Torture Doesn’t Just Have to be Rabid Canines and Rape Pyramids Anymore by Marika Josephson
Hate to do a mass e-mail like this, but we’ve been having a bit of a kerfuffle over here in regards to some little linguistic snags about what constitutes a “war crime” or “degrading treatment,” or “physical mutilation” in the Geneva Conventions. So, I pulled together a list of questions to help elucidate our understanding of some of these technicalities. Please reply as quickly as possible, as I need to get a quick headcount (no pun intended—we don’t do that anymore!) of who supports what.
Senator Graham, you mentioned that a slap could justly constitute an “outrage upon personal dignity,” and therefore a war crime under our current code of laws. If we were to amend that law, at what place on the body, exactly, would such a slap be considered only “mildly annoying” or “analogous to a bee sting”? Wrist? Elbow? Femur? And what sort of contact exactly do we consider a desecration of the human condition? A punch? A push? A nudge? A noogie? Certainly we must be suspicious of any and all forms of bitch slap, booty tap and smackdown.
On to fuzzier forms of physical contact: What kind of kicking shall be allowed when interrogating inmates? Frustrated-blown-tire type kicking? Get-that-dead-dog-off-my-property kicking? Kicking with the side of the foot like the gentle nudge of a soccer ball to a midfielder—or kicking with the front of the toe after getting a running start of fifteen feet for the game winning penalty kick? (As an aside, if we disallow kicking entirely, what are our thoughts on head butting?)
We often find the use of dogs to scare inmates a touchy issue. Let’s try to crack this one once and for all. If an inmate is afraid of dogs, is it morally reprehensible to lock him inside and force him to clean the cage of a dog that appears to be foaming at the mouth with some kind of human-transferable immune disorder? To be honest, I’ve always found this technique a little excessive. In this case it seems that a live dog is not even necessary—the inmate is already afraid! I move simply to line the inmate’s cell walls with pictures of angry dogs and play a tape of two German shepherds in a brawl outside his window all night long. In this solution not a drop of blood hits the ground! Everyone wins!
On second thought, why don’t we scratch dogs completely. I mean, why belabor a touchy subject? Let’s see what we can do about getting some big cats to roam the halls without a leash.
Now, some of our more religious inmates have concerns that differ from our own. They care about their religious icons and their own bodies differently than we do ours. That being said, what are our thoughts on gang rape? Is this technique really necessary for information gathering in the 21st century? Isn’t rape by just one or two people sufficient these days? It may be our own culture of “bigger is better” that has caused us to think that twenty or thirty guys strapping one guy to the ground, taking their turns at him with a baseball bat and sodomizing him until he can’t speak or remember his own name is the only way to rape someone. However, and I think you’ll all agree, there is more than one way to tear someone a new one (pun intended!).
First of all, maybe we should think about cutting down on the number of people involved; do we really need to form a human rape pyramid? Second, is sodomy the only way? I’ve seen plenty of rather uncomfortable blow jobs in my day—compromising perhaps, but certainly not “outrageous”—well within the bounds of the Geneva Conventions. And sometimes just an unwanted groping can be a wildly effective tool in getting someone’s attention, and showing them that, Hey, you’re serious, and you have needs too. Also, we do have all those baseball bats lying around—maybe it’s time to stop thinking in human terms, and start thinking about creative insertion techniques.
And finally, there was an uproar a few months back about the desecration of the Koran. It probably wasn’t right of us to tear out each individual page of the book and videotape ourselves using it as toilet paper. But must everything devolve into scatological nonsense? There have to be some more moderate acts that one can perform with said pages that aren’t completely degrading to another person’s faith. We could try origami, for example. Or paper airplanes. Or what about folding them into those miniature footballs that you have to flick with your finger, and try to aim it through someone else’s fingers that are balanced in the form of a field goal? You see? Torture doesn’t just have to be rabid canines and rape pyramids anymore.
I hope we can come to some form of agreement on these issues soon, as we’re really starting to get a little nervous about some of the ways we’ve been gathering information at Gitmo with hot frying pan grease and rectal thermometers (it’s complicated—let’s make a note to discuss those particularities at a later date).
Looking forward to hearing all of your thoughts soon,
Marika Josephson is a writer and artist living in Brooklyn, and a graduate student in Philosophy at the New School.