America’s torturing of people considered the enemy, whether it be a difference in ideology or a conflict of commercial interests, is really nothing new. This has been going on, as far as I know, since the Spanish-American War. Having a water hose down your gullet was the most common torture at the time.
But modern times have changed the tactics, and it has now taken a more bizarre and cruel form. Parading naked Iraqis* and making them perform abnormal sexual acts among themselves has got to be the lowest of all humiliations and abuse.
Civilised people do not do this. In the future, if the Americans will be treated the same way by the enemy, it is only because they asked for it.
What Have We Done? by Susan Sontag
Looking at these pictures, you ask yourself how someone can grin at the sufferings and humiliation of another human being? Set guard dogs at the genitals and legs of cowering naked prisoners? Rape and sodomize prisoners? Force shackled hooded prisoners to masturbate or commit sexual acts with each other? And you feel naive in asking, since the answer is, self-evidently: people do these things to other people. Rape and pain inflicted on the genitals are among the most common forms of torture. Not just in Nazi concentration camps and in Abu Ghraib when it was run by Saddam Hussein. Americans, too, have done and do them, when they are told or made to feel that those over whom they have absolute power deserve to be mistreated, humiliated, tormented. They do them when they are led to believe that the people they are torturing belong to an inferior, despicable race or religion. For the meaning of these pictures is not just that these acts were performed, but that their perpetrators had no sense that there was anything wrong in what the pictures show. Even more appalling, since the pictures were meant to be circulated and seen by many people, it was all fun. And this idea of fun is, alas, more and more – contrary to what Mr. Bush is telling the world – part of “the true nature and heart of America.”