Monday, May 03, 2004

Living in a Rape Culture and the War in Iraq

The rape and sexual abuse of Iraqis in the American-run prison Abu Ghraib saddens me immensely.

You know, most of the time I can almost forget about the fact that I live in a rape culture where a large portion of the population (men and women) will be victims of sexual battery and sexual assault during their lifetime. Although every time I hear a prosecutor brag about how some individual is going to get raped in prison with that special smug grin, I realize that rape really is a state-sanctioned penalty in our society. But these news stories remind me anew that I live in a prison-oriented, rape culture.

The high prevalence of rape on our society is a real problem. What can we do about the fact that we live in a rape culture? What can we do about the military-industrial-infotainment-prison complex?

Robert Jensen of the UT School of Journalism, wrote an interesting piece called A cruel edge: The painful truth about today's pornography -- and what men can do about it. Give it a read if you've a few minutes.

Someone suggested to me that once you send men off to war, all sorts of tragic and violent consequences must be expected. I think there is a lot of truth to that. General Sherman, who burned much of the South on his march to the sea, commented that war is cruelty and you cannot refine it. The US civil war was a very cruel war, fratricidal as it was. I don't endorse Sherman's statement, but I am also suspicious of anyone who thinks war is civilized. War is about killing people.

I think there is a thin red line in human affairs. When you send men and women to war, they cross that line and begin to wantonly take human life to accomplish their objectives. Is it forseeable that they will be changed by the experience and may become even more cruel? Of course it is. Many of our soldiers have committed suicide in Iraq, and I am sure some others have been driven mad by the experience.

Bush launched this war on bogus WMD claims and then when those were proven unfounded, this administration moved to the moral high ground and claimed that the war evicted a cruel tyrant in Saddam Hussein and the world was better for the war. Now to find out that US military intelligence has been torturing people in Saddam Hussein's cruelest prison leaves the taste of ash in my mouth.

The Iraq War is proving to be brutal in ways I had not expected. But I should have known what military intelligence would do to try to make people reveal their most closely-held secrets. Torture and sexual assault were the result in this case. I wonder if any of this had (at least tacit) approval from the White House.

This was an unnecessary war in my view and we're really making things worse the longer we stay. Leaving by June 30th will set loose chaos in Iraq, but I think the longer we stay, the worse it will be in the end for everyone. We should move our troops to Qatar or Kuwait or some hospitable Arab country...if there are any left.

Tom Maertens also calls for a US withdrawal from Iraq in this article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune republished by Common Dreams.

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