Columns » Bob Lancaster

Torture tour

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So far as is known, the Bro.-Gov.’s prison expertise consists of his vast sympathy in expediting the quick release of the Natural State’s worst murderers and rapists and drunk drivers. It apparently hurts him to see them wasting all that time behind bars when they could be out murdering others, or raping them, or careening about behind the wheel with any number of gourds of corn aboard.

Nonetheless the Bro.-Gov. and a gubernatorial passel — Republicans, you would assume — wangled an invite from the Defense Department to come on down to Guantanamo and have a look around the notorious detention center where the weasel likes of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh pine to be sent with carte blanche and a full bag of torture tools.

This is just a hunch, but I’m betting the Bro.-Gov. and his party didn’t get to see much of the storied Gitmo torture or many of the tortured. I’m betting that the prisoners trotted out for their inspection were well-fed rascals with nary a rubber-hose welt. Prisoners just full of appreciation for all the undeserved hospitality they’ve received since arriving at the Rock.

The porcine wardens at Cummins used to parade out just such starched, happy convict specimens when the curious and conscience-stricken would occasionally dispatch high-profile representatives to check out the gothic rumors of peapatch flayings and living men walking around with country-fried schlongs. These old-time Delta inspection tours usually concluded with a rousing concert by the prison band, originally named the DanDees, at which a good time was inevitably, at least reportedly, had by all.

Solzhenitsyn fans will recall the grimly humorous scene in one of his great novels in which one of the gulag death camps was all gussied up — for about an hour it was just a swell place — for a whirlwind Red Cross inspection led by Eleanor Roosevelt.

In staging something similar to that at Guantanamo to edify the Bro.-Gov. et. al, Defense would have been p.r.ing to a couple of audiences.

One, they’d have been hoping to convince back-home cranks and bleeding-hearts that prisoners of this well-treated type are the rule rather than the exception there on the bay, and that the lumpy, snaggled, unsteady ones who look like Beetle Bailey after a Sgt. Snorkel working-over — the ones who’ve had their genitals sprayed with pig fat, their personal Korans snatched and peed on — are just a relative few malcontents of the kind who, as the saying goes, would complain if you hung them with a new rope.

The other audience would’ve been waverers among the terrorist horde. If Guantanamo were portrayed as a sufficiently fetching destination by witnesses known for their reliability and objectivity rather than for their brown noses — in short by witnesses such as the Bro.-Gov., who surely would bite his tongue before making a public partisan misrepresentation — then some might be convinced to give themselves up rather than to blow themselves up.

Guantanamo would be like a vacation for them, with only a short amount of down time, then they’d only have to sign a pledge or something and we’d give them their 40 virgins and haul them back home.

The whole dynamic of the War on Terror might thereby be changed.

Worth a try anyway. Beats payola to administration-friendly commentators that no terrorist ever heard of.

The news accounts of this particular inspection tour suggested that Defense might be looking for something from these governors besides serving as stooge-of-the-day propagandists. The notion seemed afoot in Defense that it might actually learn something about prison management from these birds. This is a new concept and a radical departure at the federal level: A federal department seeking advice, or at least pretending to, from local officials with real experience in crisis management. Think how much better off FEMA and its imbecile apologists would’ve been if they’d done likewise with the Katrina disaster. Turned it over to the governors of the affected states and said, “You tell us what to do.” Bro.-Gov. could’ve and would’ve told them a thing or three, and had they heeded him, much suffering and billions of dollars would’ve been saved. A myriad of tarmac house trailers wouldn’t stand unoccupied. Getting the Big Guy in for totally bogus shirtsleeve aftermath photos wouldn’t have been a priority for a single one of those governors — not even the goomer from Mississippi.

Maybe the Bro.-Gov. had no useful prison-management ideas for Guantanamo. He should have, given this state’s extensive experience with bad pub over prison torture, but hey, even if he slept through this inspection tour as the GFY veep snored through the Chinese premier’s visit at around the same time, his silliest en-route dreams would make sounder, prouder policy than what the Keystone Kops at Guantanamo have come up with so far.

The president might actually have mulled it for a fleeting moment, letting these experienced home folks try to salvage America’s good name from this sorry mess. “You tell us what to do.”

His support already down to that of the three monkeys, what did he have to lose?

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