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Fighting Torture with Art

Seattle, Washington

The Columbian artist Fernando Botero has produced a brilliant collection of life-sized paintings depicting the horrors of Abu Ghraib. The works show prisoners bound and gagged, stacked on top of each other, and being beaten by American soldiers. The paintings have a haunting, frenzied feeling to them, like Pieter Bruegel’s medieval “The Triumph of Death” (1562) where the artist conjures up a scene of armies clashing while wagon-loads of skulls are carried across an apocalyptic-looking landscape.

Abu Ghraib is the entryway into that same world, faithfully reproduced in detail by George Bush. We’re fortunate to have men like Botero to shine a light on the real machinery of Bush’s terror-apparatus. Already, 100,000 Iraqis have died in a gratuitous act of aggression, entire cities have been flattened and 17,000 Iraqis languish in overcrowded gulags waiting for an improbable turn-of-events. Botero captures the look of desperation on men’s faces when there is no expectation of justice. He confronts his audience with the bloody stanchions that support the new world order and the increasing number of innocent victims required to keep them upright. This isn’t the stuff you’ll see in the media, where America’s war crimes are concealed behind a heavy lacquer of flowery rhetoric and optimistic predictions. These pictures are the real deal, like the grinding violence and humiliation produced by a brutal occupation.

Do American’s know that 22 Iraqis were killed yesterday “when U.S. helicopters and heavy artillery bombarded houses in al-Rummana village? Seven children, six women and three old men were among the dead.” (Al Jazeera) Their house was leveled. None of them had any connection to the insurgency. They were simply collateral damage in yet another errant American bombing raid.

This is just one of the unrecorded crimes that takes place in Iraq on a daily basis without the slightest attention from the western press and without a word of protest from Bush’s rubber-stamp Congress. For the most part, the cameras are turned off in Iraq unless enough footage can be pieced together to show our brave, young warriors bringing democracy to unwashed.

Do American’s realize that the UN released a report this week that shows that the number children suffering from malnutrition in Iraq has actually doubled since the war began 2 years ago. This means that the misery of the average child is actually greater than it was during America’s genocidal sanctions-regime, when an estimated 500,000 Iraqi children died, mostly from preventable diseases, to achieve America’s goal of regime change. (It is interesting to note that Colin Powell referred to the death of 70,000 Sudanese as “genocide”. Sudan has a population of 48 million. In Iraq the US is responsible for at least 600,000 deaths in a population of 25 million. By Powell’s standards that would be double- or triple-genocide)

Torture, bombing, starvation.these are the foundation blocks of America’s Iraq policy, not the empty blather about democracy and liberation. Let’s hear Bush offer a few choice words about God’s work in Falluja, where “combat-aged” males were barricaded in the town so they could be peppered with cluster bombs and napalm. Or, perhaps he can brighten his oratory with anecdotes about prisoners rotting away in his string of concentration camps that are now scattered across Iraq. This is what makes Botero’s work is so valuable; it strips away the pretense and shows the ghoulish face that operates behind the mask.

Picasso’s masterpiece “Guernica” has galvanized generations to the horrors of war. Botero’s paintings will undoubtedly have the same affect. His work shows in the plainest terms a world that has been knocked off its axis by Washington’s bloodlust. This is what the world looks like when the law has been jettisoned and men are subjected to the willfulness of megalomaniacs. Torture is never extraneous; it reflects the very heart of a regime. So it is with the Bush administration.

Botero’s paintings show us the violence that animates the Bush government and portends an increasingly uncertain future for us all. They’re worth a look.

Pictures available on http://www.uruknet.info/.?p=m11066

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

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