The sexually dominant women and pseudo-homosexual acts in the Abu Ghraib photographs have been interpreted worldwide as a deliberate cruelty against Muslims. We don't question that. After all, the most widespread and consistent criticism of Islam in the West concerns its inequality of men and women and rejection of homosexuality. There's nothing like a good kick in the groin to teach the Muslim buggers the meaning of freedom, is there? This interpretation, however, concentrates solely on the effect that the photographs have on Muslims, and ignores the effect they have on Western societies. An effect that hasn't been overlooked by military expert Elaine Donnelly* as can be concluded from her cynical remark that Lynndie England's portrait with a Muslim on a leash "is exactly what feminists have dreamed of for years." We are sure that this remark says more about Donnelly's fears and desires than it does about Western feminism, and denounce this attempt to criminate Western feminists in the sexual abuse at Abu Ghraib.
It isn't the first time that conservatives hide behind gay and feminist causes to justify their attacks on Islam. Finding common ground with gays and feminists against Islam has already proved a successful strategy, notably in Western societies with large numbers of Muslim immigrants. As examples of such occasional coalitions we mention the attacks on headscarves and on imams, mosques and Islamic publications that condemn homosexuality. Attacks that endanger all sorts of fundamental rights in democratic societies and go to the heart of Western constitutions. In their attempts to gain control over Islam and over their own societies conservative politicians, parties and administrations shamelessly deploy any social and moral cause, even the causes of known political adversaries.
In many feminist protests against the Abu Ghraib torture practices embarrassment was heard at the fact that women were actively involved in sexual abuse. Embarrassment sometimes to the extent that not Lynndie England was held responsible for her acts but her boyfriend, the macho military system, male-centred pornography, etc. Gay rights organisations have raised protests varying from disgust at the discovery that US intelligence services use forced homosexual acts as an instrument of torture to indignant statements that this kind of torture has nothing to do with homosexuality at all. We feel that these reactions concentrate too much on the rejection of responsibility and underestimate the message of the photographs. After all, the gross and degrading caricatures of liberated women and gay men starring in the Abu Ghraib photographs reveal the true motives behind conservatives' concern with gay rights and women's liberation. Gay and feminist stereotypes are used as weapons in the war on Islam. As kinky roles in state pornography.
Although it looks like the Pentagon has miscalculated the effects that the photographs would have in the West, it's hard to say what the effects will be on an unconscious level. Elaine Donnelly unwittingly hints at this with her remarks that Lynndie England's portrait "has a powerful influence on young women" and that "these women may not have been aware of it." Military experts, we must admit, show little naivety when it comes to the power of pornography. Abu Ghraib as a real place of torture has served its purpose and can be demolished; as the filmset for military pornography, however, it will have longer and wider range of effect. As an example of this long-lasting power of pornography we mention De Sade's La Nouvelle Justine, written in the Bastille in 1788, in which Monsieur Rodin shouts "By all fucked Gods of Christianity, nothing is better than fucking this way", as he stacks the naked body of his daughter on top of that of the virtuous Justine and sodomises them alternately with his friend while his governess beats the two men. La Nouvelle Justine ou les Malheurs de la vertu** has had a long history of prohibition and censorship in Christian countries. Let's get it out and pitch the Bastille against Abu Ghraib. Bugger the sham!
* Elaine Donnelly's biography
Her remarks on feminism and Abu Ghraib on CNSnews
** La Nouvelle Justine (in French)