Passion of the President
what has become the lead photo of the bunch, probably because
the prisoner isn't naked, a Christ-like figure with wires hanging
from his outstretched hands, and reportedly, from his penis,
stands on a small box, told that if he lost his balance and
fell off the box, he'd be electrocuted. He resembles a Medieval
Mystery Player with his ragged cape, bare feet and death mask
hood pointed at the top, like the dunce cap worn by the village
idiot or court jester. His plaintive stance seems to say "Why
me?" It is eloquent in its acquiescence. The prisoner is
helpless indeed, but there is power in his posture; it also
speaks for many of us, in Iraq, in America, in France, in Spain,
and all over the world, who would like to say to Mr. Bush: I
accuse you, Mr. Bush, along with your collaborators, of lying
to us, wiring us up to terror, forcing us into this horrible,
humiliating war, while we stand, terrorized, on a box.
I being too harsh on Dubya in suggesting that these images
stem from his personal sexual nature? Perhaps. But I don't
think so. Remember, this is the man who giggled and mocked
Karla Faye Tucker, his fellow born-again Christian sentenced
to die under his jurisdiction. "Please don't kill
me," he mimicked in a high girlish voice... seeming
to savor the memory of how she'd begged for her life,
and, as Governor of Texas, he'd killed her anyway.
also gives us a glimpse into the sexual nature of the man. Not
the man on the box. The man who put the man on the box. Of course,
many people put that man on the box, starting with a woman,
SPC Sabrina Harman, 372nd MP Company, who set up the box, Then
there's Corporal Charles A. Grainer who told her to put the
man on the box. Then there's the MI's or CIA guys who told him
to "keep detainees awake and get them to talk, give them
a bad night," or "soften them up." Then there
are the Generals who run the prisons and run the wars, the Vice
President who pushed this particular war, the Defense Secretary
who aggressively waged this war, the members of Congress who
voted to approve this war, the media people who promoted this
war, and the voters who gave it the thumbs-up. But it is the
self-described War President that sets the pace, goals and style
of the war, especially this war, Bush's War. Thus, my feeling
that The Photos give us a glimpse into the perverse heart, bullying
soul and pathetic little gonads of Mr. GW Bush.
I being too harsh on Dubya in suggesting that these images stem
from his personal sexual nature? Perhaps. But I don't think
so. Remember, this is the man who giggled and mocked Karla Faye
Tucker, his fellow born-again Christian sentenced to die under
his jurisdiction. "Please don't kill me," he mimicked
in a high girlish voice, pursing his lips and squinting his
eyes, seeming to savor the memory of how she'd begged for her
life, and, as Governor of Texas, he'd killed her anyway.
If we can understand how a U.S. presidential candidate can talk
like that in an interview with Talk Magazine, perhaps we can
understand why Lynndie and Chuck can grin like that in The Photos.
this is the American Executioner who, when he was governor of
Texas, presided over a record-setting 152 lethal injections.
Maybe not as barbaric as lynchings, but you can only push limits
so far. This was the son who relished being his dad's "hatchet
man," especially when he had the pleasure of axing someone
suspected of disloyalty. This is the happy gunslinger that gave
the CIA authority to assassinate those deemed a threat to U.S.
interests, virtually suspending Executive Orders by Gerald Ford,
Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan prohibiting such assassinations.
This is the opportunistic autocrat who used the tragedy of 9-11
to relax the CIA and MI's previous restrictions on using torture,
and won't even call the guys he's picking up Prisoners of War.
This is the definitive chickenhawk who let other men of his
generation fight in Vietnam, then sent men and women of his
daughters' generation to invade Iraq. This is the back-slapping
bully who celebrated the destruction of a country with a "Mission
Accomplished" costume party.
Truman said "the buck stops here." It's not much of
a stretch to see how Private Lynndie, Specialist Sabrina and
Corporal Chuck might take their Commander-in-Chief as a role
model, or perhaps as the ultimate audience of their erotic torture
Sexuality: Bully of the World
his immediate predecessor, the nature of Bush's sexuality has
long been a mystery to us common folk. He's kind of stiff with
most women, though he's very close to a few devoted advisors
like Condeleeza Rice and Karen Hughes. Does he have affairs?
Who knows? If there's one thing he's good at, it's keeping secrets
(with the compliant media as his hand-maiden). Wife Laura is
sweet, but the fact that she looks like she hasn't had an orgasm
since Gulf War I doesn't help. Their twin daughters, Barbara
and Jenna, are quite sexy; that's probably why they're kept
hidden as much as possible (that and the anti-war calls to "send
the Bush Twins to Iraq!").
we called Saddam a Rapist Butcher, it's only fitting that
we call Bush a P.O.W. Pornographer and The King of Torture-Lite,
sexuality may be murky. But in terms of sex appeal, he knows
how to work it. Or at least, Karl Rove does, acting as a sort
of Queer Eye to Bush's Straight Guy. Anti-war folks may have
been outraged by the AWOL Guardsman dressing up in a flight
suit to land on the U.S.S. Lincoln, but a lot of Republican
women (and some men) thought "he looked really hot --especially
in the crotch!" Stuffed or not, there's definitely a sexual
market for it, along with that Rich Boy smirk and the Cowboy
swagger, at least in America. Then there's the determination.
Dubya's responses to "terrorism" strike me as being
rather impotent (Afghanistan is still a mess, Iraq is worse
and Osama is alive and still producing his own series of hit
tapes). Yet I must admit that there are many ladies who swoon
over that manly "resolve."
men. Bush is a man's man. He seems most relaxed with the guys,
the majority of whom he charms easily. His nicknames are part
of his chummy, frat boy, pecking-order-oriented playfulness,
as if to say, "Alpha male to Beta, here's your new name."
Most men seem to eat this up. 9-11 commissioner Jim Thompson
affectionately called Bush a "bit of a tease" (tee-hee)
after their discreet unrecorded meeting with Dick in the Oval
Office. Bush and Dick (what a sexy combo!) seem to have seduced
the whole bunch of star-struck commissioners in that ultra-private
tête-à-tête. Even normally aggressive Democratic
questioner Richard Ben-Veniste gushed that the meeting was "very
cordial." What did Dubya do with these guys behind close
doors-make them form naked pyramids?
is Dubya's forté. He could have been an actor. He does
have trouble memorizing and enunciating stuff, but even his
slow-wittedness can be disarming. Disarmament of the victim
is key to the pleasure of the sadist. Of course, just because
someone is charming doesn't mean he or she is sadistic, not
at all. But the most effective sadists-Hitler, Stalin, the Marquis
de Sade-are said to be quite charming, especially in private,
(like the others) isn't so charming on the stump, where he shows
his self-righteous side. He rants against Evil-Doers, drones
on about the sanctity of marriage, touts abstinence as the answer
to each and every sex question, rains all over the gay parade
and blocks women's reproductive rights at every turn. The assault
on women began on Bush's first full day in office with his reinstatement
of the Reagan-era global "gag rule." He may as well
have thrown a hood over the head of international family planning.
Then he picked one of the stuffiest Americans since Anthony
Comstock, Ayatollah Asscraft, as his top lawyer; that ought
to tell us something.
nobody believes Bush is as prissy as his policies and pronouncements.
There seems to be something simmering just beneath the surface
of all that oppressive earnestness, something deeply, wickedly
kinky, though still kind of corny, something like what we see
in The Photos.
like a sadist. Or maybe the classic label of "bully"
is most apt. Isn't the torturer just a more sophisticated incarnation
of the bully? Back in the summer of 2002, when GI-George was
beating the drums of war on Iraq, I wrote a little piece called
"Cockfight at the Baghdad Corral" comparing our proposed
attack on Iraq to "a cold, crude assault by a tactless
brute who couldn't get laid any other way, an oaf who can't
or won't seduce his target with negotiatory words and gestures,
but forces his way in, with no lube and no manners." I
was worried that "all the global sympathy we stirred up
when our great phallic edifices (Dick 1 & Dick 2) were castrated
by the Terrorist's fiery sword are fading into resentment, fear
and ridicule of America, dick-swinging, bomb-tossing Bully of
now we have The Photos showing us Bullies of the World on the
Job. I must admit I didn't know how literally we'd be swinging
our dicks like baboons (certainly not like bonobos who could
teach us a thing or two about sex and violence).
pronouncements, pleading, apologies and demands since the release
of The Photos, are also telling. Indignant as an dissatisfied
customer in a bad restaurant, he first complained, "I didn't
like it one bit.'' Send it back to the chef! But wait, does
that mean that he did "like" all the other atrocities
our military, under his command, has committed? Or perhaps he
prefers the British method of handling their Iraqi prisoners,
as shown in another set of photos: Knocking out their teeth
and urinating on them. Hey, you've heard the Brits go in for
golden showers, haven't you? Then a spank and a wank, and throw
the half-dead loser out of the truck. Well, what of it? This
is war, isn't it? Bush's War and Bush's Porn, with Poodle Tony
Blair doing a bang-up job on U.K. production and distribution.
had his (semen) "stain" upon the Presidency. Now Dubya
has his. It's also a semen stain, but it's mixed with blood
and puke and tears. "It's a stain on our country's honor
and our country's reputation, I fully understand that,"
the Stainmaker-in-Chief declared in his most groveling attempt
to make it go away. But like Lady "out-damn-spot."
MacBeth, the stain-and the shame--remain.
oh, the shame! The exposure! The bad timing. Just a week before
the release of The Photos, Bush had proclaimed that as a result
of getting rid of Saddam, "there are no longer torture
chambers or rape rooms or mass graves in Iraq." Another
practical joke. As Jon Stewart succinctly put it, Iraq's rape
rooms are "really not shut down so much as under new management."
course, as those of you who know me know, I take this kind of
personally. When I wrote "Rape of Iraq" back in April,
2003, I was using "rape" as a metaphor for the invasion.
Prevaricators on the left and right tried to say I was accusing
American soldiers of raping Iraqis. I wasn't, at the time. But
now it's pretty clear that not only has Bush's War raped Iraq
as a country, but Bush's Warriors have raped Iraqis as individuals,
some in the very rape rooms belonging to that so-called Supreme
Rapist Saddam. Not that Saddam hung around his own rape rooms
any more than Bush hangs around his (too dangerous!). Since we called Saddam a Rapist Butcher, it's only fitting
that we call Bush a P.O.W. Pornographer and The King of Torture-Lite,
Chuck of Arabia and Smiley Sabrina visit the Pyramids of
Ancient Mesopotamia in this joyous scene from
"Bush's POW Porn"
brings me to another of Bush's desperate pronouncements in the
wake of the release of The Photos, accompanied by the damning
Taguba Report. His ongoing efforts to impress upon the world
that his P.O.W. Porn is somehow "not American." So
Lynndie and Chuck are Bulgarian?
treatment does not reflect the nature of the American people,"
Bush tried to spin like a dervish when The Photos were first
unleashed. "That's not the way we do things in America,"
he said. Later he clarified on Al-Hurrah TV, "What took
place in that prison does not represent the America that I know."
should know, since he was governor of Texas, said to have
some of the worst, most abusive prisons on Earth. But
the only state he seems to govern with any skill is the
state of Denial.
course, it's not the America Dubya knew. That's because even
though he did things that would have landed other guys in the
can, Poppy's friends bailed him out before he had to spend any
real time in an American prison.
George also seems to have never heard of Rodney King, beaten
by LAPD on tape, or Abner Louima, sodomized with the business
end of a toilet plunger during an NYPD interrogation. Since
the Shrub is a proud non-reader, he wouldn't know that according
to U.S. corrections officials, inmates and human rights advocates,
the physical and sexual abuse of prisoners, similar to what's
in The Photos, takes place in American prisons every day. This
is "the way" some people "do things" at
many prisons in America, minus the cameras (so far). Bush
should know, since he was governor of Texas, said to have some
of the worst, most abusive prisons on Earth. But the only state
he seems to govern with any skill is the state of Denial.
in LA, we have our own Twin Towers, also known as the Downtown
Men's Prison. As everyone knows who's been through there, when
you first get booked, they treat you with "sleep deprivation,"
providing no place to sit or lie down except an icy floor, giving
you nothing to eat but rotten baloney on stale bread, and not
letting you go to the toilet, in hopes that you'll break quickly
and cop a plea. As for beatings and rapes, the guards usually
get--or just let--other prisoners take care of that.
you ask too many questions, they put you in the "Suicide
Ward," which has nothing to do with being suicidal; it's
just a euphemism for torture. Here, they take away essentials
such as clothes and eyeglasses with the laughable excuse that
you could use these things to kill yourself. Then they make
you stand naked in front of guards and other inmates for hours
in the cold. When I visited an inmate in the Twin Towers "Suicide
Ward," I was astonished to see all the prisoners wearing
nothing but these bizarre blue asbestos cloaks supposedly fastened
with Velcro. But the Velcro was worn and couldn't fasten at
all, so the cloaks kept falling apart. In other words, all these
prisoners were naked in front of us visitors. And hey, this
wasn't even in Texas.
Intelligence, CIA, mercenaries working for CACI International,
and maybe Wolfie and Rummy themselves seem to have directed
torture like we see in the Abu Ghraib Photos. But the practices
are, for the most part, an extension of the American prison
system. Lane McCotter, a contractor who had resigned under pressure
as director of the Utah Department of Corrections in 1997 after
an inmate died while shackled naked to a restraining chair for
16 hours, was chosen by the Bushies to rebuild Abu Ghraib and
train the guards there.
of the soldiers in The Photos (a segment producer for Bush's
P.O.W. Porn), Staff Sgt. Ivan (Chip) Frederick, had worked for
six years as a guard for the Virginia Department of Corrections,
and was described by his warden as "one of the best."
Scott Bobeck, a special agent in the U.S. Army's Criminal Investigation
Division, testified that Sgt. Frederick and Corporal Grainer
"were put in charge because they were civilian prison guards
and had knowledge of how things were supposed to be run."
That knowledge came from working in a U.S. prison system that
now cages over two million Americans.
of the problem is the nature of prison. As psychological studies
at Stanford and Yale have shown, when normal, compassionate
people are given the job of "prison guard" and told
by authorities to enforce discipline or administer punishment,
their overwhelming tendency is to become sadistic and abusive.
Of course, this natural prison guard sadism can be checked with
supervision. The danger of abuse rises with severe overcrowding,
a problem in America, as well as in Iraq (not to mention Afghanistan
and Guantanamo) where thousands of people who shouldn't be imprisoned
Bush doesn't care about problems like this, just as he hasn't
cared about the mulitiple reports of abuse and torture from
the Red Cross and other groups that have been crossing his desk
for years. Now he cares. He's been caught! He's just "sickened"
that the world has seen his secret stash of porn.
Seems To Be The Hardest Word
he was forced to mouth the words "I'm sorry," though
he said them to a fellow King, Jordan's Abdullah II, not to
his main victims, the Iraqi people, nor to his other victims,
the American people (whom he should apologize to for turning
our sons, daughters, parents and neighbors into sadistic bullies
like him). And sticking to form, his so-called apology actually
blames the viewers of The Photos themselves.
love to say, 'I'm sorry to hurt you, but it's really your fault."
Bush said he told the King, "I was sorry for the humiliation
suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered
by their families. I told him I was as equally sorry that people
seeing those pictures didn't understand the true nature and
heart of America."
first line is okay. Even though he doesn't say who did the humiliating
of the Iraqi prisoners and their families (um, Americans?),
at least he says he's sorry about it. But then he cancels out
his apology by blaming these very people--as well as all of
us who see The Photos--for believing our eyes and not his words.
am sickened by what I saw and sickened that people got the wrong
impression," he goes on, again saying that we are "wrong"
to get the "impression" that The Photos give us. Earlier,
in his interview with Al-Hurrah, he kept repeating that the
Iraqi people "must understand" that what we see in
The Photos isn't really "America." Then, for a kicker,
at the end of the interview, he had the temerity to say to the
interviewer, "Good job." As if we needed to be reminded
that Al-Hurrah is the American Iraqi station.
arrogance, the patronizing tone, infantile insistence that everyone
see things his way, is breathtaking. Some diehard submissives
do find this kind of brute domination sexy-at least in fantasy.
Okay, but do we really want it for President?
as much as Bush says Iraqis "must understand"
that The Photos are "not America," what they
show is incontrovertible: average Americans being bullies.
Which means it's more imperative than ever that we all
do whatever we can... to stop the war, and the abuse that
goes with it, now.
Attractions: More & Worse!
shall see what we want, based on what we're willing to accept.
Bush's P.O.W. Porn has some sequels. There's more to come, including
rapes of women and children. And we also have the court martials
of the six soldiers featured in The Photos. After which, the
more ambitious of the bunch will get their book contracts (though
they won't be allowed to make any money from committing felonies,
will they?). And there will surely be more admonishments, reprimands
and dismissals to various disposable cogs in the wheels of the
Bush War Machine. But the Executive Producer has made clear
that his main P.O.W. Porn Production Team stays, including Line
Producer Master Rummy who is doing a "superb" job.
Disgusting, but superb.
official nominally in charge of Abu Ghraib and other prisons
in Iraq, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski (who said, "I'd like
to know who was the one that was giving instructions to the
military intelligence personnel to turn up the heat"),
has been canned. The new Big Cheese at Abu Ghraib is Major General
Geoffrey Miller, most recently in charge of the draconian detention
facility at Guantánamo Bay.
considered competent because, though tales of torture similar
to Abu Ghraib flow constantly out of Guantánamo, the
S/M Porn Photos that have emerged from there are soft-core compared
to The Abu Ghraib Collection. Miller might even go farther with
the torture than Karpinski who acts like she was the one wearing
the hood at her own prisons. The Taguba Report quotes Miller,
after inspecting Abu Ghraib, as saying that it was ''essential
that the guard force be actively engaged in setting the conditions
for successful exploitation of the internees.'' So, stack those
pyramids high, kids!
Power of Perversion
of the main players are staying or just switching locations,
and will continue to do what they were doing, only without the
digital cameras. That's one big change at Abu Ghraib, the signs
that say "No Cameras Allowed." And herein lies the
crux of the "disgust." It's not with the torture,
it's with The Photos of the torture.
of us who want the truth of Bush's War and every war can only
be grateful for The Photos and for the photographers. Whether
they were brave or stupid or "just doing their job,"
they gave us riveting evidence of something the Bushies would
like to keep secret. We can only laugh and weep that, after
the release of The Photos the first new rule is "No Cameras
no more photos, and maybe no more hoods and a few more clothes.
Or maybe not. But the sickness that we see in The Photos is
only the tip of an iceberg. The iceberg is the war. And it is
melting down into a mess we can never clean up.
at least, The Photos got the Shrub to give a simulated apology,
which is more than he's done yet through this whole war. That's
the power of perversion, specifically sexual perversion. Bush
has never apologized for the invasion or the occupation. He
has never apologized for all the lies, the bombings, the wholesale
murder of thousands of Iraqis (which we don't bother to count),
the senseless deaths of hundreds of Americans, the virtual destruction
of a country, its libraries, its art museums, its hospitals,
its schools. But he does apologize for The Photos. He has to.
Because his stash was found, his pants are down, way down around
his ankles, and all the world can see what a sadistic little
bully he is.
it's not only Bush, and it's not only Dick. It's not only Rummy
and Lynndie and the guys in MI. It's not only Fox TV. All Americans
are engaged in playing the bully game. Some of us have been
"forced" into this painful position. But
as much as Bush says Iraqis "must understand" that
The Photos are "not America," what they show is incontrovertible:
average Americans being bullies. Which means it's more imperative
than ever that we all do whatever we can-whether we're soldiers,
spies, doctors, lawyers, truck drivers, writers, webmasters,
sex therapists, schoolteachers, secretaries, pornographers or
presidential candidates--to stop the war, and the abuse that
goes with it, now.
I write this, my email box is filling up with links to the latest
atrocity caught on tape. This time it is an Al-Qaeda-produced
snuff film showing the gruesome beheading of young Nick Berg
from my hometown Philadelphia. The way that the killers call
their murder retribution for the Abu Ghraib abuses painfully
recalls the vengeful killing of David Pearl (another Jewish
American civilian) in Pakistan shortly after the abusive treatment
of prisoners at Guantánamo became public. Some in the
pro-war crowd in America are actually emboldened by Berg's murder,
now screaming that it somehow justifies American torture. U.S.
Senators are using it as an excuse to censor the latest set
of pictures which might "incite" more violence.
may see some of them anyway. The speed with which The Photos
and video from the Iraqi Front appear on our TVs and computers
rattles the synapses. Now, any amateur can take a photo, any
bully can make porn and any murderer can make a snuff film viewed
by millions within moments. Will the digital technology that
made Bush's P.O.W. Porn the huge hit that it is make this horrific
human violence escalate or shock us enough to stop it?
up to us. We are America.
Block is a sex educator, cultural commentator, host of The Dr.
Susan Block Show and author of The 10 Commandments of Pleasure.
Visit her website at http://www.drsusanblock.com
all hate mail, love letters, commentary, questions and confessions
to her at [email protected]
© 2004, Dr. Susan Block
For reprint rights, please contact [email protected]
The above article is also available at
+ + + + +
the Would-Be Torturer
It's all falling into place. The Wall Street Journal has revealed
that Bush's lawyers told him he can order that torture be committed
with impunity. It is now official that George W. Bush is above