Right wing pundits have been seeking to draw special notice to Private Lynndie England. Though only one of many sadistic individuals involved in the horrific acts at the prison who were photographed, England has been on the receiving end of the most invective. Though her fellow sadists were just as cruel, England is getting all of this extra attention because she is an easier target. England is an easier target because she is a woman.
Columnist Linda Chavez: “But one factor that may have contributed [to the abuse at Abu Gharib] — but which I doubt investigators will want to even consider — is whether the presence of women in the unit actually encouraged more misbehavior, especially of the sexual nature that the pictures reveal.” Chavez claims that, “Putting young men and women at their sexual prime in close proximity to each other 24 hours a day increases sexual tension.” This is the reason why, she declares, that allegations of sexual harassment and rape have increased as well.
Only a self-hating crackpot like Chavez would come to the conclusion that the natural outcomes of some healthy sexual tension would be the sick sexual abuse and humiliation of inmates at Abu Gharaib prison, and the sexual harassment and rape by American soldiers.
The counter arguments put forth have been inadequate to say the least. The O’Reilly Factor had Martha Burk from the National Council of Womens’ Organizations on to debate Linda Chavez last week. While Burk did make a few valid points to oppose Chavez’s inane thesis, Burk fell short: by only blaming the “the leadership”, she failed to take on the US military itself. She evaded the reality that these horrific abuses are an inevitable part of this or any other US occupation and will happen whether or not the military is integrated because the culture of the American Armed Services is built on the foundations of intense homophobia, misogyny, and White supremacy. But hey, but unlike the Augusta National Golf Club, the military admits women and nurtures their barbaric tendencies, so it is a feminist organization. (?)
Why would one’s sensibilities be more offended by the torture being doled out by a female soldier (as if it better to be tortured by a male soldier)? Women GIs can be just as inhuman as the male troops just as it is common knowledge that Black cops can be just as vicious as their White counterparts, or that Latino INS agents as brutal as White ones. Women joining the ranks of the military have not, nor will ever change the culture of this institution, but the institution has and will continue to install in many of its male and female soldiers a hatred of those who perceived to be weaker: a hatred of those who are not white, not American, not male and not heterosexual.
But Chavez is not the only right-winger weighing in. George Neumayer of the American Spectator: “The image of that female guard, smoking away as she joins gleefully in the disgraceful melee like one of the guys, is a cultural outgrowth of a feminist culture which encourages female barbariansa*|[t]his is Eleanor Smeal’s vision come to life.”
While I do not want to even appear to condone his chauvinism or give credence to his blaming the feminist movement specifically for the behavior of female soldiers at Abu Gharaib, Neumayer does have a point about Smeal. In October of 2001, Smeal heartily supported the War in Afghanistan, buying into and assisting in Bush’s selling of the idea that the women of Afghanistan could be liberated by bombing. In an interview with the Village Voice, Smeal claimed, “It’s a different kind of war.” In conversation with three generals in an NBC green room, Smeal was reportedly “cheered by the idea of women flying F-16s.” Smeal, rightfully opposed to the Taliban, wrongfully sought to end the misogyny in Afghanistan with the invasion by the misogynist US military.
The queen bees want their spots in the shows of war and big business. They are good, self-censoring, troop supporting patriots: you will hear no critique of the hyper masculinity, bigotry, or sadly, no critique of the sexism that permeates the American military. They are inadvertently working to grant women soldiers the equal opportunity to force naked Iraqi POWs to pile on top of one another, to put leather cords around prisoners’ necks and drag them, and to force prisoners to stand blindfolded while the women can mockingly point at the detainees’ genitals.
While Chavez seeks to promote sexism by discrediting women in the military, a quick search of her column from the past four years show that there is not a word, sound, or syllable from her about the many American female soldiers who have been raped by their male counterparts, nothing about the women overseas who have been raped by American GIs. And I will not hold my breath to see whether or not Chavez addresses the recent reports of Iraqi women being sexually assaulted by American male soldiers, the twelve year old girl who was stripped and beaten, or the nothing about the American soldier who pointed a gun to Iraqi professor Huda Shaker with one hand, pointed to his penis with his other hand, and said: “Come here bitch, I’m going to fuck you.” I doubt that Linda Chavez will comment about any of this and satisfy my inquring mind: I really want to know if she thinks that the abuses listed above are the by product of sexual tensions that exist in integrated military units.
Bush will continue this “War on Terrorism” if elected, and Kerry has made it clear that he will do the same: they have both made clear that they are man enough to continue what Dr. Block correctly called this Theatre of Cruelty. Corporate media will continue to give voice to those like Chavez, but sadly, liberal feminists will continue to fail in providing a valid analysis of the situation to counter the Right, and yet again, enable the Right in its mission of championing the Bush Administration and the occupation.
BRANDY BAKER can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org