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Welcome to the Apocalypse

BDSM, #MeToo, Torture and the Drumbeat For War

Back in the early days of the Bush Iraq debacle, Seymour Hersh reported on the popularity of a book in the halls of our military and intelligence services. It’s called The Arab Mind by Raphael Parai, a Hungarian who lived for some time in Jerusalem and later taught at the University of Pennsylvania. It’s a serious 400-page book from a conservative, western point of view. According to Hersh, the chapter that was the rage in the halls of US militarism was the one on Arabs and sex, specifically issues of male sexual repression and male sexual honor. More so even than western males, the Arab male is, Parai says, really freaked out by masturbation and homophobia, especially the passive role in male homosexuality, which is seen as being turned into a woman. Hersh emphasized that it was, thus, no coincidence -- that, in fact, it was policy -- when CIA agents operating in Abu Ghraib in the winter of 2003 induced the more stupid and sadistic National Guard troops assigned there to, late at night, “tune-up” the captive Arab males for interrogation the next morning. Let’s not forget, Abu Ghraib was notorious among Iraqis as Saddam’s main torture house where Saddam's henchmen would drill holes in people with Black & Decker drills. So horror was already associated with being imprisoned there. Our National Guard troops didn't use electric drills; they did their tuning-up of captive men and boys with sexual humiliation tactics, which included forcing naked Arab males to masturbate and engage in mock homosexual couplings. This is something Americans should not be allowed to forget. This disgusting tactic was done in our names because our arrogant leaders decided to open a Pandora's box and were suddenly scared to death what they'd unleashed. In this predicament, anything and everything became OK.

I was in the parking lot of Abu Ghraib in December 2003 with a veteran's fact-finding mission when this was going on, just before the scandal blew up. The guards in watchtowers intensely eyeballed us with binoculars as we talked with family members of captives in the lot. I recall a major who came out to see who we were. He seemed to be a quite reasonable man; he could have been an insurance agent from New Jersey doing his National Guard duty. What quickly became clear was that he was someone way, way over his head. One sign of this was, like a recalcitrant private with a bad attitude might do in Vietnam, he had written sayings and drawn images with black marker on his helmet liner. I told him I was a Vietnam vet and we were peace activists trying to understand the invasion and occupation.

“You would not believe what’s going on in there,” he told me, referring to the aging prison behind him.

“Why don't you give us a tour inside?” I asked in a friendly tone.

He laughed a soft mad laugh and muttered: “You can’t imagine.”

Later, I imagined this major completely intimidated by the sergeants running the sexually humiliating tune-ups of Arab male captives. As you may recall, seven low-ranking soldiers were tried and imprisoned for all the sexual abuse and torture; three of them were women. One woman was impregnated in Abu Ghraib by the chief abuser, who had earlier worked as a corrections officer at a prison in southwest Pennsylvania. One might say the atmosphere inside Abu Ghraib was quite “hot” in the realm of BDSM categories. As the major said: “You can’t imagine.”

story | by Dr. Radut