Monday, September 06, 2004


A Few Bad Apples

I fell asleep this afternoon while listening to the news on Chicago Public Radio. When I awoke I was jarred by a disturbing report on rape and the military. Immediately my mind rushed back to this essay by Slavoj Zizek. Indeed, the reports released about Abu Graib were a precursor, a prolegomena to the quietly released Air Force report. As Zizek points out, the photos of torture give viewers a prime(time) example of what American culture stands for and is about. The torture at Abu Graib has become a symbol or an ikon. These photos point beyond themselves to the deeper "David Lynchian" unconscious of our nation.

Humiliation, rape, and death are in the images and texts that we see and read in Abu Graib. But according to the immediate damage control efforts and even the more comprehensive reports of late, these incidents were the results of "a few bad apples," though responsibility could be traced all the way up the line of command. I suggest that the problem is not up the line of command but down the trunk of the apple tree to the very roots of global capitalism and empire. This is our way of life, this is how people within a specific American social body treat each other. When American women soldiers in the safest place in Baghdad are told not to go out at night to avoid rape by their male American counterparts the problem is not with the apples but with the whole system. We have essentially denied life to these women in saying that they would be safer in enemy territory than in the "Green Zone." What a tragedy that the safest place for a female soldier to be with a male soldier is where bullets and bombs are flying.

J├╝rgen Moltmann has asserted that a nation that uses torture as a means of gathering information is an illegitimate nation. I wonder what he would consider a nation that uses torture tactics on itself.