The discovery of widespread torture under the authority of the Bush Administration has shaken the foundation of the American identity. The truth hurts, but it doesn't hurt us as much as it hurts the people suffering in our custody. For that reason, we here at Irregular Times are creating a short series of articles exploring the broad social context that has encouraged the common practice of torture by the American military. In these articles, we identify the many links between the extreme behavior of American soldiers overseas and the decisions of civilian leadership within American borders.
Maybe it's a sign of my naivete, but when I think of torture, I think mostly of physical pain. I think of medieval devices to cut and pierce, crush and rip. I think of beatings and drownings. I don't think of sex.
One of the most frightening aspects of the current torture scandal is that the Bush Administration does appear to think of sex when it thinks of torture. (The mainstream press calls it "prisoner abuse", not "torture" - isn't that quaint?)
One week ago it was revealed by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld himself approved a plan to use sexual humiliation as well as pain to torment America's prisoners in Iraq. George W. Bush apparently supports the plan, for he has refused to ask Rumsfeld to resign, and says that his Secretary of Defense is doing a terrific job.
The result of the Bush Administration's plan to sexually humiliate Iraqis is that men, women and even children in America's Iraqi prisons have been raped, sodomized, sexually exposed, and even forced to sexually assault one another. Keep in mind that, if you're an American, the Bush Administration has encouraged these things to be done in your name.
The irony is that George W. Bush is actually a sexual Puritan. Back here at home, Bush and his Republican supporters use their political power to try to prevent people from having sex. They actually celebrate sexual abstinence, at the same time as their soldiers are forcing their prisoners to have sex.
This sexual double standard seems strange, if one holds by the old idea that good leadership requires consistency. George W. Bush apparently believes that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
In order to explain the strange Bush Administration policy of combining sexual abstinence with sexual torture, I have to resort to an old psychological theory based upon on the characteristics of a water balloon. The thing about a water balloon is that, although it is very flexible in its outward shape, it's inner volume cannot change. So, when a person squeezes a water balloon in one place to try to make it smaller, the balloon responds by expanding in size somewhere else.
In a similar fashion, I believe that the sexual nature of the Bush Administration's plan for torture in Iraq is linked to the Bush Administration's attempt to restrict the freedom of sexual behavior here in the United States. Bush and his advisors seem to regard sex as an evil thing. So, it is only natural that, when devising ways to torment its prisoners, the Bush Administration would come up with sex as the ultimate punishment.
This causes me a good deal of concern, for it leads me to believe that George W. Bush and his top leadership are dangerously sexually perverted. This sounds like a casual insult, but I don't mean it in that way. I mean it as an alarm.
A healthy mind regards sex as something that makes people feel good, and as a sign of a special kind of pleasurable emotional intimacy. Such a mind perceives sex as a sort of reward, not as a punishment. For the healthy mind, the greatest sexual punishment of all would be not to have any. The mind that imagines sex as an instrument of torment is not at all healthy. It is wounded and sadistic.
The more revelations of torture come out, the more it is clear that the decision to torture was made at the top levels of the Bush Administration. So too, the sexual nature of the torture appears to have been approved by the innermost circle within George W. Bush's White House. The inevitable conclusion is that George W. Bush and his top aides have a shadow of sexual sadism within them. Their decision to push for sexual abstinence even as they force sex on their prisoners is the clearest possible sign that the leaders of the Bush Administration are not fit to hold office.
The politics of sex is personal. Only a government that believes that it has the right to create and enforce laws that tell people where, when and how they can have consensual sex could imagine using its law enforcement capabilities to force people to have sex against their will.
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