February 23, 2006

Radical Nun Big On Book

Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, which was made into a film starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, is the first to offer a blurb for my forthcoming book.

Below is the email she sent me.

Dear Dave,

We need your book.

All the best...

Sister Helen


Griffith offers gripping personal testimony to the difficulties of living out the Christian imperatives of love and forgiveness amid a culture that legitimizes government violence as the only "real" way to establish social order.

Short and to the point. Punchy. I hope my book lives up to it.

Click on the title of this post to see her website, in which she argues persuasively for the abolition of capital punishment. And while you're at it buy Dead Man Walking: ww.amazon.com/gp/product/0679751319/sr=8-2/qid=1140705069/ref=pd_bbs_2/002-9023702-9307200?%5Fencoding=UTF8

February 21, 2006

Here's a number to remember: 14,000

Anti-war.com reports that there are over 14,000 Iraqis incarcerated in U.S. military prisons.

Perform For Us All that We Love and Hate

The title of this post is phrase I wrote in the margins of Susan Sontag's "Regarding the Pain of Others" while researching my book. It just sort of popped into my head. I think it came about from thinking about this passage from Sontag:

"All images that display the violation of an attractive body are, to a certain degree, pornographic. But images of the repulsive can also allure. Everyone knows that what slows down highway traffic going past a horrendous car crash is not only curiosity. It is also, for many, the wish to see something gruesome. Calling such wishes "morbid" suggests a rare aberration, but the attraction to such sights is not rare, and is a perennial source of inner torment."

While I take issue with Sontag's thesis from her New York Times Magazine article, "Regarding the Torture of Others," that what happened at Abu Ghraib was due to America's porn addiction, there is an aspect of the abuse that is related to the experience of porn. This is where I think the title of the post comes in. The allure of images that show a violated body, especially images of sodomy and rape, comes from a deep desire to participate in such acts but knowing that they are morally and culturally wrong. As a result, we have men like Charles Graner using detainees as proxies to act out these pornographic fantasies. So the photos allow for a "safe" gratification of these urges while debasing and punishing the detainees.

Bagram Airbase Case Being Tanked

Tim Golden, the New York Times Pulitzer-winning journalist who has been covering this Bagram Airbase story, must be pissed. He's been reporting on this well-documented, seemingly open and shut case of abuses (and, frankly, murders) at an airbase in Afghanistan that happened in December 2002, before the Abu Ghraib abuse ocurred.

The linked article, which came out last week, reports that every one involved is getting off with either a slap on the wrist or time served. Check out this interview with Golden: http://www.cjrdaily.org/the_water_cooler/tim_golden_on_digging_deep_tim.php

Salon.com First With "New" Abu Ghraib Photos

Well, first an Australian news service puts out some never-before-seen (by the public at least) Abu Ghraib photos and now Salon.com.

The implication in the new photos, as far as I can tell, is that the use of nakedness and sexual humiliation is/was/is systematic and is/was/is communicated from the top down.

Investigators from the Army revealed "a total of 1,325 images of suspected detainee abuse, 93 video files of suspected detainee abuse, 660 images of adult pornography, 546 images of suspected dead Iraqi detainees, 29 images of soldiers in simulated sexual acts, 20 images of a soldier with a Swastika drawn between his eyes, 37 images of Military Working dogs being used in abuse of detainees and 125 images of questionable acts."

This is a heck of alot more images than I imagined existed. The implication here is that early allegations might be right: photographically documenting the abuses was part of a systemic regimen of psychological tactics designed to wear down the "Arab male." It just seems like way too many images and videos to be the work of some sadistic shutterbugs with a lot time on their hands.

I still stand by assessment, which appears in my forthcoming book in a chapter titled "City of Lost Souls," that the actual taking of such photos constituted an act of power and control over the detainees that reestablished the guards' sense of just-world thinking. This is one of the tactics torture states use to retain their torturers--they find ways of demonizing and dehumanizing the enemy so that the torturers feel they are carrying out necessary work against an evil foe. Peter Suedfeld's "Psychology and Torture," a source book on the Psychological dimension of torture and torturing, is a must for anyone trying to understand this phenomena on a more clinical level. It contains articles by several of the most prominent thinkers in this field.