by Doug Kern
June 10, 2005

“Men,” growled Colonel Clueless, “there’s no denying it: the Guantanamo Bay Ex-Detainee Reunion Party has clearly violated several Baghdad municipal ordinances, what with the mortar attacks and sniper fire and car bombs and all, and serious action will have to be taken.”

The other officers at the Battalion staff meeting whispered to each other nervously. A captain’s hand shot into the air. “Sir, does this mean we can start shooting bullets now?”

“Absolutely not. I intend to conduct every phase of Operation Sitting Ducks with scrupulous adherence to the letter of the law. And as you know, gentlemen, we are pledged never to bring any harm whatsoever to even a single page of the Holy Koran.”

“So…what are we going to do, sir, about the 30-foot wall that the insurgents have built around their compound, composed of nothing except Korans stapled together?”

“First of all,” hissed the Colonel, “they are not ‘insurgents.’ They are ‘patriotic Iraqi protestors.’ Second of all, their current residence is not a ‘compound.’ It is a mosque.”

“But they’ve been shooting mortars out of it. They refer to it as a ‘compound’ in their internal communications.”

“It’s a mosque! A sacred place worthy of utmost respect! My God, Captain Rambeau, can’t you read the sign that they posted for us? In English, no less!”


“Exactly. To defile that ancient site of culture would profane the honor of the United States. Returning to your original question: no, we will not shoot bullets at our adversaries if doing so would bring even the slightest risk of harm to the Holy Koran.”

Another hand went up. “Sorry, sir, but does that apply to the, um, patriotic Iraqi protestors who have been stapling pages of the Koran to themselves just before shooting at us?”

“Yes, Lieutenant Wayne, it does. You see, the Holy Koran is the very incarnation of God’s presence on earth. To shoot it would be to shoot God. It’s insensitive. We can’t have it.”

“But it’s not insensitive to tear out the pages and staple them to yourself? Can I have my men do that, so that the insur – um, Iraqi protestors won’t shoot at us?”

“No. You think a piece of paper will stop those guys from shooting you?”

“Not to interrupt,” said Major Mistake, “but what about the mosque? I say we tear gas it.”

“Unacceptable. It might corrode the delicate binding of the Korans.”

“Cut off their food, water, and electricity?”

“No. That would deprive the protestors of their inalienable human right to high-speed Internet access. Besides, we didn’t spend two weeks hooking them up to digital cable just to turn around and disconnect them.”

“So…do you have a plan, sir?”

The colonel paced up and down the Battalion staff tent, waggling his index finger with the vigor of a man who had bitten the edge off of a stale idea. “I’ve run a plan through JAG. We are left with one and only one alternative: we must – ”

“You know, sir,” drawled Sergeant Snuffy, slouching in a corner near the coffee machine, “I know I’m just your driver and all, but maybe you could explain to me what this whole ‘cultural sensitivity’ thing is all about.”

“Well, Sergeant Snuffy, cultural sensitivity is best defined as riot minimization. For example: back in the Bad Old Days, we used to keep illegal combatants in appalling living conditions wherein they received a mere three meals a day, medical care that was barely above average, and limited post-secondary educational opportunities. That was culturally insensitive. Riots happened. For that reason, President Dean shut the place down and turned it into the Museum for American Self-Flagellation. And, to be culturally sensitive, we changed our policy. Now, instead of detaining illegal combatants, we give them a hot meal and send them home to think about what they did. Everyone is happier.”

I’m not happier,” growled Sergeant Snuffy. “Some of those guys might’ve known about suicide bombing plans, or ambush locations.”

“Please, Sergeant: ‘patriotic Iraqi protestors.’ And even though many of them might have known valuable secrets, we could only have extracted such information from them by engaging in unspeakable acts like raising our voices, or depriving them of eight hours of sleep, or impounding their prayer mats, or other forms of torture.”

“I always thought torture was bamboo shoots under the fingernails and iron maidens and such.”

The Colonel shook his head slowly. “Ah, Sergeant Snuffy. This is why you’ll never be an officer.”

“Seems to me, sir,” said Lieutenant Wayne, “that your definition of ‘cultural sensitivity’ is catching on among the locals. Why, just last week the local Islamicists rioted over the sacred precept of Getting The New Harry Potter Book at 50% Off Retail. And last month, after the fatwa about Digital Cable for All of Islam was issued, we had horrific bloodshed. And need I remind you about the vicious All Foreign Soldiers Must Wear Groucho Glasses riots of last year? Some cynics are saying that these cultural beliefs are less than authentic.”

“Shut up, Lieutenant, and adjust your glasses — your left fuzzy black eyebrow is askew.”

“Beg pardon, sir,” interjected Sergeant Snuffy, “but it’s against my cultural beliefs to get shot over the dignity of an inanimate object.”

“Is that a fact? As I recall, you took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. Thats an inanimate object. But I didn’t hear you whining then!”

“If you ask me,” said Sergeant Snuffy, “the scandal at Guantanamo Bay wasn’t that we abused the Koran. It’s that we didn’t abuse it enough.”

Mayhem broke loose as the Colonel bellowed. “Snuffy! This is no time for – ”

“I don’t care, sir! If the bad guys have information, I’d do anything short of torture to get it out of them. I’d take to those Korans like Gallagher to watermelons. I’d use rendering plants, pigs in yarmulkes, Vegas strippers, wood-chippers, sumo wrestlers, leather-clad perverts, battery acid, Jesuits — everything! I’d feed every last Koran in the world to rabid aardvarks if it would save the life of even one of my men. And if that ticks off the ‘patriotic Iraqi protestors,’ maybe somebody better tell them that in the civilized world, lives are worth more than books.”

“Guards, arrest that man on charges of bigotry and crimes against sensitivity!”

“I’m not a bigot, sir! If it was Catholics plotting terrorism, I’d hire fat guys to use consecrated hosts as deodorant pads. If Greenpeace was responsible for 9/11, I’d feed ’em dolphin nuggets at every meal. You can arrest me all you like, sir,” cried Snuffy, as a horde of burly men dragged him away, “but if you keep playing pattycake with them insurgents, pretty soon me and all my hilljack buddies will get elected to high office, because the American people want soldiers to be soldiers and not diversity consultants. Get real with the bad guys, or we will!”

The Colonel wiped his brow as the offending soldier was ejected from the room. “Now, then, gentlemen, where were we?”

“Sir, you were going to tell us your plan for the mosque.”

“Ah, yes. We will blast the protestors with high-decibel tapes of Barbra Streisand interviews!”

“My God, sir! That’s…that’s inhuman!”

“War is hell,” sighed Colonel Clueless. “War is hell.”

The author is a lawyer and TCS Contributing Writer.