Paul: So I says to myself, Self!
Self: Yes, Paul, always good to hear from you. What, may I ask, bothers you today?
Paul: Guantanamo Bay, Self, it’s just not right. When Obama campaigned and then won the election, he vowed that closing this camp was a top priority.
Self: So he did.
Paul: I am disappointed. Seven years later and he’s still not through.
Self: You know that Congress proudly wears the mantle of obstructionism in this regard.
Paul: What are they afraid of?
Self: They seem to believe several nonsensical arguments. First, no state with a maximum security prison in the continental United States wants them.
Paul: No convicted terrorist has ever escaped from one of these facilities. Further, these specific prisons were built purposefully to house so-called high profile inmates and they are the major employer of builders, maintainers, guards, et al. in their districts.
Self: Second, Many Guantanamo prisoners, with varying years of captivity, have not even been indicted much less convicted of unmentioned crimes.
Paul: This one gets to me. We like to brag to the world about how everything is better in America, including our form of government and its judicial system. Yet Congress, and supposedly the CIA and military higher-ups, fear that open trials in federal courts will necessarily reveal national security information that must remain secret in order to keep the country safe.
Self: Right. and that leads to number three. The United States used torture. No secret there. Dick Cheney …
Paul: Dick Cheney hid in the early days behind euphemistic rhetoric about “advanced interrogation techniques” and the like. His knowledge of torture by U.S. citizens and his complete disregard for the Geneva Conventions make him a war criminal.
Self: That is a serious accusation, my friend.
Paul: He is a war criminal and, if not directly a war profiteer, an aider and abettor of those who are. Before the dust settled on the first bombing missions over Afghanistan, Cheney’s former company, Haliburton, was awarded a non-competitive omnibus contract. Over night they became our one-stop-shop. They are still raking in billions of dollars with no end to the profit pipeline in sight.
Self: We began this discussion talking about Guantanamo Bay, which led to torture, which led to the entire U.S. judicial system, which led ultimately to your indictment of the former vice-president of the United States as a war criminal.
Self: You obviously hold a great deal of animus for the man. Is there more to it?
Paul: The man who would become Secretary of Defense, Vice-President, Chicken Hawk, and War Monger was himself subjected to the draft of young men during the Vietnam troop escalation. Five times. Each time he received a deferment. Five times. In defense of his unwillingness to serve the nation in uniform he once said glibly, I had other things to do.”
Self: I get it. Is there anything else you would like to say before we go our separate ways?
Paul: Just one thing. As a seventy-year-old man with growing belly and decreasing levels of testosterone, I have no need nor desire to share with you anything but the truth.
Self: True. You have nothing to gain through exaggeration.
Paul: The truth then is what you shall have. When I was a twenty-one-year-old grunt in Vietnam I feared little, not even death; in fact, I fully expected to die. I was not afraid to die, but, I can tell you, I was deathly afraid of being captured and tortured.
Self: Thank God that did not happen.
Yes: But the knowledge of being afraid haunts me to this day. I am fully aware of things I did and things I was capable of doing as a combat soldier–by things I mean actions.
Self: Some would call that bravery, Paul.
Paul: I prefer to think of my actions as survival-driven. But back to capture and torture. So, just as I know what I can do physically–have done, if you prefer–I also know my being can be wracked with overwhelming fear. Wouldn’t it be delightful if I ended this conversation with you, Self, by saying, as a sophist might, that war ultimately reveals to the warrior the nature and the existence of good and evil in our world. Alas, I cannot. I would be a liar. I saw evil in the actions of war, and I feared that the enemy’s evil would prove to be greater than our own. In the end, I am afraid of being afraid.
Self: Thank you. Good day.