By now, you’ve likely heard of the most recent allegations regarding U.S. soldiers’ abuse of Iraqi prisoners: they include rape and other sexual assault, of both female and male detainees, and there may be photographs of the assaults among those which Obama has recently decided not to release. You can read the details here — it probably goes without saying that they’re immensely disturbing.
It’s hard to know what to say to this. I’ve spent the last day trying to figure it out, to come up with something intelligent. Instead, all I can muster is seething rage, crushing sadness, and unbearable shame. I’ve never been a patriot. Honestly, I don’t even understand patriotism. And I’ve certainly been ashamed of my country before. But this is certainly a new low. As a rape survivor myself, particularly.
I think that Jennifer Pozner hit the nail pretty much right on the head in under 140 characters on Twitter. Rape is a part of war. And U.S. soldiers have been raping the “enemy” ever since the U.S. military was established. It’s one of the many reasons I oppose war. That doesn’t surprise me, though it doesn’t lessen my rage, sadness or shame.
What is shocking (if not surprising), and only magnifies that rage and shame, is the fact that all of these abuses were seemingly sanctioned by our government. The soldiers who committed other abuses at Abu Ghraib claimed that they were following orders. While that in no way absolves them, seeing the government’s stance on torture, we also have little reason to doubt them. And I see little reason to believe that these rapes and sexual assaults were somehow vastly different. What’s shocking is that in the 21st century, the U.S. government is condoning and possibly even promoting rape as a war tactic.
Of course, the Obama administration is trying to deny that the photos exist. The automatic response to that is, the only way we’ll ever know is if you just release them like you promised. At the same time, Mark Leon Goldberg makes an excellent point that these victims have rights. And it is indeed pretty damn difficult to justify releasing photographs of rape and sexual assault to the public without the victims’ consent.
So I don’t know where to go from there, on any of this. I guess I’ll just open up the floor to all of you.
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