The Politics of Torture
Publication Date: November 2004
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Abu Ghraib unveiled a lengthy list of disastrous actions and cover-ups by the Bush administration and the American military. Abu Ghraib examines the problem from many different perspectives, gathering together timely essays on the prison scandal from prominent progressive writers. Barbara Ehrenreich looks at the story through the lens of feminism, noting that the most infamous photos involve female soldiers. John Gray argues that Iraq is worse than Vietnam. Looking to future ramifications, Meron Benvenisti reflects on the "powerless rage" of an occupied culture. David Matlin deconstructs President Bush's declaration that the Abu Ghraib images do not represent America. Giving voice to those directly impacted, Mark Danner reports on the anger and humiliation experienced by the victims and their families. This book provides a broader understanding of the issue and its repercussions.
Barbara Ehrenreich is the bestselling author of sixteen previous books, including "Nickel and Dimed", "Bait and Switch", "Bright-sided", "This Land Is Their Land", "Dancing In The Streets" and "Blood Rites". A frequent contributor to "Harper's" and "The Nation", she has also been a columnist at "The New York Times" and "Time" magazine.
"A simply brilliant, hilarious satirist."--"The Baltimore Sun"
"It would be hard to find a wittier, more insightful guide to the last three decades than Ehrenreich. Arguing with her is part of the pleasure of reading her."--Laura Shapiro, "Newsweek"
David Matlin is a novelist, poet, and essayist. His collections of poetry and prose include the books CHINA BEACH, DRESSED IN PROTECTIVE FASHION, and A HALFMAN DREAMER. His first novel, How the Night is Divided, was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1993. His most recent book, Prisons: Inside the New America from Vernooykill Creek to Abu Ghraib, published by North Atlantic Books, is based on a ten-year experience teaching in one of the oldest Prison Education Programs in the nation in New York State. This extended essay is a discussion of the crisis of prisons, the invention of surplus populations, and how, in making prison our largest growth industry, we are mining our own civil disintegrations at unprecedented levels. David Matlin is an associate professor at San Diego State University and teaches in the MFA Creative Writing Program.
The photos did something else to me, as a feminist: They broke my heart. I had no illusions about the U.S. mission in Iraq whatever exactly it is but it turns out that I did have some illusions about women. And I also shouldn't be surprised because I never believed that women were innately gentler and less aggressive than men. Like most feminists, I have supported full opportunity for women within the military 1) because I knew women could fight, and 2) because the military is one of the few options around for low-income young people.
Misguided from the start, the war in Iraq is spiraling out of control. Any legitimacy the occupying forces may ever have possessed has been destroyed, and there are signs that Iraqi insurgents are coming together to mount a movement of resistance that could render the country ungovernable. With even more damning images likely to find their way into the public realm in the near future, the United States is facing an historic defeat in Iraq—a blow to American power more damaging than it suffered in Vietnam, and far larger in its global implications.
To date the true actors in those lurid scenes, who are professionals and no doubt embarrassed by the garish brutality of their apprentices in the military police, have remained offstage. None has testified. The question we must ask in coming days, as Specialist Jeremy Sivits and other young Americans face public courts-martial in Baghdad, is whether or not we as Americans can face a true revelation. We must look squarely at the photographs and ask: Is what has changed only what we know, or what we are willing to accept?
- Mark Danner
Generation after generation, we feed the refugee consciousness, reconstruct the pain of displacement and expose another generation to the powerless rage of the displaced person. Afterward we face, frightened and threatened, the "return" - the life's hope of every refuges and a stain on the settler's conscience.
There is a cold stench coming off of the pictures from Abu Ghraib prison. President Bush claims that these images do not represent America and nearly all of the comments by either our politicians or media spokespersons fail to grasp the most dangerous connections between these pictures and our domestic policies of massive prison construction over the last twenty-year period. I find myself in near despair writing this editorial because these images are the images of ourselves, we have at now unimaginable costs, either ignored or tragically embraced inside our own society for decades.