When last we saw dogs in Abu Ghraib, they were doing this:
Some Americans found all this (and worse) funny or necessary or no-big-deal, while others gasped and hoped that this was the work of a few very bad soldiers with no connection whatsoever to a higher chain of command. But I heard nothing said about the dogs themselves. Were they mere cogs in the machinery of torture? Or, like hunting dogs who wish to please their masters in the brush, did they pick up on the human fun vibe and get into the Haji-biting/bashing as well? I don't recall anyone ever really exploring this. Not even PETA had a harsh word to say, preferring to picket KFC and its barbecued bird corpses.
I suppose it takes a true liberal to find the humanity in canines, and who has better lib cred than Al Franken? Yes, he hosts one of the most boring and slowest-moving programs in the history of radio, and yeah, he's little more than a mouthpiece for centrist/rightwing Dems of the DLC persuasion. Also, after backing Bush's invasion of Iraq, believing or trusting that it was a robust exercise in humanitarian democratic intervention, Franken now has questions -- not serious ones, mind you, since he still believes that the US attacked Iraq for essentially good reasons. But some of the corruption and cronyism and lack of security concerns for the frontline troops has caused Franken to scratch his head and wonder What To Do Next. Again, Franken has no real idea What To Do Next, but he supports the occupation for as long as the occupation is needed, whenever that might be. In the meantime, Franken finds what Good News he can, and part of his quest has taken him to Iraq several times, most recently during the holiday season.
Franken was there to entertain the troops, his wicked Saddam impression being the highlight of his act (you can't say that Franken doesn't take artistic chances!). But while in Iraq, Franken made his way to Abu Ghraib. He later joked that he may be the "only comedian" to play that torture center, which I suppose is a milestone of sorts. Yet amid all the laffs, Franken found a serious moment to pose with two fans:
Now, I know that liberals feel at a deeper level than the rest of us. And there's no proof that the guard dog Franken petted had anything to do with prisoner abuse. Still, there's something a bit off-putting, at least to me, about posing with a German Shepherd outside Abu Ghraib. Perhaps this is part of Supporting The Troops, something that is holy and beyond question. If so, then Franken was simply doing his patriotic duty. But given what went on in the bowels of that prison, and what doubtless still goes on, not only there but in numerous unknown cells and cellars, I really don't see a positive side to this. In fact, quite the opposite. It's a bit like posing with Bull Connor's dogs in Selma. They might be nice mutts off the clock, but when working, they're not engaged in the noblest of efforts.
Does Franken recall that when the dogs were let out in Abu Ghraib, the Red Cross estimated that 70-90% of those held and presumably tortured and/or beaten and bit were charged with no crime of any kind, and were later released? And, as Seymour Hersh has reported, there are videos and photos shot in that prison (which have been seen by a few but have yet to see general release) where boys are beaten and raped, among other ghastly deeds. Do you still joke about being the "only comedian" to play that room?
The above photo, taken at face value, is a pretty casual shot, and I suspect that most people see it that way. But viewed within the larger context, it suggests, if not an endorsement by Franken, then certainly a passive acceptance of what the US has done in Abu Ghraib, all in the name of sacred troop support. And don't forget that Franken has moved back to Minneapolis in order to establish residency so he can run against Norm Coleman in Minnesota's '08 Senate election. Photos like the one above will not hurt Franken in a TV campaign -- the tough liberal takes a stand in the Terror Wars. Hell, it may force Coleman to fly to Iraq himself, so he can be photographed yanking a tortured Iraqi on a leash. Indeed, that race has the potential to become decidedly satirical in tone. And if it does, Coleman will have little chance to win. Franken's written enough mock political ads in his career that the real thing would be a snap. Coleman will be the butt of Franken's jokes, as will the electorate, though the latter may not realize this until Franken takes his act to Washington, where posing with criminals, torturers and those who profit from them is serious business -- or not, depending on what you find "funny."