Salah Hassan was a journalist working in Iraq for Al Jazeera in 2003 when the U.S. military arrested him, took him to the Abu Ghraib prison, and tortured him. This happened because did his job well—he was quick to the scene after a roadside bomb attack in Diyala. As Hassan spent 48 days in detention without ever being charged, he said he was stripped naked, beaten, and dehumanized.
“During two months, torture took different forms, including undressing, being caged like animals, using dogs for intimidation, banning food and drinks, hand and foot cuffing, physical humiliation, sexual implications and many others,” Hassan said in remarks delivered to the United Nations in 2016. “My body was like a machine, responding to all external orders. The only part I owned was my brain, which could not [be] stopped by the black plastic bag they used to cover my head. The most important question to which I could find no answer at the time is: what is all this for?”
Hassan’s case was not an isolated incident. As illustrated in photos that have been publicly available for the last 15 years, detainees were attached to leashes, chained up in painful positions for hours, and sexually assaulted. One prisoner, Manadel al-Jamadi, was interrogated and tortured to death in November of 2003. U.S. personnel smiled and took photos with his corpse. President George W. Bush defended Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in May of that year (and again in 2015). “You are doing a superb job,” Bush said. “You are a strong secretary of defense. And our nation owes you a debt of gratitude.”
Years later, a report by the Senate Armed Services Committee revealed that in 2002 Rumsfeld approved of these interrogation tactics for use in Guantanamo Bay before they were used in Afghanistan and Abu Ghraib. It was needless cruelty as part of a needless war, with a civilian death toll that will never be officially compiled, orchestrated by a president who conducted and enabled war crimes under the guise of defending freedom. So, truthfully, it’s a little annoying that you’re all getting on Ellen DeGeneres’s ass for taking in a football game with the guy in charge of all of it.
At Packers-Cowboys this past Sunday, Fox’s broadcast featured a shot of DeGeneres and Bush in cheerful conversation as they sat in team owner Jerry Jones’s suite. As the comedian summarized in a monologue taped for Tuesday’s episode of her show (but released online Monday night), “people were upset.” What? Why?!
“They thought, why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president? Didn’t even notice I’m holding the brand new iPhone 11,” DeGeneres cracked to an audience of trained seals.
And then, she said, people tweeted about it. How dare those woke scolds be mad at Ellen DeGeneres, your mom’s best friend who is watched on astoundingly fingerprint-smudged tablets every weekday across the country? There was one tweet Ellen liked, however: “Ellen and George Bush together makes me have faith in America again.” Now that’s epic.
Ellen thought a lesson could come of this news cycle, the lesson being that no one should be mad at her.
“Here’s the thing: I’m friends with George Bush,” she said, assuring everyone that this wasn’t a case of a random seating arrangement. “In fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have. We’re all different, and I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s okay that we’re all different. For instance, I wish people wouldn’t wear fur. I don’t like it, but I’m friends with people who wear fur.”
Crippling an entire country, wearing fur ... yep, the analogy tracks.
“But just because I don’t agree with someone on everything doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be friends with them,” Ellen said, bravely. “When I say ‘Be kind to one another,’ I don’t mean only the people that think the same way you do. I mean be kind to everyone.”
The rich person is correct, as rich people always are, or else they wouldn’t be rich. Embrace the differences between you and your buds, even if that difference is that they started a war under false pretenses, spent billions of dollars to more efficiently vaporize brown people, let the returning veterans drift to the edge of society without proper care until they ended up homeless and domed themselves under a freeway, made the initial problem as well as the country irreparably worse, and never suffered any meaningful consequences for it. We all have flaws, and that’s real talk. Don’t be a hater.
Let’s not begrudge DeGeneres the real perk of being rich and famous: getting to hang out with an evil, brain-dead Texan and never having to answer for his atrocities. But enough about Jerry Jones.