After I posted images of American soldiers raping an Iraqi woman, an anonymous reader sent me this comment: "It's surely possible that those horrifying rape photos are real, but the source is extremely questionable. You're familiar with propaganda. Surely also aware that it comes from all sides." Ian Keenan also alerted me to the fact that World Net Daily, a conservative website, has traced these images to the pornographic Iraq Babes, registered by Linda MacNew. WND claims that these images were staged, although it reports that MacNew "was not able yesterday to verify conclusively that the photos, which she said were produced by the Hungarian "Sex in War" site, were legal or illegal – meaning whether the women involved were without question porn actresses or were actually raped on camera."
If the original purveyor of these photos wasn't sure, then I can't be 100% certain that they're authentic, but what they're conveying do reflect what's happening in Iraq, as confirmed by numerous sources. World Net Daily itself reports:
A military report by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba found a pattern of wide-ranging abuse in late 2003, including the sexual assault of a detainee with a chemical light stick or broomstick, according to the New Yorker.After the Vietnam War, so many American GIs wrote in their memoirs about raping and torturing Vietnamese women, it's reasonable to assume that these behaviors are simply the norms when a foreign army is let loose on a despised population. The desire to photograph one's barbaric handiwork is also consistent with who we are, as Susan Sontag pointed out in "Regarding the Torture of Others," written immediately in the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib scandal, when everyone else, intellectual or otherwise, was left speechless. If one can stomach the details, there's at least the official report as compiled by General Antonio M. Taguba. For an overview of what he found out, here's an outline by Slate:
In addition, at least 112 women in the military have reported being sexually assaulted by U.S. service members in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last two years. U.S. Central Command is investigating the allegations.
Experts speculate the actual number may be higher, as the National Victim Center says only 16 percent of rape cases are ever reported.
"[B]etween October and December 2003, at the Abu Ghraib Confinement Facility (BCCF), numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees. This systemic and illegal abuse of detainees was intentionally perpetrated by several members of the military police guard force... The allegations of abuse were substantiated by detailed witness statements (ANNEX 26) and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence. … I find that the intentional abuse of detainees by military police personnel included the following acts:
a. Punching, slapping, and kicking detainees; jumping on their naked feet;
b. Videotaping and photographing naked male and female detainees;
c. Forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit positions for photographing;
d. Forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them naked for several days at a time;
e. Forcing naked male detainees to wear women's underwear;
f. Forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped;
g. Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them;
h. Positioning a naked detainee on a MRE Box, with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes, and penis to simulate electric torture; …
j. Placing a dog chain or strap around a naked detainee's neck and having a female soldier pose for a picture;
k. A male MP guard having sex with a female detainee;
l. Using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate and frighten detainees, and in at least one case biting and severely injuring a detainee… These findings are amply supported by written confessions provided by several of the suspects, written statements provided by detainees, and witness statements.
In addition, several detainees also described the following acts of abuse, which under the circumstances, I find credible based on the clarity of their statements and supporting evidence provided by other witnesses (ANNEX 26):
a. Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees;
b. Threatening detainees with a charged 9mm pistol;
c. Pouring cold water on naked detainees;
d. Beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair;
e. Threatening male detainees with rape; …
g. Sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick."
[The New School, NYC, March 31, 2004: Carolyn Forche, Susan Sontag, Assia Djebar, Russell Banks and yours truly. Sontag was 71 years old by this point, and already ill. She died on December 28 of that year.]