Dear Alfreda Frances Bikowsky,
So many people want to be famous. Not you. You were content to let Jessica Chastain portray a more competent version of your waterboarding and bin Laden-stalking self in the film Zero Dark Thirty. You never asked for credit. But now, thanks to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee’s Report on CIA Torture, we know you’ve made more history than the average, anonymous schlub. Jane Mayer of The New Yorker calls you “The Unidentified Queen of Torture.” She says you:
dropped the ball when the C.I.A. was given information that might very well have prevented the 9/11 attacks; . . . gleefully participated in torture sessions afterward; . . . And then . . . falsely told congressional overseers that the torture worked.
Of course, Jane Mayer doesn’t name you. Neither does Matthew Cole in his NBC News report, which was the basis for Mayer’s article. You are the “Unidentified Queen” because the CIA told the media not to reveal you. According to Mayer, you were the reason the Senate Intelligence Committee was not even allowed to use pseudonyms to identify you or any of the major players in its torture report, making it “almost impossible to . . . hold anyone in the American government accountable.”
We only know you are Alfreda Bikowsky because of journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has problems with authority. Glenn defied the CIA to identify you in an article for The Intercept, an investigative news website that purposely operates outside the parameters of mainstream media. Thanks a lot, Glenn Greenwald.
I said that sarcastically, Ms. Bikowsky. Or, if I may: I said that sarcastically, Your Majesty. Glenn should not have “outed” you. After all, Glenn’s gay; he should know better.
Being a queer of the more sensitive variety, myself, I feel that people should not be forced out of the closet before they’re ready. There can be hard feelings. Like, I can only guess how you feel now. But if it’s even a little like being shackled and hung from the ceiling in freezing rooms, or forcibly hydrated and fed rectally, or stripped naked and deprived of sleep for a week, or put in stress positions for hours, you have my deep sympathy.
It’s not easy to be exposed as a war criminal. Now that you’re out, though, you may take a page or two from the Gay Rights movement. Here are some hard-won pointers to help you face an ignorant and uncomprehending world.
Say It Loud: War Criminal and Proud
According to NBC News, your name was redacted at least three dozen times from the declassified Senate Committee’s report on torture. This self-redacting tendency indicates that you are an extremely modest person, Your Majesty. Yet, like so many women, you may be sacrificing your self-esteem just to avoid “making a scene.”
Coming out allows you to proclaim your worth to society. Did you stop to think that maybe God made you this way? Much like God gave gay men, brain-wise, a small hypothalamus gland, He may have given you an abnormally tiny empathy-inducing anterior insular cortex. But whether your condition is biological or chosen, it’s time to step up and say, “Yes, America, I AM a war criminal. So what if all that torture did not yield useful information in finding bin Laden or anybody else — it was FUN!”
Back to the woman thing. Very few satanic creatures of note are women. Are you going to let Henry Kissinger and Beelzebub take all the credit? Isn’t it time Dick Cheney made coffee for YOU, for a change?
Out of the Black Sites and Into the Street
Contrary to myth, war criminals make good citizens. Like gay people, they boost property values and contribute to art and high culture. In fact, thanks to America’s more discerning war criminals, many prestigious U.S. museums are simply teeming with artifacts and masterpieces acquired from backward, terrorist-friendly countries that never fully appreciated them.
It’s often hard for prejudiced “normal” people to accept that war criminals are human. Part of being human is, of course, making mistakes. So stand up for your war criminal humanity, Your Majesty, by proudly defending your royal fuckups. Anybody in your CIA position could have goofed in snatching Khalid el-Masri, an innocent German citizen, off the street and torturing him for months in Afghanistan’s Salt Pit prison. Why, even most non-war-criminals mistake people with Muslim names for terrorists. It’s what unites us!
And be PROUD you testified to Congress that waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (about 183 times, but who’s counting?) led to the apprehension of a particular terrorist — despite the fact that this suspect was already in CIA custody.
You will encounter prejudice. Some people will assume you “got that way” by being waterboarded as a child or exposed to a war criminal teacher at an early age. Although this may well be true, it’s none of their business. When confronted with such war-criminal-o-phobe behavior, it is best to respond thusly: “I appreciate your concern, but I feel comfortable with who I am.” Then arrest this person and have them slammed repeatedly against a wall.
Accept Your Greatness
Bottom line, O Queen? If we anonymous schlubs can’t hold you accountable for anything you’ve done, the least you can do is become a celebrity.
See, you know all about us — our metadata is vacuumed up every second by your friends in the NSA — but we know nothing about you. Do you own a PC or a Mac? What’s your most embarrassing moment? Favorite brand of toothpaste?
Please tell us, Your Majesty: Who ARE you? If we knew that, we might know something more about who we are.
Susie Day’s new book Snidelines: Talking Trash to Power is now available from Abdingdon Square Publishing: <www.abingdonsquarepublishing.com/snidelines.htm>.