Saturday, April 14, 2007

Hypocrisy: shock and awe on the body

One of the biggest madams operating an "escort service" for Washington DC professionals is being tried for tax evasion and running an illegal prostitution business. Before federal judges could gag order on Deborah Jeane Palfrey, she pulled the biggest name from her "46 pounds" of paper phone records. Regular customer: ultra conservative Harlan K. Ullman, who coined the term "shock and awe" in 1996 and saw his dream come true in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq. Ullman is at the think-tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Besides the obvious irony of the inventor of this theory of "domination" regularly needed to pay for sex, it behooves us to remind of the connection between the shock and theory, torture and sexual domination. William Plaff wrote in the International Herald Tribune, back in 2004:
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Bush administration is not torturing prisoners because it is useful but because of its symbolism. It originally was intended to be a form of what later, in the attack on Iraq, came to be called "shock and awe." It was meant as intimidation. We will do these terrible things to demonstrate that nothing will stop us from conquering our enemies. We are indifferent to world opinion. We will stop at nothing. [...]Destroying cities and torturing prisoners are things you do when you are losing the real war, the war your enemies are fighting. They are signals of moral bankruptcy. They destroy the confidence and respect of your friends, and reinforce the credibility of the enemy.
Diane Christian reminds us of Rumsfeld and Bush's supposed inability to look at the Abu Ghraib photos, and the US media's puritanical need to censor the images:
But the Abu Ghraib images are not easily repackaged. They're pornographic not just obscene and while our warwagers are excellent at evading and repackaging violence they're stopped cold by sex. The scenes we've seen so far are full of Iraqi genitals and hooded faces and grinning American soldiers.

President Bush finds them sickening and unAmerican; Rumsfeld labels them disgusting and can not imagine that any officer could order such a thing. The six indicted are characterized as bad apples and degenerate and not real American soldiers. But the pictures seem deliberately and even proudly posed.

Interestingly, as these pictures are broadcast in the US they are usually blurred so that we don't see genitals. This is in the interest of our sensibilities for our general culture doesn't look publically at genitals except in works of art. Most of Muslim culture doesn't even allow naked genitals in art. Islamic miniatures of Adam and Eve (Christian artists' favorites for requiring nudes) usually show them modestly covered. Commentators on the prison images speak of how shamed a Muslim man is to be made naked. A boyish US female soldier in one picture grins and points to the genital of a bound captive; in another she holds a naked prisoner on a leash. In other pictures the prisoners are forced into real and simulated sexual acts. There are more and worse terrible pictures and video as yet unpublished.

'Sadistic' Rumsfeld said shaking his head with disbelief and contempt. He doesn't learn from the pictures, much as the President never has doubts. 'They are not us, they are evil, they are unAmerican,' they say. But the problem is not sadism-getting sexual pleasure from inflicting pain. The problem is inhumanity-torturing, murdering, raping human beings. The problem is not sex titillation but violence. Torture is a legitimate child of war-if I am willing to kill you, why should I stop at mutilating, humiliating and torturing you, the enemy, the evil one? Why can I not bend you to my will, make you talk, take away your manhood or rape your womb? I can. But I must be sober steadfast chaste in style lest I betray enjoying your pain.
What I believe about the morality of sexwork/prostitution/escorts is essentially irrelevant. Based on their own standards alone, recently we have enough proof that the neoconservative movement is hypocritical to its core.

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