June 25, 2005: Postcards from Guantanamo
WARNING: Graphic and disturbing photos
Call off the search, quash the FOI requests, stand down the network news on-location boondoggles. After six harrowing weeks in America's favorite woodshed -- Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Gitmo; Guanville; the G-spot -- I'm back.
Long before Bush invited reporters to visit Guantanamo and check out the conditions for themselves (a word of advice to any reporters thinking of taking the POTUS up on his seemingly genuine parlay -- don't do it!), I was cordially escorted -- unsolicited mind you -- to my own private remediation cubicle at Camp Gitmo.
I should have just left well enough alone. I had my little localized cyclingcentric blog (a real blog mind you, not one of these glorified corporate chat rooms that people are calling blogs these days), a modest but resolute readership, and total editorial autonomy. What more could a third-rate hack blogger ask for?
But I couldn't leave it alone. Blogging is the shit right now, and bloggers are the new White House press correspondents, the latest glamour dolls of the American media train wreck. Bloggers are attending White House press conferences, covering political conventions, making guest appearances on the Bill Maher Show, and even generating their own advertising revenue. Myopic and fripperous cable new shows like Wolf Blitzer Reports and Inside Politics even dedicate parts of their shows to annotating the blogosphere, which is more about celebrating the blogger than legitimately analyzing or discussing anything semi-pithy the blogger might have written.
So sure, I wanted a piece of the action. Why not? Sooner or later, the main stream media (MSM) and the idiot American public that is fueling this latest cultural fad will either wake up and realize that blogging is 95 percent hype built on 5 percent substance or they will become caught up in the imminent pod-casting tsunami that is about to hit and blogging will go the way of the old time radio show and the palm pilot and become just another discarded plastic widget in the landfill of contemporary American culture. So why not get mine while the getting was good.
Boldly, I emerged from my den of obscurity with keyboard blazing. In my crazed quest for glory, I lashed out at the biggest, easiest target I could find (no, not the MSM, or even the blogosphere for that matter -- their time will come): the POTUS. "POTUS!" I typed from the highest TCP/IP mountaintop, "you ain't nothin. On a bike, I can drop you and your Novara riding straw dogs and there's nothing you can do to touch me."
Full of hubris and methane, I crafted a nice little blog entry that called in to question not only Bush's mountain biking ability, but also the coverage of his mountain biking in the MSM (See May 14, 2005: Poking the tiger). It was a devastating blast that ripped the cover off of the Bush cycling facade and laid bare the true nature of the beast. I was confident in my sources and secure in the notion that as a blogger with heightened visibility but no corporate or financial alliances, I was beyond the grasp of the administration's loathsome clutches. Now that I had splashed myself across the public consciousness, there was no way I could turn up missing or die in a one-car automobile accident without all eyes turning to the Administration.
Then came the knock on the door. In their dark suits and white shirts I first thought they were Mormon missionaries come to convince me that Joseph Smith wasn't doing Morninglory shooters when he went through his Caligula phase and had Moronic visions of gold plates and multiple sex partners. Ah, but I digress. Anyway, The Man came to my door one day and politely informed me that I would be accompanying him on a quick trip to see Bush's Regional Director of Mountain Bicyclification in Enid, Oklahoma.
In retrospect, I should have been a little more skeptical, but, I have to admit, I had stars in my eyes. I saw this as my golden ticket to blogfamy, an exclusive bike ride with the POTUS. In that moment, 25 distinct daily hits was just a plane ride away from becoming reality.
I figured we would limo from the coast over to SFO for a Leer jet ride east, but instead we Suburbaned over to Moffett Field in Sunnyvale and took off in a hulking, loud, and uncomfortable USAF transport.
It seemed like we were in the air for days and almost immediately I began to lose track of time. Obviously, after the first 10 hours in the air, I knew something bad was up, but what could I do but set my jaw and wait. Bring 'em on!
The hoods and restraints went on just before we landed. From then until I was finally sprung by a brash, cocky, young JAG officer with personal demons; his loyal sidekick who perpetually does all the work but never gets the girl; and their post-boob-job, determined-but-good-ole-boy-network-challenged co-counsel, I was always hooded, often bound and gagged, and intermittently naked.
My time at Gitmo was rough. The massage schedule heavily favored the early risers, they refused to pay for subscription movie channels, and I don't care what Duncan Hunter says, they never did cook my Lemon Chicken right. I mean really, who cooks Lemon Chicken without at least a splash of dill weed? Oh the humanity.
But there was the torture. It was brutal, it was demeaning, it was daily, and it was totally unnecessary. This was not interrogation for information, this was punishment, this was retribution, this was a Code Red on the Constitution.
In language that would have made Sam Kinnison proud, they let me know that the POTUS was not happy with my comments about his biking skills. I was there so that they could help me experience firsthand how it feels to try to keep up with POTUS on one of his bike rides.
First, they propped me up on a bicycle trainer that was hooked up to a computer programmed with Bush's standard riding information such as distance, elapsed time, average speed, VO2 max threshold, pulse rate, latest approval rating among NASCAR dads, and so on. The resistance on the trainer was set to mimic POTUS's favorite trail in the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland. I was told to start pedaling, bitch. Any time I fell below Bush's baseline numbers, I received electrical shocks via wires clipped to my nipples. Maybe once long, long ago, a genuinely well-intentioned psychologist somewhere thought electrical shock therapy might somehow be beneficial, but he forgot to check human fallibility maxim number 19, which states, "absolute power corrupts absolutely." Within five minutes, these pricks were zapping me with electric shocks for the fun of it. I could hear them off in the corner of the room, giddily giggling and shrieking with stimulation every time I convulsed in pain. Wasn't that one episode of Cheers where Cliff experiments with electrical aversion therapy (Episode #153: "How to Win Friends and Electrocute People") enough to expose its evils to the world and precipitate a landslide of public outcry? Apparently not. The practice is alive and well in Gitmo.
When I failed to acknowledge that Dubshit was the best mountain biker ever to have ridden, I was severely waterboarded. When I meekly pointed out that "real" mountain bikers use clipless pedals and don't need bar-ends, my hood was ripped off and I was forced to watch one the interrogators spray urine on my holy Rodalia from a water bottle. When I would not tell them the names of other MTBers I rode with, or give them my blog distribution list, they made me listen from the blackness of my hood as they pounded on the aluminum frame of Blue Sugar with what sounded like ball peen hammers.
Along with enemy noncombatants, agnostics, other cultural detainees, and my bicycles (which were also hooded), I was forced into compromising positions and staged for photos and verbal beatings. "Another one for W's trophy case" was a frequent ejaculation from the unseen tormentors.
Worst of all, I was forced to listen to a continuous loop of Republican sound bites, including these proud gems.
I became lost in a confusing netherworld of fact-resistant reality, a reality rooted in the possibilities of preconceptions, ulterior motives, and stupidity. I lost 13 pounds, all strength and cardiovascular fitness, and what little faith I had left in the rule of law.
But they can't take away your dignity right? Ye-ah, right. After three straight days without a Coke and only a few hours of sleep, I was a complete mess. I cried, I babbled, I drooled, I vomited on myself (yeah, somewhere in the darkness I probably did piss and shit myself, but come on, do you have to make me say it?), I bled. And for what? So some pinhead with the attention span of a third grader and his frat house of small-penised, fat-headed neo-conservative bullies can strut around the country like they own the place. Praise Jesus and pass the bullshit.
Sure I'm bitter, but I stuck to my pedals and refused to concede Bush's cycling brilliance. Then and now my challenge has withstood: Bush, if you want to claim the title of Mountain Biker in Chief, you're going to have to prove it on the singletrack. Daddy and his friends ain't gonna be able to help you in our world.
Despite the chillingly regular body cavity searches (word around the yard is that Karl Rove likes to have his, uh, hand in this political exercise as well and routinely visits Gitmo to partake in the interrogations -- I'm sure I heard his squeals of ecstasy more than once as my no-fly zone was violated), I was able to keep some notes during my time on the rock. My Anthropology degree finally paid off for me after all these years as I was able to record my thoughts in quipas woven directly into my armpit hair and butt fur. Like my Morse code and my Aramaic though, my quipa is a little rusty, so my notes may not translate word for word, but I was able to salvage some content for the blog. Look out Seymour Hersh, I'm gonna blow the lid off this whole Bush Administration May Not Always Tell the Truth story that's been simmering around the edges of the MSM for the last five and a half years.
And really, why should I complain about my forced vacation to Gitmo? As Duncan Hunter pointed out, "it's in the tropics." Club Med, Atlantis, Gitmo, when you strip away the incarceration, the torture, and the degradation, it's all the same thing.
--George W. Bush, June 27, 2005
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