I recently had the opportunity to interview the Director of the Executive Non-Communications Office in Washington, D.C. It had been trying to contact ENCO for years, but they never returned my calls, so you can imagine my pleased surprise when I received the invitation.
I arrived at the State Department HQ at the appointed time, and was guided to ENCO’s office, down in the labyrinth of the sub-sub basement. The director was at his desk when I arrived. He wore mirrored aviator sunglasses and held a small bull-horn shaped voice-scrambler that he spoke through during our conversation. His voice coming out of the machine was metallic and flat, bearing eerie resemblance to the voice of Dick Cheney.
I shook his hand and was invited to sit down.
“I appreciate your taking the time to meet with me,” I began eagerly. “I hope I can give the public some insight into ENCO’s achievements.”
“I’m more than happy to speak with you. As you probably know, our work is confidential, but a decision was made to leak information to the public. This conversation is entirely off the record. Feel free to take notes and publish whatever you’d like. We’ll just deny this interview ever took place. Given your place in the journalistic pecking order, everyone will believe you made it all up, but, with luck, the regular press will cover the story of your deceit, and the information will get out, unconfirmed. So you see, we’ll all get what we want. I only mention this to provide an example of ENCO expertise in matters of non-communication.”
“Uhhh… thank you… Maybe you can start by telling me about your organizational responsibilities. I take it from your address that ENCO is part of the State Department?”
“Oh no, not at all. Our office is located here to maintain our confidentiality. We hide behind the cloud of irrelevancy surrounding the State Department, but we have very little to do with them — to be honest, we’ve pretty much replaced the State Department. As head of the Office, I report directly to the President, who in turn keeps Vice-President Cheney apprised of our activities. We’re funded under through FEMA’s budget for providing emergency hurricane relief to New Orleans.”
“Wait a minute…. your budget comes from Katrina relief funds? Is that legal?”
“Of course it’s legal” The Director’s mechanized voice seemed to grow even colder. “The President authorized the reallocation of funds in a signing statement that accompanied his approval of the emergency budget. Then the Attorney Genera wrote a memo assuring the legality of the President’s signing statement. After all, our office is dedicated to protecting the country — including New Orleans — from terrorism.”
“I’m surprised none of this came out in the press. At least I don’t think I’ve heard anything.”
“Of course you haven’t!” the Director snapped. “The reallocation, the signing statement and the AG’s memo are all classified, Executive Eyes Only. This is just the sort of information that would encourage our enemies and demoralize the troops were it to get out.” He peered at me again. “Say, you’re not one of those traitors who wish Saddam was still in power are you?
“N-No.. of course not! I’m just amazed… the whole plan is so… diabolical.”
The Director leaned back in his chair again and smiled. “Thank you. The entire plan came out of this shop. It was the first official recommendation of the Non-Communication Office.”
“Is that the sort of work the Office routinely does?”
“Oh no, our primary mission is international diplomacy management. We’re constantly reviewing the international situation and recommending where to focus the nation’s diplomatic efforts.”
“I see. I’ve noticed…” — I decided to tread carefully on this ground — “I’ve noticed the liberal media complains that the administration hasn’t accomplished much through diplomacy.”
“There’s actually quite a bit going on — we’re currently engaged in diplomatic efforts with a number of countries —- Canada, Australia, Norway…. oh, and let’s not forget Poland.”
“Those really don’t seem to be nations where diplomacy is needed to resolve problems….”
The director smiled broadly. I could almost hear pride in his electronic voice. “That’s where ENCO’s planning has really paid off. US diplomatic efforts are now focused on countries where there aren’t any problems to resolve. It makes the work so much easier. And more social. We like to call those nations the ‘coalition of the chillin’.” His synthesized laugh made me shiver. “…you get it, right? “chillin’? It sort of rhymes with ‘willin’? Like willing, only….”
I tried to keep my forced laugh from sounding as flat as his mechanical giggle. “Yes, I see. Very good joke. But I can’t help wondering…. what about places where diplomacy might solve real problem? Shouldn’t we be spending more time in, oh, I don’t know… Iran, say? Or Syria… Lebanon… maybe Palestine?
“The President has a very strict policy about those countries. Being allowed to talk with the United States is a privilege, and the President will not reward countries who are engaged in activities we don’t approve of. It just gives them the attention they want.
“So we’ll never have talks with Iran?”
“Of course we will! We’ll open talks with Iran as soon as they start behaving.”
Well, we’ve placed a Presidential attention embargo on Iran because of their nuclear power program and their interference with Iraqi freedom. All Iran has to do is to stop doing those things, and the President will open negotiations with them.”
“But…… aren’t those issues the reason why we need talks?”
“But we won’t talk with them….
“….until the stop doing the things that are problems. Exactly. Then we’ll send in all the diplomats they’d like. You have to admit it’s a perfect policy. By the time talks start, the really big issues are solved!”
“I have to admit, I’m awed. What other nations is the President punishing with silence?
“Well, the list is changing all the time. Let’s see… we won’t talk with Syria or Lebanon or the Palestinian Authority. In fact, the President was so upset about the Palestinian elections, we may not even speak with them when they get rid of Abbas. Not until the people themselves apologize for misusing their precious freedom to put the Hamas in power in the first place. And .. let’s see… there’s Venezuela, Darfur…
“Wait a minute — we have a policy of purposely ignoring Darfur?!”
“Of course! Haven’t you read about what’s going on in that country? It’s a mess! People are being killed, tortured…. I admit it’s been a tough nut to crack. We’ve been ignoring them for three years now, and there hasn’t been much improvement. But the President believes if we stay the course, the leaders in Darfur…. whoever they are….will eventually accede to our unspoken demand to fix everything up so that diplomatic relations with the United States can begin. Darfur has probably been on our list longer than anyone else. Except maybe Antarctica…”
By this point, I felt nothing would shock me. “You’re saying we refuse to engage in diplomatic relations with a continent. You do know there isn’t a government there?”
“Well, yes, but there have been a lot of problems in Antarctica, all that snow melting and global warming talk. The President feels we should be prepared to do our best to encourage Antarctica to pull itself up by it’s bootstraps, should there be any Antarcticans to encourage. It’s an example of the President’s long-range vision for America. Be sure to mention that in your article, should you ever be tempted to write one about this off-the-record discussion.
The Director went on: “The President wanted to add the Arctic to the Non-Communication list, until someone in the office pointed out there’s really no land there. Did you know all those polar bears and seals and things live on huge chunks of ice with nothing underneath? It’s no wonder they’re having problems up there. Anyway, we didn’t think it would be worth the President’s effort to ignore a bunch of icebergs. And really, the problem seems to be taking care of itself, doesn’t it?”
The Director didn’t seem to need more encouragement to talk about ENCO’s accomplishments. “There are lots of people and things that aren’t nations that fall under ENCO’s jurisdiction. I guess you could say Antarctica is only the tip of the iceberg,” he grinned. That’s sort of an office joke.” I grimaced politely and nodded him on.
“Other targets of punitive non-communcation include groups and individuals. For example, the President will talk with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, but he’s made a commitment to not listen to him. He absolutely won’t speak with anyone at the United Nations. In fact, President Bush was so upset with Kofi Anan that he considered locking him in the UN building without supper.
He’s never listened to Congress, of course, and recently he went so far as sticking his fingers in his ears and singing loudly during a policy discussion with Nancy Pelosi.
He was very upset, even hurt, by the Iraqi Study Group, and has ignored them entirely. Except for Mr. Baker, of course, though he often pretends he’s not in his office when he knows Baker is coming.
Our most recent recommendation, made just after the last election, led to he President’s decision to refuse to listen to the American people. This was really a tough decision for him. I think it really hurts him more than it hurts the people, but the President knows that a leader must stand firm on doing what he knows is right.”
“Wait a minute! How can he do that? Isn’t there any concern that ignoring Congress and the American people might hurt Republicans badly in 2008?”
“That did come up, but the President feels strongly that this is a crucial moment of change in the history of the country. He used to think God elected him to the Presidency to fix Iraq, but for various reasons he’s decided that his real holy mission is to teach the American people that they have to listen to their leaders if they expect their leaders to listen to them. So he’s decided to ignore the 2008 election and continue as President until the electorate learns their lesson. We’ve run the idea by focus groups, and we’re pretty sure that the American people will do anything he wants if he promises to listen to them in 2012.”