Miss Universe's Excellent Adventure

"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
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
Dyanna Mendoza hit the beach for her personal remake of "Baywatch,"
visiting the no doubt startled troops there and touring the Gitmo

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

"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 TheNew 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, who
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.).

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

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, "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 enormo
us 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.

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