Great Pretzel Swallower's
I was beginning to accept The War for what the Great Pretzel Swallower had proclaimed it to be (in so many malapropisms): a Fight for my Freedom to Party. A fight for my freedom to fly, shop, drink champagne, wear miniskirts and, of course, have lots of sex. If any values were worth defending, these were.
Sure, we seemed to be bombing more out of revenge for our wounds and lust for a nice friendly place to lay our pipeline than anything the least bit noble. But at least we gave the impression that we were trying to conduct a relatively "humane" war. I was impressed with our government's apparent concern for the Afghan people (unlike Vietnam). We tried not to kill civilians, though sometimes, of course, when you're bombing the crap out of a country, it can't be helped. We dropped food packets; too bad they looked just like landmines, confusing the now-dead or maimed children who grabbed them. We helped women get on the road to liberation; who doesn't want to see what's under that burqa? We encouraged Afghans to play long-forbidden music, and hey, everybody loves music-except those Evil-Doer, No-Fun Talibans.
In short, we not only won The War on the Battlefield (though not many of our guys stepped onto an actual battlefield-too dangerous), but we were winning the War of World Opinion. That is, we were doing some topnotch PR.
Then I saw The Picture. You know, the one that appears to have been taken on the set of a gay male heavy S&M training film or a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph. About eight or nine submissives are shown kneeling, their knees grounded into the gravel, their legs crossed and shackled under them, their arms manacled in front, their hands bizarrely mittened. They are blindfolded with black, high-tech-looking goggles, earplugged (or are those earphones?) and practically gagged with surgical masks and electrical tape, their day-glo orange outfits blowing in the Cuba Libré breeze, revealing sections of their naked flesh. One of the Orange Men appears to be losing his pants. Obviously, he can't pull them up.
Above this trussed-up, sensory-deprived platoon of bad boys stand two taut Marines (a third is in the distance), clad in crisp camouflage, their heads shaved around the sides, a modern spin on the Medieval bowl-cut. The Marine closest to the camera is leaning over the Orange Men in a casually menacing posture. And, in what's probably just an innocent juxtaposition of objects, a long fence pole seems to be emerging from his pants. And yes, if you squint, it looks like an elongated erection, slim but stiff, towering like a sword over his helpless, senseless captives.
Big Stick, indeed.
The shocking part is that this Guantánamo S&M scene was not snapped by a plucky journalist's lens. The Pentagon officially released it. This is what they want us to see. Does that mean that this is the mild stuff? This is where they just plug up their ears, not their other orifices?
Maybe the Pentagon released The Photo because it's so racy. Maybe they wanted our hearts to race, our spirits to soar at the image of our Marines boldly dominating and humiliating The Enemy. Maybe this is the Revenge of the Raving Castrati after the pain and phallic humiliation of 9.11.
Maybe the shrinks at the Pentagon think we'll feel better about ourselves upon seeing a young US Marine with a Big Stick in his pants lording it over a harem of hapless, hogtied Orange Men made to bow down before their Masters in utter, abject-and in the case of Orange Man #2 and possibly #3, even bare-assed--submission.
Is this Pentagon Porn?
Doubtless, for some Americans, it is. I myself haven't been able to stop staring at The Photo for the last two days, and that's not just because I'm writing this. Actually, I started writing this because I was staring at it, even finding it to be, I confess, weirdly erotic in that perverse way that Hardcore Male-on-Male Sado-Masochistic Porn often is.
Actually, the original photograph is a voyeur's delight. The photographer invites the viewer/voyeur to peer through a hole in a barbed wire fence, to sneak a peak on some state-of-the-art torture, heavy bondage, a little sense denial, maybe some brainwashing (what are they listening to on those earphones anyway?), a bit of wretched mortification.
The Orange Men look like extreme submissives into heavy sensory deprivation. Except they aren't "into" it. Though, maybe, they are. After all, we're told that they're suicidal, so heavy masochistic fetishes would go with that. But the fact is that we don't know what they're into. We don't really know who they are. We don't seem to know what to do with them. We don't even know what to call them.
"Whatever they are, they're not Prisoners of War!" chorused the Great Pretzel Swallower (GPS) and Ayatollah Asscraft, not eager to give these Evil-Doers any extra privileges.
So, what are they, Prisoners of Love? In a way. Consensual S&M (Sadomasochism) and D&S (Dominance and Submission) relationships are often very loving, because the Masochist actually enjoys enduring the pain, and the Submissive longs to surrender to the Master or Mistress whose primary concern is the welfare of their Submissive/Masochist. Nonconsensual S&M is pretty much the opposite, though sometimes, as in cases of domestic violence, the partners feel a kind of toxic love for each other.
It sure looks like a twisted, toxic lovefest going on behind that fence.
Here's another message this photo sends to the world: American soldiers are civilized. They're high-tech. They don't storm into villages and rape the women (too dangerous!) like those funky Serbs and Northern Alliance guys. No. The American military (perhaps a bit gayer than most, what with all the homo-erotic recruitment advertising), prefers to express its testosteronic bloodlust by kidnapping residents of the offending country, then dressing them up in garish, creepy little S&M outfits, and making them get down on their knees and grovel for…? Well, those photos won't be released by the Pentagon. But I hear that NYPD Officers Volpe and Bruder are giving a special seminar at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base on how to use a plunger handle as an interrogation tool (unconfirmed sources). Talk about Giuliani Time…
Ripper: Were you ever a prisoner of war?
Mandrake: Ah yes I was. Matter of fact, Jack, I was.
Ripper: Did they torture you?
Mandrake: Ah... yes, they did. I was tortured by the Japanese, Jack, if you must know. Not a pretty story.
Ripper: Well what happened?
Mandrake: Oh... well... I don't know, Jack. Difficult to think of under these conditions. But, well, what happened was they got me on the old Rangoon HNRR railway. I was laying train mines for the bloody Japanese puff puffs.
Ripper: No, I mean when they tortured you, did you talk?
Ah, oh no, I ah... I don't think they wanted me to talk, really. I don't
think they wanted me to say anything. It was just their way of having...
a bit of fun, the swines. Strange thing is they make such bloody good