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deep qt dark: One year later war: in pictures.
May 8, 2004: QT's overall topic is life right here at home. But upon occasion I weigh in on the war in Iraq. The last time was about a year ago. It's time to do it again. In the May 5th Washington Post, Philip Kennicott, in "A Wretched New Picture Of America" writes that Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison were forced to perform in their captors' "cheap porn flick." Saying the pictures "...capture the quality and feel of the casual sexual decadence that so much of the world deplores in us." I agree with Kennicott's overall take on the photos, but wish he'd been more specific about which parts of the world deplore "casual sexual decadence" in "us". In the Western world, those who deplore it get jeered off the stage. That goes double in the anti-war world. Sizable sections of the Asian world also seem to accept casual sexual decadence, since Japanese businessmen are among the most avid tourists in Thailand, where the totally above ground sex industry caters to every taste, including the one for children. This caveat aside Kennicott is right when he says the Abu Ghraib photos reveal something about the United States-- and not just about a handful of rogue soldiers.

I haven't been for the war since its inception. I doubted any link between Saddam and Osama existed (except those depicted in the Weekly World News) and though I was less sure about WMD, I suspected no one really cared whether they existed or not. After 9/11 Americans wanted revenge. I wasn't unsympathetic to this desire. Not only do I know a number of people who live or lived close to Ground Zero, or who lost friends or relatives, but the desire for vengeance is the universal response to being attacked. And 9/11 was a particularly ghastly attack. Yet it did disturb me that many people didn't seem to care who America "got" as long as we "got" someone, somewhere in the Mid East. (Israel excepted.) Neo Con drum beating about the inevitable march of American Empire left me cold. And idealism about democratic nation building in Iraq seemed wildly unrealistic and chock full of hubris. Even if doable, the task would be costly, lengthy and probably thankless-- and would bring death and disruption to many people on both sides. Most of whom would have little idea what the whole thing was about. For good reason. The package of wrongly directed revenge + inevitable empire + democracy for the people of Iraq, made no sense.

Yet I haven't been wild about the anti-war crowd either. Too many in it can barely contain their glee over having a big new reason to hate the United States. An emotion akin to schadenfreude and something I'm familiar with from my own Vietnam era, Amerikkka days. Diatribes about the evils of "average" Americans are also reminiscent of Vietnam daze-- when the largely academic New Left divorced itself from blue collar concerns because Joe Six Pack committed the faux pas of remaining loyal to his country in a bad war. And upon occasion, kicked anti-war butt.

After the Vietnam era passed, I came to a new appreciation of the United States: its traditions of freedoms, the brilliance of the political structures conceived and put in place by our founding fathers, plus aspects of the American character which I see in very disparate people. Some of whom would hate to think they had it in `em. And I like American regionalism: the myriad accents, habits, cuisines and local ways of looking at life. Despite any criticisms I may make, I still feel lucky to live in, and love, my country.

The Abu Ghraib photos are not lovable. Also not lovable are the two grinning buffoons posing behind a pile of naked prisoners, who are arranged as if they were dolls. That one of the de Sadean bozos is a woman, as was her commander, General Janis Karpinski, shocks me. Perhaps I still have some faint memory of feminist claims that women are inherently better and would humanize male institutions. Though history should have disabused me of that notion. Ilsa Koch didn't humanize her concentration camp. Not that any of the amateur porn masters of Abu Ghraib look like Nazis. More like roomies. Or the cast from a cheesy reality show. Or eager crowd kids in an MTV Spring Bling. Also not lovable are those behind the camera: any person or agency in the chain of command that helped produce Abu Ghraib. No way did these events occur in a policy vacuum. Here's hoping the faces of all concerned become as public as those of the banal twits of evil.

Twenty two year old Pfc. Lynndie England, the weedy little dominatrix photographed pulling a naked cringing man by a dog leash, is one of those twits. As is her one time boyfriend Specialist Charles A. Graner. Who may be the father of her unborn child. A few years ago, in Albany, New York, a romantic dispute between two ghetto teens led to the young man tieing his ex-girlfriend to a post in a basement, then inviting his friends (including his new girlfriend) over for a group sexual humiliation. Among other things, they made the ex-girlfriend eat feces and sodomize a dog. They video taped the entire event. Amongst drug dealers and gang members, sexual humiliation of the relatives of welshers or rivals has become an increasingly popular form of retaliation. Richard Poe, in his book "7 Myths of Gun Control" points out that sexual humiliation has also become more prevalent in holdups, particularly ones where groups of people are tied up and robbed at gunpoint. Not all such acts stateside are orchestrated by civvies. Abner Louima's time in Hell was meted out by some New York City boys in blue. Overall, the trend of peer group sexual humiliation is part of the casual sexual decadence Philip Kennicott referenced in relation to the porn pics of Abu Ghraib. This particular instance will ripple out in circles of retaliation that will cost people their lives.

Another far different set of Iraq War photos were the ones featured on ABC's Nightline on April 30th. Of the 500 American service people killed in Iraq in the last year. Quite a hub bub was heard from the pro-war crowd. The rush to prevent the showing of, or to explain away the faces of these young people who have lost their time on earth, was also not lovable. I wonder-- if I write about the Iraq war next year, how unlovable will events be by then? In 5 years? Or 10? How wretched will the picture have to get before we reach


Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

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Copyright (c) 2004 by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff. This material may be freely distributed subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Open Publication License. This license relieves the author of any liability or implication of warranty, grants others permission to use the Content in whole or in part, and insures that the original author will be properly credited when Content is used. It also grants others permission to modify and redistribute the Content if they clearly mark what changes have been made, when they were made, and who made them. Finally, the license insures that if someone else bases a work on this Content, that the resultant work will be made available under the Open Publication License as well.

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