Monday, July 6, 2009

Treasures of the Spiderhole

A couple of weeks ago I read a comic book in which an aged version of Wolverine is carried, assumed dead, into a dystopian White House occupied by the Red Skull. The Red Skull is wearing the bloodied uniform of Captain America, his staff unable to extract him from the trophy room he has installed with mementos of all the superheroes he killed. The idea of the trophy room persists in comic books, as depicted in a thousand cross-sections of their secret hideouts. The Fortress of Solitude, the Batcave, the Baxter Building. Not unlike the imagined Al Qaeda mountain fortress depicted by some comics-weaned newspaper graphic artist at the onset of the invasion of Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, which had basically every super-lair sweet playset option *except* for the trophy room.

[Pic: The above cross-section actually appeared in leading newspapers before the Tora Bora push in November 2001.

So, perhaps sensing that I needed some reminder that the Team America reality is just as authentic as consensus reality, today's NY Times ran an amazing report about W (The Ex-President), now retired to Dallas.

He has a trophy room. Kind of like Batman or the Justice League of America, only W's is real. And the centerpiece of the George W. Bush trophy room is Saddam's Glock:

The gun, a 9 millimeter Glock 18C, was found in the spider hole where the Iraqi leader was captured in December 2003 by Delta Force soldiers, four of whom later presented the pistol to Mr. Bush. Among the thousands of gifts Mr. Bush received as president, the gun became a favorite, a reminder of the pinnacle moment of the Iraq war, according to friends and long-time associates.

Before Mr. Bush left the White House in January, he made arrangements for the gun to be shipped to a national archives warehouse just 18 miles north of his new home in Dallas. His foundation said a final decision had not been made on including the gun in the presidential library. But his associates and visitors to the White House said Mr. Bush had told them of his intention to display it there.

For nearly five years, Mr. Bush kept the mounted, glass-encased pistol in the Oval Office or a study, showing it with pride, especially to military officials, they said. He also let visitors in on a secret: when the pistol was recovered, it was unloaded.

“We were getting ready to leave the Oval Office, and he told us, ‘Wait a minute, guys, I want to show you something,’ ” recalled Pete Hegseth, the chairman of Vets for Freedom, who described a July 2007 visit. “The president moved back into his private study and he came out with the gun, inside this glass case. He said, ‘The Delta guys pulled it off Saddam.’ He was very proud of it.”

I once imagined a Presidential trophy room, and featured it in a work of political satire that was published in Eileen Gunn's The Infinite Matrix the week Saddam was found in his spiderhole. The story, "Script-Doctoring the Apocalypse," imagined psychological warfare operators commissioning a special work from the dictator's Frazetta dealer. With any luck the W Library will also include some of the Rowena-knockoff chainmail bikini art discovered in Saddam's bachelor pads, or perhaps even this work that apparently never made it:

In the game room of level B-3 of the apocalypse-proofed sub-basement at Camp David, the Vice President sat in the warmth of the fire with a tumbler of Glenlivet rocks and admired the newest addition to the trophies hanging on the wall. Between T.R.'s bison head, a D K E fraternity paddle, and a carefully embalmed extraterrestrial biological entity, stretched eight feet of canvas featuring a scene from a geopolitical fever dream.

"Scooter, you've got to come in here and check this out," hollered the Veep to his chief staffer.

Envision this: The Giant White King, an albino sword and sorcery simulacrum of the American President, lies recumbent on the pillowed daybed throne of his private sanctum, framed by a Tolkienesque map of his new empire of the imagination. His imperial pets surround him on the marbled floor, a menagerie of Moreauvian anthromorphs with facial features redolent of barely-remembered newspaper photographs of minor autocrats. Spotted little cat-men, a talking pig, a litter of mangy dog-men, all effusing well-fed supplication.

And stretched across the King's lap is the Leader, re-imagined as a freshly shampooed leonine bodybuilder, bushy tail curled up between his legs, eyes half-closed, whiskers signaling a submissive smile of pleasure. The King strokes the lion-man's belly with one hand; the other holds a leash of silver chain. The King's armory of magical blades is arrayed nearby, ready for use as needed.

"Remember Womack?" asked the Vice President.

"Isn't he the special ops wacko who started jamming Orrin Hatch gospel videos over Saudi national television?"

"Among other bad career moves."

"I thought he got reassigned."

"Yeah, but he's still on the team. Need to keep a fruitcake like that around for the oddjobs that require that rare postmodern sensibility they don't teach at West Point. Like this."

"Kind of weird stuff, if you ask me," said Scooter.

"I know. But it grows on you. It's supposed to be en route to the Leader's weekend retreat, but I thought the Boss might benefit from having it around for a while. Let the idea sink in a bit, if you know what I mean."

Scooter mixed himself a Tanqueray and tonic, leaned up against the billiard table, and took in the work. In the background, one of Nixon's old Martin Denny records played on the hi-fi at low volume.

"I mean, I'm not much for the science fiction thing," said Scooter, "but he does have a nice brush stroke. And you know, that looks just like…"

"Bingo. You're a little slow today. Take a closer look at the other faces."

Scooter walked up, squinted, and then stepped back.

"I'll be damned," he said. "How about that. Looks like last year's Arab League meeting."

"Yeah. You should have seen it before. The original version was a little too anatomically correct, and we had to have it touched up a bit. Never know when the Attorney General might drop in."

"No kidding. Got a title?"

"Tyrant Odalisque."

"Which one's the tyrant?" asked Scooter.

"Very funny."

"Speaking of tyrants, I'm going to head back up to the War Room and see what's happening," said Scooter.

"Screw that," said the Veep. "Rack 'em up and tap the keg. I can hear Marine One chopping in now. It's party time."

As his cyborg heart thumped in mellow sync with the distant helicopter blades, the Vice President sat back, admired Endora's work, and got to thinking it would look very nice on the wall of his favorite undisclosed secure location.

[Pic: A copy of this Rowena painting was found on the wall of one of Saddam's love shacks during the 2003 invasion.]

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