Tuesday, January 31, 2006

And the Award Goes to...

I'm inspired this morning, Bush, by the announcement of the Academy Award nominations to make a couple of my own, in the spirit of that old cliche that a picture is worth a thousand words. I guess that would mean by extension that a moving picture would be worth a good few million of them.

Anyway, in view of recent releases in the Middle East, these would be the Extremely Tacky Videotape Awards. The first, for sheer, gratuitous, self-defeating brutality would go to the anonymous producers of the Jill Carroll tape that Al-Jazeera aired yesterday, and was replayed with endless relish by American networks all day and night. Carroll--as you know, Bush, a young free-lance reporter working for the Christian Science Monitor who was kidnapped more than a week ago--was shown in Middle Eastern headdress, weeping and begging that authorities comply with her kidnappers' demands for all Iraqi women prisoners to be released. It was a heart-rending performance, especially given the youth and beauty of the victim, and her innocence of political involvement; and an inexcusable, inhuman act of abuse on the part of those seeking to exploit this young woman for political gain. So far as I can tell, Bush, it does nothing to advance their cause except to alienate all those with an ounce of humanity in their hearts.

The second award, of course, this one for pointlessly poisonous rhetoric, goes to the good Doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri, reputed second-in-command of the Al Qaeda network and the "brain" behind the World Trade Center attacks. Imagine, he had the gall to call you, Bush, the "Butcher of Washington!" Those, like myself, who refuse to absolve you of responsbility for your Iraqi war, might have found some unpalatable grain of truth in Zawahiri's words--were it not for the worldwide butchery for which this man himself must take responsibility. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! He also teased you unmercifully before the world for failing to find him--or his boss--in spite of four years of trying, with all the vast resources of the American military and American intelligence at your disposal. Truth to tell, Bush, you did lay yourself open to this taunt in your latest Keystone-Kop attempt to nail the man, in which a super hi-tech, drone-fired missile succeeded in killing several innocent Pakistani villagers, including women and children. I guess that Zawahiri earns a gruding best costume award, too, with his white turban, his neat beard, and his owlish glasses. A wolf in sheep's clothing?

What makes these propaganda tapes all the more incomprehensible is that their perpetrators seem unable to understand that they have, in American eyes, the opposite of their desired effect. Far from undermining your authority with his rhetoric, Bush, Zawahiri more likely convinces a greater number of Americans of the justice of your cause, not his. And the Carroll kidnappers simply make themselves more despicable, and their grievances less worthy of our sympathy. On the other hand, we need to understand that the target audience is more likely those whose hatred of America--and your good self--is already well established, those in this unhappy region of the world who have experienced life only as victims of powerful oppression. They may well be cheering as they watch the tapes. The sad thing is that we continue to provide them with grounds for their beliefs. The attack on the Pakistani village is but one of the most recent examples of our own missteps.

So that's it for my awards for the day, Bush. But beware: I'll be watching your speech tonight with a critical eye. I assume your spin meisters are hard at it, trying to cook up a good stew out of the clunkers you've served us up with this past year. They have their work cut out for them.

No comments: