May 12, 2004

“Sexing Up” The War: Chapter 2


In the lead-up to the Iraqi war, British analysts asserted that the WMD intelligence used to sell the invasion had been “sexed up.” If the phrase had metaphorical impact at the time, I’m sure no one imagined that it would turn out to have a literal significance down the road.

Although everyone at the Pentagon is now warning that even more disturbing Abu Ghraib pictures and videos have yet to circulate, a major push seems afoot to prevent their release. Why? In an article in this morning’s LA Times entitled “A Double Ordeal for Female Prisoners,” it was alleged that some of those picture involve sexual abuse perpetrated on female Iraqi prisoners by male American guards.

Given the penchant for power and dominance in this Administration, it is really not surprising to see these instincts expressed in the form of sexual exploitation. As history reminds, however, it is important to add that the tendency is neither new or unique.

(The poster shows the force feeding of British suffragists during hunger strikes in British prisons around 1909. It was printed to create support for the women’s movement in the U.S. and England, and is part of the Prints and Photographs collection of the Library of Congress. Click here for full size.)

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Michael Shaw
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