Here are two scenarios. Which one makes more sense?
Jack phones his buddy Joe.
JOE: (answering the phone): Yeah.
JACK: Hey, Joe, it’s me, Jack.
JOE: Been a while, man. What’s up?
JACK: How’d you like to put the spring back in that rusty ol’ rump a yours?
JOE: Love it, man. Whatcha got?
JACK: You and me go to Afghanistan and open a jail.
JOE: Open a jail? You kiddin’ me?
JACK: Nah. For real, man. We help out Uncle Sam. Get a house, collar some Talibans, give ’em a good you know what, turn the info over to the Marines and come out heroes.
JOE: I’m itchin’ for some action like that, but where’s the money?
JACK: We ain’t doin’ it for money, but for the good old U.S. of A. — and for the kicks.
JOE: Well, I sure could use the kinda money they’re payin’ over there. I can’t dig it up over here. Dry as a bone dollar-wise.
JACK: Well, I figure, if we play it right, Uncle Sam might just be grateful enough to cough up some a that dough that’s goin’ to those private contractors. I really miss those days when I was a Green Beret. I gotta get back into the action, but I need your help. You with me?
JOE: Okay, man, I’ll give it a shot. But I sure hope we don’t hit a dry well.
Scene: A soundproof, secure room in the basement of the Pentagon. One of the undersecretaries of defense, whose profile is lower than low — we’ll call him Dan — has summoned a “get-the-dirty-job-done” assistant, whose name no one knows, not even the undersecretary.
DAN: We’ve got a problem, Bill.
BILL: That’s not my name, sir.
DAN: What’s the difference? Don’t interrupt me!
BILL: Yes, sir. What’s the problem, sir?
DAN: We’ve got to get more information out of those Afghani Talibani we capture. We tried to squeeze it out of ’em, but that damned International Red Cross keeps nosing around to make sure we don’t violate the Geneva Conventions. Might as well turn the damned prisons in Kabul into country clubs. Gives the boss a headache, so he asked me to deal with it.
BILL: I see what you mean, sir.
DAN: Well we had an idea. Suppose we get a few Rambo types who aren’t in the military, send ’em over there to collar some of those Talibanis and wring their necks till they tell us what we want to know. Since those guys are not military, and we don’t know anything about ’em — if you get my drift — we don’t have to worry about that damned Geneva Convention baloney.
BILL: Sounds good to me, sir.
DAN: And if they get caught, they say they were just trying to give us a hand in the war on terrorism — on their own, you understand, on their own. You can’t get more patriotic than that, right? Sacrificing a nice easy life here at home to go over there in the heat and danger, all for flag and country. Brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.
BILL: Chokes me up too, sir.
DAN: Now, do you know anybody who might take charge of an operation like that?
BILL: Well, sir, as a matter of fact I do. There’s a fellow who used to be a Green …
DAN: Uh, uh, uh, stop there! Don’t tell me anything about him. We have nothing to do with this operation, remember? I just want to leave it in your hands, Ben.
BILL/BEN: Bill, sir, not Ben, and it’s not that either, but …
DAN: Whatever. This is hush-hush of the highest hush. You get me?
BILL/BEN: I certainly do, sir. My lips are sealed. But what about money, sir?
DAN: What money?
BILL/BEN: Money we’ll have to pay them, the team that’s going to …
DAN: Don’t you worry about that, Bob. We’ve got plenty socked away for just such contingencies. Tax-free, you might say. (Both men laugh.)
So which scenario seems more believable – one or two? Offhand you might feel that number two rings the credibility bell. After all, number one is simply outrageous: a team of gung-ho guys establishing their own prison in Kabul for no other reason than to help fight terrorism. With no resources other than their own. And no profit to boot. But when you think about it, if number one comes after number two, they’re both believable!
Especially now that the leader of the real-live “Rambos” hauled into an Afghan court insists that he has been in regular contact, “five times a day, every day,” with the office of none other than Donald Rumsfeld himself, and that he has tapes to prove it.
Apparently the Pentagon’s hush-hush apparatus is not hushy enough when your hushee is left twisting in the wind.
Seymour Joseph is an activist in Brooklyn, N.Y. He can be reached at pww @ pww.org.