My piece created a firestorm. It established me as the leading American political dissident of my generation and brought me wealth beyond taxation. I vowed never to write another word unless it became necessary for people, again, to shut the hell up. Now, several naked pyramids of Iraqi prisoners later, that time is nigh.
People were bound to start saying and writing moronic things from the moment the hooded man on the box started showing up in our living rooms. Amazingly, some of the targets of my original, seminal essay are not in need of being silenced. Internet pundit Andrew Sullivan has become almost sympathetic since gay marriage hit the fan. Withering lush Christopher Hitchens finally seems to have realized that latching himself to the Bush wagon isn't going to help him achieve his lifelong dream of an independent Kurdistan. Even George Will, for heaven's sake, sounds sane right now. (While I'm sure that spoken-word artists across the nation are revving up their anti-Rumsfeld rants, we haven't yet had to endure the coffeehouse plague of Poets Against Torture.) But some commentators have not been helpful. All atrocities have their enablers. And someone needs to tell them to shut up.
In the gutter, doing the daily hack-and-slash necessary to keep the angry-dickhead vote in line with our colonial adventure, is Rush Limbaugh. He has said something unbelievably offensive about the Abu Ghraib scandal every day since it broke. It began on May 4: "We are going to really hammer [these American soldiers] because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You heard of a need to blow some steam off?"
Rush, you blow off steam by playing basketball, or drinking a beer, or taking OxyContin. If you want emotional release, go see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or rent Red Dawn. Rush Limbaugh, shut--wait, you're not done? On May 6, you said the torture pictures look like "good old-fashioned American pornography," and that the "reaction to the stupid torture is an example of the feminization of this country." On May 7, you said, "There was no horror, there was no terror, there was no death, there was no injuries."
Rush, I know I'm not the only one monitoring you and your horrible grammar. But still, I must say, Rush Limbaugh, shut your illegally-obtained-prescription-drug-swallowing mouth right now.
Another widespread phenomenon involves blaming the torture scandal on women. Take Ann Coulter. In a May 5 radio interview, Coulter said, "It was a girl general who was in charge of running our Iraqi prison. And, you know, for one thing, I'm a little disappointed in Rumsfeld--he allows the greatest fighting force on the face of the globe to have girl generals."
I'm sorry. Did I miss something? Has Lindsay Lohan taken charge of Abu Ghraib? Or was Coulter playing some kind of Cinco de Mayo prank? Apparently not, for the same day, on Hannity and Colmes, the televised beacon of all that's unholy, she said, "This is lesson, you know, one million and 47 on why women shouldn't be in the military. In addition to not being able to carry even a medium-sized backpack, women are too vicious."
Knock-knock, Ann. Who's there? Why, it's a half-dozen female members of the Israeli army, come to shut you up.
Now we come to the moral equivocators. A false and tremendously dangerous idea is currently oozing through the bovine-encephalitis-ridden mushmeal that passes for the American mind: that the Iraqis had it coming because of what they did to our guys in Falluja. While it's hardly fair pool to burn four corpses and hang them from a bridge, it's important to remember that they weren't nuns, Girl Scouts, or even soldiers. They were gun-toting mercenaries, much like the people who carried out the torture in Abu Ghraib. And the torture at Abu Ghraib happened before the Falluja killings, not after. But remembering things in order doesn't seem to be an inherent national skill. With that in mind, it's time to play blame the victim. Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, you're up first:
"If there has been humiliation, it isn't the fault of the West. It is Muslims' fault. They took trillions of dollars in oil money, and instead of building a culture dedicated to elevating their people, including women, they have squandered it on agendas and adventures that had the opposite result."
Cal Thomas, you hypocritical douche-monkey. Shut up.
We have a late-breaking entry from New York Times columnist William Safire, the grammatically correct artifact who, like his hero Donald Rumsfeld, seems to have an innate instinct for self-preservation. On Monday Safire wrote:
"Videos real and fake will stream across the world's screens, and propagandists abroad will join defeatists here in calling American prisons a 'gulag''. Torture is both unlawful and morally abhorrent. But what about gathering intelligence from suspected or proven terrorists by codified, regulated, manipulative interrogation? Information thus acquired can save thousands of lives."
There are several deeply shut-up-able phrasings here. First, if being anti-Bush makes one "defeatist," then I stand defeated. Second, the people in Abu Ghraib are not "suspected terrorists." Many of them weren't even soldiers, or even criminals, but rather civilians picked off the streets in random sweeps. William Safire, you etymology-obsessed Nixon-humper, shut up!
Now, my friends, I give you the elected vice president of the United States, Joseph Lieberman:
"Those who were responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001, never apologized. Those who have killed hundreds of Americans in uniform in Iraq working to liberate Iraq and protect our security have never apologized. And those who murdered and burned and humiliated four Americans in Falluja a while ago never received an apology from anybody."
Oh, Senator Lieberman. How do I tell thee to shut up? Let me count the ways. First, not a single person currently in Iraq, despite what the orangutan masses might think, had anything to do with 9/11, with the possible exception of Ahmad Chalabi. Second, do soldiers on either side of an armed conflict have to apologize for killing one another? If that's the case, then we've got a lot of condolence notes to send out. The third point you made is a nonsense verse, so we'll let it pass. But overall, Senator, you've lost your Joementum, and with it your public-speaking privileges.
Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, shut up!
Finally, lest the bloviators of the right sit alone in their fortress of shrillitude, let me bring back a favorite target, the cartoonist Ted Rall. His strip last week, where he called slain soldier and former football star Pat Tillman a "moron" who joined the Army eager to "kill Arabs," shall stand as exhibit A. The other exhibit is a recent essay titled "An Army of Scum." The opening paragraph:
"Now it's official: American troops occupying Iraq have become virtually indistinguishable from the SS. Like the Germans during World War II, they cordon off and bomb civilian villages to retaliate for guerrilla attacks on their convoys. Like the blackshirts who terrorized Europe, America's victims disappear into hellish prisons ruled by sadists and murderers. The U.S. military is short just one item to achieve moral parity with the Nazis: gas chambers."
Oh, for the love of Jim Caviezel's flayed and bloody nipples, Ted! If you want to compare Donald Rumsfeld to Hermann Goering, I'll sign the petition. However, as someone who lost relatives, albeit distant ones, in those Nazi gas chambers, I must on their behalf say, "Wot? Are you meshugah? For this I was systematically exterminated?"
I cordially invite Ted Rall to stand on the 50-yard line during day one of the Arizona Cardinals' training camp this summer. Then we'll see who's the sap. No, wait. That's like something Ted Rall would say. Instead, I'll just hit him with my deeply clever catch phrase, the one that will surely memorialize me as the Voltaire of the 21st century. While I'm at it, let me toss it at all the lefty dipshits who wrote this hastily tossed together issue of The Stranger, including me, and including Savage, who never seems to take my advice.
Everybody just shut up.
Neal Pollack's most recent novel is Never Mind the Pollacks.