This Sh*t Makes Me So Mad!!!

Assiya Rafiq, right, in front of her mother, Iqbal Mai. (Nicholas D. Kristof/The New York Times)

Assiya Rafiq, right, in front of her mother, Iqbal Mai. (Nicholas D. Kristof/The New York Times)

After being kidnapped at the age of 16 by a group of thugs and enduring a year of rapes and beatings, Assiya Rafiq was delivered to the police and thought her problems were over.

Then, she said, four police officers took turns raping her.

The next step for Assiya was obvious: She should commit suicide. That’s the customary escape in rural Pakistan for a raped woman, as the only way to cleanse the disgrace to her entire family.

Instead, Assiya summoned the unimaginable courage to go public and fight back. She is seeking to prosecute both her kidnappers and the police, despite threats against her and her younger sisters. This is a kid who left me awed and biting my lip; this isn’t a tale of victimization but of valor, empowerment and uncommon heroism.

“I decided to prosecute because I don’t want the same thing to happen to anybody else,” she said firmly.

Read the full story here.

How come it’s the victim who has to bear the shame, has to suffer ostracism from her family and community, who has to commit suicide? Why aren’t the men who kidnapped, beat , sold, and raped her the ones who have to bear the shame?

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Update on West Virginia Kidnap-Torture-Rape Case.

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ABC has reported that new details have emerged in the case of Megan Williams, who was kidnapped and subjected to various acts of torture, sexual abuse, and humiliation by Karen Burton (top center) and fellow defendants.

According to statements read out during the defendants’ preliminary court hearings, the victim told police she had had hot wax and hot water poured on her, and that she was forced to drink a cup of two male defendants’ urine. All six defendants now face charges of kidnapping, which carry a maximum life sentence. Incidentally, no hate crime charges have as yet been filed—the victim is Black and was called “nigger” during some of the assaults—because, prosecutors say, hate crime convictions carry a maximum penalty of only 10 years.

While I am often critical of local law enforcement officials for failing to investigate possible hate crime cases, this time I would rather the six accused get the maximum penalty than a hate crime conviction.

That’s just sick! I thought this was a free country!!!

Today, a new torture video started making the rounds on the internet. No, it wasn’t shot at Guantanamo or Baghram or Abu Ghraib. It was shot at the University of Florida. The victim, a journalism student, asked Senator John Kerry a series of tough questions during a question and answer session. For exercising his First Amendment rights, the unfortunate student is hauled off by security while he screams for help and asks why he was being arrested. He ends up face-down with his hands cuffed behind his back, while one of the security guards repeatedly shoots him at point-blank range with a taser gun. Taser guns were designed for long-range use to incapacitate, from a safe distance, someone who poses a physical threat. But in this case, the student was already subdued and handcuffed so the taser was used merely to cause pain, not for self-defense. Using an instrument to cause pain merely for its own sake is nothing more than torture.

When did asking tough questions of political figures become a criminal act? What’s even more disturbing is that everyone else just sits  there and lets this kid get dragged off by a mob of armed guards simply because he took too long to ask his question. For his part, Sen. Kerry keeps on talking as if violations of a human being’s fundamental rights—not to mention the US Constitution—were not being committed in his presence.

I hope this guy sues the pants off those security guards and the University of Florida. And I hope this incident haunts John Kerry for the rest of his career.

Speaking of Hatred . . ..

I’m feeling slightly nauseated after reading an article that opened with this paragraph:

A woman was sexually abused, beaten and humiliated while being held captive in a home for at least a week, sheriff’s officials said Monday after making six arrests and calling the FBI to investigate it as a possible hate crime.”

Read the rest of the article here and here.

Thanks to The Smoking Gun for the arrest records and mugshots.

Where There is Fear, There is Also Hatred.

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The Columbus Dispatch recently ran a cartoon depicting Iran as a sewer with cockroaches crawling out of it and infesting neighboring countries. Enough has been written about how racist this cartoon is—and how reminiscent it is of Nazi and Hutu genocidal propaganda—so I won’t spend any time on that. What is missing from the hoopla surrounding this cartoon is any talk of how national–security rhetoric generally and inevitably dehumanizes entire nations.

In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, President Bush repeatedly assured Americans and the world that his beef was not with the entire Muslim or Arab world, that his quarrel was not even with the people of Iraq. Rather, we were told Iraq would be a stage of the global War on Terror because its leader was a dictator who was collaborating with Al Qaeda and could potentially put his arsenal of chemical and biological weapons at the disposal of international terrorists. Of course, we now know that there were no WMDs in Iraq and that Saddam Hussein—brutal and murderous though he was—had no links to Al Qaeda. Today, all Iraqis have to show for our trouble is a destabilized and increasingly violent country in which people have to do without recently available basic services like round-the-clock electricity and sewage treatment. Iraqi women are afraid to leave their homes for fear of being raped or worse, men are routinely kidnapped and murdered simply for going about their lives, and sectarian violence yields ever-increasing death tolls.

Yet the majority of Americans continue to hem and haw about the best way out. Opinion is divided on whether to send more troops, withdraw some troops, pull out entirely, and when and in what manner to pursue or abandon any course of action. The arguments over what to do or not do mostly revolve around the number of American casualties, how much the war is costing, and whether Americans are now more or less likely to be the victims of a terrorist attack. In other words, very few Americans are basing their opinions about what should be done on what’s best for the Iraqi people. The rightness or wrongness of this war is almost always judged from Americans’ point of view and almost never from Iraqis’ vantage point. One exception is the argument that if US troops were to leave Iraq, their departure would be followed by a bloodbath. But although this argument is constantly put forward, we never see any Iraqis who support a continued US presence in their country.

Why is this? Because what Iraqis think doesn’t matter to us. In the process of convincing ourselves that Iraq posed an existential threat to the US, we forgot that Iraqis are people too. National–security discourse is concerned mainly with the protection of one state’s population against attack by another state, so it’s inevitable that the people of the other state will gradually become devalued and eventually dehumanized. Take two hypothetical states, A and B, locked in a war of words. As the people of State A are whipped into a frenzy of fear and paranoia by continuous official reminders that State B poses an imminent threat, they can’t help but begin to fear, and then loathe, the people of State B. Having been convinced that they have to choose between their own survival and that of their “enemy,” the people of State A will not only ignore, mitigate, or deny violence done to “the other side,” they will eventually welcome and celebrate it.  It becomes a matter simply of kill or be killed because the people of State A now believe that in order for them to live, others must be killed. Hermann Goering, Reichsmarshall and head of the Luftwaffe summed it up:

. . . voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

Once the people of State B have been defined as a threat, it’s a short rhetorical step for them to be equated with other threats like viruses, cockroaches, snakes, poisonous mushrooms, etc. State B is a threat so it’s people are dangerous. Viruses and snakes are dangerous too. Ergo, the people of State B are viruses and snakes. What do you do to snakes and viruses when you want to protect yourself? You kill them. But such analogies are seldom made by official spokespeople. Rather, that task is left to journalists and radio personalities.

Ultimately, the essential ingredient for war is fear. Without fear, there can be no hatred. Without hatred, there can be no dehumanization. And without dehumanization, there can be no war. To be sure, organized international terrorism is a legitimate threat but international politics—constructed as a system of states versus states—makes no room for nuance so states can only make war on states. The human tendency to generalize also gets some of the blame. Thus, a nation that produces a handful of terrorists is seen as a nation of terrorists, in the same way that a nation run by a brutal dictator is seen to be brutal. In the international sphere, states derive power and legitimacy from their people. In order to break the power of a state, its power base (i.e., people) must be broken, and there are few better means than war for accomplishing this. Hateful propaganda, like the cartoon in the Dispatch, plays a pivotal role by paving the way to war. Long before the first bomb is dropped or the first shot fired, the people are primed to fear, primed to hate, and primed to tolerate unspeakable violence against their enemies. In other words, they are primed for war.

The cartoon in the Columbus Dispatch clearly shows that some in the US have decided that Iran is enough of a threat to justify a dehumanizing comparison between its people and cockroaches. We can only hope that as a nation, we Americans do not fear Iran enough to allow our government to start yet another war in the Middle East.

UN War Crimes Tribunal in Sierra Leone Hands Down First Verdicts.

Three men have been convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during Sierra Leone’s decade-long war.

Read on . . .