- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Clown cargo

Inside the Beltway has been granted a rare peek inside a U.S. military C-141 aircraft that this past week transported a planeload of shackled "clowns" as one U.S. military serviceman on board refers to the captured Taliban and al Qaeda fighters to Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, Cuba, where the detainees are now imprisoned and under interrogation by U.S. officials.

Before the C-141 departed the United States for an allied country that we cannot name, where it rendezvoused with a C-17 that transported the prisoners from Kandahar, Afghanistan, it stopped briefly at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey to pick up an armed military security detail to guard the detainees on the second leg of their trip to captivity.

As with previous "terrorist-transport" flights to Guantanamo since September 11, these latest detainees are clad in orange jumpsuits. Their hair is cropped short and each is shackled securely at their hands and legs. All wear "blackout" goggles, so they can see nothing.

Besides the armed security detail keeping a constant eye on the suspected terrorist fighters' every move, two additional security guards are posted at the entrance to the plane's cockpit. Nobody goes in or out without their permission.

Meanwhile, the bathroom door of the C-141 has been removed from its hinges. When a prisoner needs to use the facility, he is observed at all times. No chances are being taken.

"There are about two security guards for every 'clown' on board," we're advised.

Approximately half of the military crew on this particular flight turn out to be reservists or National Guardsmen, each called up by Uncle Sam to help fight in the war on terrorism.

The C-141 departs for its 15½-hour or so flight to "Gitmo," the U.S. military installation in Cuba that is a far cry from paradise for this latest bunch of Islamic extremists who have chosen to attack the United States.

During the long flight its itinerary lengthened because the United States has been denied permission to fly over several European countries the aircraft has to be refueled twice in the air, once off the Atlantic coast of Portugal, and again south of Bermuda. During each refueling, the rear of the plane starts to sway and several prisoners begin vomiting because of the motion.

"Some are barfing, some are crying, some are yelling, some are defiant," observes one U.S. officer on board. "But you can't trust any of them."

Politics of war

September 11 did nothing to break the 2000 stalemate in U.S. politics, with red (George W. Bush) states like Texas getting redder and blue (Al Gore) states like California getting bluer.

"The war on terrorism has not transformed U.S. politics," says William Schneider, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. "In fact, there are indications the opposite may happen. The war may become more political as it goes on."

He cites the debate surrounding Iraq, which pits conservatives and Republicans who favor using U.S. ground troops to overthrow leader Saddam Hussein against liberals and Democrats who remain strongly opposed to such an undertaking.

"This is the first time since September 11 that a war issue has become partisan and divisive," Mr. Schneider notes. "Iraq is likely to be far more controversial than Afghanistan. America's 'old politics' the political division of 2000 could end up infecting America's 'new war.'"

Welcome to America

You illegally crossed our border?

You're a drugs and weapons importer?

You're a sociopath

Spewing venomous wrath?

Yes, everything seems in order.

F.R. Duplantier

Irrational fears

"I didn't even know we had a homophobic work setting," reacts an official with the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, referring to the memo he received touting tomorrow's two-hour-long EPA film (and discussion) presentation: "Homophobia In The Workplace."

Which follows today's two-hour EPA feature, "Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Issues in the Workplace," with guest Keith Boykin, a special assistant to President Clinton.


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