (heretofore to be referred to as “the scum”) have added some innovative techniques to Torquemada’s little catalogue of horrors. The reoccurring sexual pathology is disturbing. One accused Jihadist at Gitmo was wrapped in an Israeli flag and forced to watch gay porn 24 hours a day by military interrogators who passed themselves off as the FBI. Sadistic commandants shove feeding tubes up the nose of hunger strikers and rip them out roughly as the men piss and shit all over themselves while restrained in what Rumsfeld euphemistically describes as “a rolling padded cell.”
Why are these men being tortured? We learn from 5,000 pages of heavily-blacked-out military depositions released on court order to the Associated Press that at least three were detained because they wore Cassio F91W watches that have compasses on their face pointing to Mecca. “But our chaplains here all wear the same watch” protested one detainee.
All of this pain and suffering is being orchestrated in the much shat-upon name of freedom, the “freedom” as Sub Marcos puts it, “to choose between the carrot and the stick.” You know, as in “free elections” — Iraq’s three fraudulent elections that have led to massive bloodshed in that benighted land being the role models. But elections are not “free” when the Bushwas don’t win, like Hammas and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez and most probably, Lopez Obrador in Mexico this July. Maybe free elections are not such a hot idea after all.
The third anniversary of this despicable war is only days away as I write these scabrous lines. Extrapoutf8g the Lancet study, it is probable that 150,000 Iraqis have been crucified in this infernal crusade. The 2,300 or so GIs who died with their boots on fill just a few slabs in the charnel house Bush has built in Iraq.
I suppose the up side is that two thirds of those Yanquis surveyed think he is a liar and a baby killer — but many more will have to fall before the infidels are finally run off. Clearly, the resistance is working on it. Blowing the Golden Dome sky-high was a malevolent stroke of genius by the terroristas to incite sectarian (not civil) war, a scenario designed to foil the White House’s scheme to pull out of this treacherous quicksand and start bombing before the body bags queer the November elections.
Will it work? Shia death squads operating out of the Interior ministry are kidnapping dozens of Sunnis every day now and hanging them for public consumption. We can expect roadside gibbets next. The imminent spread of Shia-Sunni hostilities into neighboring oil lands has Washington biting its nails. We’re talking $100 a barrel here.
Sasha has a Skype pen pal in Baghdad, call her Fatima. She is a medical-science professor at the University, a middle class, somewhat secular woman who lives in a high rise in a mixed neighborhood. She writes when there is power and an Internet connection — the last three generator operators on the block have been shot dead. Her absence on the screen is always a cause for alarm. Fatima says she no longer sits writing in her window to take advantage of daylight because she is afraid of being hit by a stray bullet. I am forever amazed how concerned she is for us. Last week, she wrote “I am sorry my dear for not writing. I am ok but I am more afraid than before. Things are going from bad to very bad.” If we never hear from Fatima again, the blood will be on George Bush’s hands.
Is George Bush impeachable? He has committed multiple felonies in spying on 350,000 unsuspecting citizens without a court order, a stain on the Constitution and way beyond the pale of even Nixonian paranoia. He sold the country an illegal war based on shameless perjury in collusion with oil barons and defense contractors who have grown obscenely fat on the blood of the Iraqi people.
And he sought to sell off vital U.S. ports to “Arab terrorists”! Or at least that’s what his fellow Republicans seem to perceive. Fanning the fumes of anti-Arab racism has come back to bite Bush and the corporate globalizers of the planet on the ass. Who does Bill Frist think was operating these ports up until now? The bloody Brits, that’s who! This is Globalization, Savage Capitalism, Dog eat Dog. It’s the American Way. What do you know about Sheik Mo? Vital elements of the food chain (Church’s Chicken and Caribou Coffee for example) have already fallen into the hands of “Arab terrorists.”
Where was I? The Bill of Particulars, right? I’m sorry — it’s my birthday and I’m on a vent fueled by the one good thing about this country, Humboldt County sinsemilla.
George Bush — guilty of nuclear proliferation! What else would you call giving India enough fissionable material to blow a hole in China and Pakistan?
George Bush — guilty of blatant racism and incalculable callousness, strumming his guitar while the levees were bursting down in New Orleans, an interval much like the goat story on 9/11 of which Osama has reminded us in a recent communique. J’accuse George Bush!
Will a mush-minded congress apparently dosed to the gills on Ambien, the new sleepwalking (and sleep voting) wonder drug, vote to impeach? “Que se vayan todos!” the cry of the 2002 Argentinazo, “that they should all be kicked out” is an anthem for our time.
III SLEEPING IN SEATTLE
I’ve spent the last month sleeping in Seattle. Daytimes, I’ve churned out tens of thousands of words on my soon-to-be-published-if-it-ever-gets-finished opus, “Making Another World Possible: Zapatista Chronicles 2000-2006.”
Seattle has spectral vistas but at heart, it is a city without a soul. It has been bitterly cold here, the wind whipping off Puget Sound like The Hawk off Lake Michigan. A sullen rain falls most days. When the sun comes out in Seattle, they say the suicide rate goes up because people can’t deal with the brightness.
I have been lucky to have had Sasha’s cozy room and half to hole up in. A lot of people in this city don’t even have a roof over their head. Old men sleep rough in Pioneer Square these freezing nights, young tramps camp out under the bushes up here on Cap Hill. There’s a Hooverville under the Viaduct.
The merchants don’t care much for all these deranged pariahs dragging around ragged sleeping bags like batman capes or curled up in fetal positions in one of Starbuck’s many doorways. Seattle has more pressing matters on its mind. Howard (Starbuck’s) Schultz is threatening to move the Sonics if he doesn’t get a new arena free of charge from the city. Then there is Bill and Melissa, the world’s wealthiest nation.
This is a smug city that has grown soft and wealthy on the backs of software billionaires, where no one gives a damn about anything that is not on a screen. The Stranger ran the Muhammad cartoons and no one flinched. The next week, the paper ran a feature on a man who was fucked to death by a horse. Again, no one flinched. Meanwhile, the homeless are dying out there in the street.
On Valentine’s Day, Sasha and I died in on the City Hall steps — she was the 50th victim to have died on the streets of Seattle in 2005. I was the 53rd. The Raging Grannies died in with us. I dedicated my dying to the spirit of Lucky Thompson, who recorded with Miles and Bird and spent his twilight years sleeping in Seattle parks. Seattle has a way of damaging its black geniuses. Octavia Butler, the towering writer of “conjectural fiction” whose work hones in on race and class like a laser, fell down the steps of her home here a few weeks ago. She lived alone — she always lived alone — and no one found her until she was dead. There is a statue of Jimi Hendrix right down the street.
What’s been good is watching Sasha blossom as an organizer. She’s been busy 25 hours a day putting together the visit of Eman Khammas, a courageous Iraqi journalist who speaks to the plight of women in Bush’s genocidal war. I saw Khammas last summer at the Istanbul War Crimes Tribunal and she is a firebrand speaker. Eman is part of the Women Say No To War tour put together by Global Exchange, two members of the delegation who had lost their families to the occupation, were denied visas because they did not have enough family left to “compel” their return to Iraq.
On the third anniversary of this madness March 18th, Eman Khammas will be a speaker at the march and rally set for the Seattle Federal building. That evening, she will talk at greater length at Trinity Methodist Church in the Ballard district. The kick-ass rebel singer Jim Page will open. No one turned away. Some of the moneys raised will go to the Collateral Repair Project (www.collateralrepairproject.org) which Sasha and her pal Sarah have created to help out the family of Mahmoud Chiad, an ambulance driver in al-Qaim who was gunned down by Bush’s crusaders October 1st, the first day of Operation Iron Fist in al-Ambar province, as he raced to aid victims of the massacre. There’s a widow and six kids, and Collateral Repair hopes to buy them a piece of land and some goats.
So I’m in the air back to Make Sicko City. The globalphobes are acting out at the World Water (Privatizers) Forum, which kicks off this week and when last heard from, Sub Marcos was trying to break into a prison in Guanajuato. I’ve got to finish this damn book in the next six weeks.
And Sasha and I? Who knows? I wear her name on a grain of rice around my neck and her door key is still wedged deep in my pocket and maybe it will open her heart to me again someday. We met in Baghdad with Bush’s bombs on the way and the bottom line is that we continue to fight this heinous war together. That’s good too.
John Ross has landed. But these articles will continue to be issued at 10-day intervals until “Making Another World Possible” is done. The deadline is May 1st. “Making Another World Possible” will be available at cost to Blindman Buff subscribers this fall.