Dr Susan Block

Part 2
[click here for Part 1]

The Passion of the President

In 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 says "J'accuse."

It 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.

Am 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.

It 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.

Am 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.

Remember, 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.

Harry 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 games.

Bush's Sexuality: Bully of the World

Unlike 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!").

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, American-style.

Bush's 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."

And 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?

Role-playing 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, social situations.

Bush (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.

Yet 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.

Something 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 the World."

And 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).

Rape of Iraq

Bush's 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.

Clinton 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.

And 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."

Of 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, American-style.

Chuck of Arabia and Smiley Sabrina visit the Pyramids of Ancient Mesopotamia in this joyous scene from
"Bush's POW Porn"

Prisons-Are-Us, American-Style

Which 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?

"Their 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."

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.

Of 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.

UnCurious 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.

Here 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.

If 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.

Military 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.

One 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.

Part 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 are.

But 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.

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

Ultimately, 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.

Sadists 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."

The 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.

"I 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.

The 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?

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... to stop the war, and the abuse that goes with it, now.

Coming Attractions: More & Worse!

We 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.

The 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.

Miller's 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!

The Power of Perversion

Most 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.

Those 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 Allowed."

So 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.

Well, 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.

But 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.

As 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.

We 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?

It's up to us. We are America.

Note: Dr. Susan 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

Send 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]

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+ + + + +

Bush 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 the law.

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