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Michael Winship: Miss Universe's Excellent Adventure

(Photo by Robin Holland)

Below is an article by JOURNAL senior writer Michael Winship. We welcome your comments below.

Miss Universe's Excellent Adventure
By Michael Winship

“A crown is merely a hat that lets the rain in.” That was Frederick the Great of Prussia’s take on the pain of being royalty.

Just ask Queen Elizabeth II and Michelle Obama. When they briefly touched one another at Buckingham Palace Thursday, a moment of contact that was more gentle pat than hug, you would have thought the First Lady had challenged Her Royal Highness to pistols at 20 paces. What a breach of protocol!

What a world. Luckily, Buckingham Palace jumped into the breach to announce, “It was a mutual and spontaneous display of affection and appreciation,” and besides, the Royal Press Office said, it was at an informal reception – thus convincing the media on both sides of the Atlantic to unclutch their smelling salts.

But if you needed further proof that the Earth is off its axis, spinning toward the sun, there came the news that another crowned head, Miss Universe, had paid a visit to Guantanamo Bay. Yes, courtesy of the USO, Venezuela’s Dayana Mendoza hit the beach for her personal remake of “Baywatch,” visiting the no doubt startled troops there and touring the Gitmo facilities.

Because there apparently is a higher power with a sardonic sense of humor – thank you! – Ms. Mendoza kept an Internet diary in which she told the world about boat rides and a trip to a beach covered with bits of colored glass.

“It was a loooot of fun!” she wrote. “We … met the Military dogs, and they did a very nice demonstration of their skills… We visited the Detainees camps and we saw the jails, where they shower, how they recreate themselves with movies, classes of art, book… I didn’t want to leave, it was such a relaxing place, so calm and beautiful.”

OK, Miss Universe, no doubt a more permanent stay could be arranged, your innocence notwithstanding. But you just might have to give up the swimwear competition two-piece for something in an orange jumpsuit.

I wish I was making this up. So does the Miss Universe organization, owned by General Electric’s NBC Universal and Miss Congeniality himself, Donald Trump. They quickly took down Mendoza’s blog entry and replaced it with an official statement supporting our armed forces.

Smooth move, considering the news that keeps breaking about how the detainees at Guantanamo were treated by the Bush-Cheney team.

Mark Danner and THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS recently obtained a confidential report from the International Committee of the Red Cross describing the treatment of many detainees as torture. In detail, the report describes how Abu Zubaida, whom President Bush proclaimed was al Qaeda’s chief of operations, was waterboarded and often confined to a coffin-like black box (Of the 92 video tapes the CIA recently admitted they destroyed, all but two were of Zubaida’s detention and interrogation.)

He told the Red Cross, “I was taken out of my cell and one of the interrogators wrapped a towel around my neck; they then used it to swing me around and smash me repeatedly against the hard walls of the room.”

And for what? The front page of last Sunday’s WASHINGTON POST reports that in all probability Zubaida was not the high powered operative US intelligence thought he was and that, quote, “Not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida’s tortured confessions.”

In the words of the POST’s Dan Froomkin, “The most charitable interpretation at this point of the decision to torture is that it was a well-intentioned overreaction of people under enormous stress whose only interest was in protecting the people of the United States. But there's always been one big problem with that theory: While torture works on TV, knowledgeable intelligence professionals and trained interrogators know that in the real world, it's actually ineffective and even counterproductive. The only thing it's really good as it getting false confessions.”

Some speculate that the real motivation is retribution; the irrational lust to get even that drives us to intentional cruelty.

The Obama administration is declassifying memos and other documents on the detention and interrogation policies adopted after 9/11. Executive orders from the President suspended military commissions at Guantanamo and ordered the prison there closed within a year. On Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed to reporters that the Obama White House has dropped the phrase “war on terror.”

But despite that semantic sleight-of-hand, the war goes on, and 241 men remain in the cells of Guantanamo, their stories already becoming forgotten in a world where Miss Universe searches the sandy beach for pieces of pretty glass, awestruck by military dogs and the beautiful sea.

Please note that the views and opinions expressed by Michael Winship are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.


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Those who allow, encourage or perpetrate torture must be held responsible for their crimes.

If the Obama Administration fails to investigate and prosecute these acts, then the Obama Administration bears great responsibility for the next big torture scandal.

The only way to prevent torture is to make it absolutely clear that torture will not be tolerated under any circumstances, and that those who torture will suffer public disgrace and severe criminal penalties.

Anything less guarantees that torture will continue to occur -- with despicable frequency.

And you, J. McGraw, are supposedly not a tool also? I would assert that Moyers is the tool of his own career but that you are a tool of a minority wealthy interests. The news media is a business in capitalist society, Naturally these progressive pundits have a career interest just as do Bill O'Reilly or John Stossel. To impose a special code od ethics or morality upon your political opponents is patently unfair and probably inadvisable in the long run. These people do not usually advocate the abandonment of capitalist regimens under which they have achieved some modicum of success. (I know Amy fro pacifica and she is a "real American girl" who only suggests the tempering of business excesses and the structural and overt violence employed to steer outcomes in its favor.) If capitalism is the "best" way then why can it not win without cheating? And why does it have to extinguish any alternative experiments? Why would it truncate human development unless in the service of unreasonable vested interests? Summation: If Miss Universe is the prettiest then why does she have to contrast herself with one of the ugliest messes on earth: Guantanamo? (Amy ain't struck on herself; maybe Glen is, a little.)

Moyers is a tool. His interview with recipients of the I.F. Stone Award (Amy Goodman and Glenn Greewald) provides a clear demonstration that he and these two guests are intellectually dishonest. They only see a conspiracy to the degree that it negatively effects their political goals. Why waste all this time trying to establish the public's "heightened awareness" when the end result is that your political goals are in lock step with the hard left? All this talk is simply to establish the same political result by a different means. Where is the example of media mind control when it benefited the left: The media packaging, branding, and marketing of Obama? This type of propaganda does NOT receive criticism from Moyers and his two intellectually fraudulent guests. This lack of intellectual honesty is EXACTLY why the American people are jaded beyond recovery.

Keep the pressure on the Obama Administration to set up a Pecora-like commission
to investigate and prosecute the people who made fortunes, while they purposely
destroyed the economy while stuffing their pockets. This fraud cannot go unpunished!

Miss Universe will not appear at the rally at 2pm April 11th on Union Square in Hickory, NC. We have avoided the banking center of Charlotte to avoid conflict and reach working people. Do not mistake this as a T-party which is a way of opposing relief funds from the Stimulus package, and forces you to listen to half-truths from hack politicians. We will let you speak. Come early to sign up. William Greider recommended this event right here on Moyer's Journal and there will be at least 50 cities and towns participating. To find a city nearby go to Hickory is for western NC where official unemployment has reached double digits. We encourage signs without sticks, costumes and banners. There is ample parking and friendly, clean restrooms. You can also contact about this event. Come out to beautiful Union Square in Hickory, please.

Let's not forget that 60 or so of those released have been re-captured or killed when they returned to fight with the Taliban, etc. Let's also not forget those still held that are proud of thier role in 911. It's interesting to note, that in this "hell hole Gitmo", the prisoners have a favorite t.v. show: "The Deadliest Catch". Oh, and to Grady, people in the East don't use toilet paper. Soap, water, and a towel is the method there. Quite superior, I think.

Michael Winship: Ms. Universe's dietary habits would probably have been interpreted as a hunger strike had she stayed longer. I'm sure some pretty corporals and sergeants would have eagerly volunteered to force-feed her. And "two-piece suit" nothing, after that treatment her resultant suicide watch would have dictated complete nudity and no toilet paper. That's why the Koran presents such a great temptation. I can imagine her restrained in her own filth dreaming about the "chidren of the world, sharing a diet coke."

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