The Truth, Mainly - 10/27/2003

Open Letter to John Ashcroft
by Leon Satterfield

Dear Johnny:

You don't mind if I call you Johnny, do you? I suppose "Mr. Attorney General" would be more respectful, but it sounds a little stodgy. "Johnny" might help lighten up your image. Make you look less angry. You know?

Anyway, your boss, the President, says he doesn't read the newspapers, and it occurs to me that in following your leader, you may not read them either. So I'm writing to tell you what the papers are saying about you.

It's not pretty, Johnny. It pains me to tell you, but you need to know.

For example, Jonathan Turley, in an L.A. Times piece this month, said you were conducting a "jihad against free speech." He gave as an example your department's prosecution of three nuns for "obstructing national defense" by painting crosses on the concrete cap over a Minuteman III missile silo.

And all that while Kenny Boy Lay has never been charged with anything.

It doesn't look good, Johnny.

There's more: the International Committee of the Red Cross criticized us this month for the continuing confinement of the 660 detainees at Guantanamo. The committee said the prisoners were going stir-crazy, and that there had been 32 suicide attempts—largely because while most of them have been imprisoned for about two years, they're in an unsettled state of mind because not one of them has been tried for any crime.

Looks bad, Johnny. Real bad. Whatever happened to speedy trials? I know, I know, the USA Patriot Act lets us do that. But it looks like something we'd expect Bad Guys to do. We're supposed to be Good Guys.

And it makes you, Johnny, look like an Attorney General who doesn't care about America's notion that everyone's innocent until proven guilty.

You know what else it looks like? It looks like we're making judgments based on names and appearances. If they have beards and funny names like Khalid or Abdulah or Mohamad, and if they can speak Arabic and they're Muslim, then it looks like we can just ship them off to Guantanamo and throw away the key.

That's just the public perception, I know.

But I've got an idea that will get us out from under that perception, Johnny. Here it is:

What we need to do is to imprison at Guantanamo some Anglo-American Christian with a respectable-sounding American name. Just one would do our reputation a world of good.

And I've got a guy in mind, Johnny.

He's a guy who two years ago responded to 9/11 by saying we had it coming. He agreed with a fellow traveler that God was "allowing the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve." Make your blood boil? Well I should say.

And just this month, this same guy talked on television with the author of a book called "Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Endangers America's Security."

And get this: according to the A.P. this guy seemed to agree with the author that the State Department headquarters at Foggy Bottom should be blown up with a nuclear bomb!

Yes he did, Johnny.

I guess the Justice Department didn't pay much attention because this guy was just repeating what he'd said on television in June: "Well, it looks like Congress had better do something, and maybe we need a very small nuke thrown off on Foggy Bottom to shake things up."

He grins a goofy little grin when he says things like that, but as Hamlet tells us, "one may smile, and smile, and be a villain."

I don't know how much contact you have with Colin Powell's folks, Johnny, but Richard Boucher, a State Department spokesman, called this guy's nuke remark "despicable" and said "I lack sufficient capabilities to express my disdain."

So what I'm suggesting, Johnny, would improve your relations with the State Department at the same time you would knock down the notion that the only threats to America are people with beards and funny names like Khalid or Abdulah or Mohamad.

Ship this guy I've been telling you about to Guantanamo. Don't tell him what he's charged with. Treat him the same way we've been treating the other 660 down there.

Surely, if he's to be believed, he's as least as big a threat to us as the others are. And it will show the world there's no cultural or religious bias in our government.


Leon Satterfield

P.S. I almost forgot to give you this guy's name. It's Rob Patterson or Pat Robertson or something like that. Maybe you've heard of him.


Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail address is:

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