May 13, 2004

On the Effects of Torture on Academics

Jibbenainosay would like to think that he knows a little something about abuse and disfigurement on the frontier. He was, therefore, appalled to see, in the recent TIME magazine issue covering the "Iraq Prisoner Abuse Scandal," the assertion by Reed College associate professor Darius Rejali that, because they were mostly from West Virginia, the soldiers involved in the scandal couldn't have designed the torture and abuse tactics seen in the photos and so must have been instructed.

So perhaps cosmopolite political scientists, who tend not to see Appalachia as a source of anything other than "the gentle music of the hill people," should look more closely at this assumption. 1) Is there no internet in West Virginia? 2) these people are in the MILITARY, which means they're a little more cosmopolitan with regard to the whole killing, torture, etc. question than most of us, and most importantly 3) Appalachia: home of the Lynch mob, folks. Genital-focused torture? Exposure of a racialized other? Hoods, wires, leashes, sex games? Sounds mighty familiar. Dr. Rejali tells us these are Brazilian tactics. Which only goes to show that when torture is concerned, even normally open-minded, thoughtful academics can lose their cool.

As an aside, Jibbenainosay is concerned about his many friends in the military. If the Commander in Chief cannot protect enlisted men--and especially MPs!--from "private" contractors or from Military Intelligence, what are you to do? And it appears that the chain of command doesn't exist anymore -- your decisions to kill people on the battlefield are your own, not the Department of Defense's, since nobody there can or will be held responsible for them.

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