I SEE LONDON I SEE FRANCE?I SEE SADDAM’S UNDERPANTS

BY SKEPTIK SINIKIAN

Earlier this week–Britain’s tabloid newspaper–The Sun–published a photo of infamous Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in wearing nothing but his lily-white briefs. That is correct. The man who incurred the wrath of not just one–but TWO Presidents named Bush–was photographed in his detention cell wearing only a "vardeeg." According to various news sources–the photo has angered US military officials who have issued condemnation and feel that Saddam’s boudoir photo will now incur even greater anti-American sentiment in Iraq.

Never mind the thousands of people who have died and continue to die every day because of this unjustified war. Forget the fact that America has no intention of pulling out of Iraq any time soon. You can invade/occupy/liberate a nation. You can turn a blind eye while rioters loot the National Historic Museum in Baghdad. But do NOT dare take pictures of their former leader wearing his tidy-whitey "Fruit of the Looms." My favorite part of this whole story has been the quotes issues by the White House. One spokesman–Trent Duffy–said that the President "has been briefed on that situation and he strongly supports the aggressive and thorough investigation that is already under way." BRIEFED! I almost fell out of my chair. (By the way–if US Senator Barbara Boxer prepares this "brief" for the President–would that make it the Boxer Brief?)

The spokesman went on to say that the President "wants to get to the bottom of the investigation." Personally–I believe this photo is as close to the "bottom" as one can get. I don’t know what the specifics behind this photo are–but I hope that making Saddam strip down to his underwear is not part of Bush’s ongoing search for the elusive weapons of mass destruction. The strange part of this story is that after months upon months of searching for weapons of mass destruction and finally coming up empty handed–I thought it was the President who had been caught with his pants down. It’s funny how the real world operates. Don’t you think?

Here’s some more bizarre news that I thought I’d share with you this week. I just read that the Department of Defense’s March 30–2005 progress report on the post September 11 upgrading of its needs for foreign language professionals showed the Pentagon (41 months after the attacks) just now getting around to learning how many of its people already speak a foreign language. According to this document–it was not until May 2004 that a formal decision was made to "assess (foreign) language needs" and form a "steering committee." And it won’t be until December 2005 that they will create a database of personnel with foreign language skills.

Don’t you feel safe knowing that our nation’s top military and intelligence officials are working hard to keep us safe? Here’s a suggestion for folks who are paid big tax dollars to keep our country safe. How about we forget about whether Saddam wears boxers or briefs and concentrate on training our intelligence and military personnel to learn a few new languages. If we’re so concerned with our security–wouldn’t it be wise to encourage more of our youth to learn foreign languages? It’s funny how when I was younger–I remember how my non-Armenian friends used to make fun of the immigrant kids who had just come over from various countries in the Middle East or the former Soviet Union. They used to make fun of their accents and make them feel extremely uncomfortable. OK–maybe not "being-photographed-in-your-underwear-uncomfortable" but you get the idea. And here we are today–short staffed in our nation’s intelligence and defense sectors on bilingual native speakers.

I’m not encouraging the hiring of bilingual staff in order to spy on other people necessarily. I believe that with a diverse staff our governmental agencies and security forces would also be able to approach situations with a greater sensitivity towards other cultures. Maybe if they had people who understood both the language and the culture of a particular nation or people–then we’d be spared moronic stories in the news about soldiers flushing pages of the Koran down the toilet at the detention camps in Guantanamo Bay or naked human pyramids in Abu Ghraib or even Saddam Hussein in poses that would make even Paris Hilton blush.

When we show no sensitivity towards other cultures and show no respect towards the traditions of the Arab nations we are trying to instill democracy in–then our credit line to preach American values–life–liberty–the pursuit of happiness–etc.–is very limited. Given our current behavior–Americans preaching about respect and tolerance is like the Hunchback of Notre Dame telling someone to sit up straight! We will only be able to achieve peace if we understand and respect each other.

Until next time–remember to wear clean underwear because you never know who’s lurking around the corner with a camera.

Skeptik Sinkian wrote this column "Commando" style (wearing no underwear). He is willing to pose for the British tabloids but as of yet–no one has accepted his offer. He can be reached for comment at SkeptikSinikian@aol.com or www.sinikian.blogspot.com

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