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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

POGO's Stick

Yesterday, the amusingly-acronym’d Project on Government Oversight (POGO) sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hardcore gay porn: a letter detailing the actions of private contractors hired by the government to protect diplomats and Embassy staff in Afghanistan. The porn-letter charged those private contractors, employees of ArmorGroup North America, with hazing, simulated sexual acts, sexual humiliation, vodka butt shots, and unwise ownership of a digital camera. Of all the charges, it is the last one which is most damning, since no one’s gonna read a 10 page letter of formal charges when there’s hardcore gay porn picture proof.

I’ll save you the trouble of reading the letter. It basically says: “Afghanistan is deteriorating, government officials need strong, reliable protection, and currently both the country and the officials are being guarded by the cast of Animal House XXX. Oh, and you guys have known about these behavior issues for years but haven't done shit.”

Just as with Abu Ghraib, it will be the photographs, and not the allegations, the realities, the testimonials, which stick with the American public. Which I guess is fine. It’s something, anyway. Too many scandals fade away for lack of salacious visual representation. In the end, the only reason we remember the infamous 18 1/2 minute gap of Nixon's tapes is because of Rose Mary Woods' sexy stretch.

Unlike Abu Ghraib (or Rose Mary Woods), there are no females in the photographs. Also, no prisoners. No obvious coercion (though, as POGO's letter points out, a great many young men employed by ArmorGroup were threatened with disciplinary action when they chose not to participate in the Randy Blue bacchanal, and Afghan nationals were collateral damage to the action). Without context, these photographs from Camp Sullivan, the place ArmorGroup calls home, could just as easily be from a party I once went to on the Lower East Side, only with more visors and Hawaiian shirts, and less jock straps and scented candles.

There are men drinking vodka shots from the cracks of other men’s asses. Happily, this isn’t a crime in most states--I’m not even sure it’s a crime in Afghanistan. In fact, it should be a right of all people, in all countries, to, if they want, enjoy a whimsical libation filtered through the hairs of another man’s ass.

There are men simulating sex acts with other men. Most of the time, the simulation of homosexual acts is not a crime (not so with actual homosexual acts, of course, so perhaps that’s why these guys were faking it). I have no problem with guys dry-humping other guys. I encourage it.

But in context? It’s pretty harrowing what went on in Camp Sullivan, and in other places controlled by private contractors, funded by tax-payers, hired to keep government officials out of harm’s way.

The pictures might drive the story, so before the context is lost, here’s some select quotes from POGO’s letter:

Guards have come to POGO with allegations and photographic evidence that some supervisors and guards are engaging in near-weekly deviant hazing and humiliation of subordinates. Witnesses report that the highest levels of AGNA management in Kabul are aware of and have personally observed—or even engaged in—these activities, but have done nothing to stop them. Indeed, management has condoned this misconduct...

One email from a current guard describes scenes in which guards and supervisors are "peeing on people, eating potato chips out of [buttock] cracks, vodka shots out of [buttock] cracks (there is video of that one), broken doors after drnken [sic] brawls, threats and intimidation from those leaders participating in this activity…."

An Afghan national employed as a food service worker at the guard corps' base at Camp Sullivan submitted a signed statement dated August 16, 2009, attesting that a guard force supervisor and four others entered a dining facility on August 1, 2009, wearing only short underwear and brandishing bottles of alcohol. Upon leaving the facility, the guard force supervisor allegedly grabbed the Afghan national by the face and began abusing him with foul language, saying, "You are very good for fXXXing." The Afghan national reported that he "was too afraid of them I could not tell them any thing."

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