Vol. 5 Num 486 Fri. October 07, 2005  

The invention of porno torture

Lynndie England, the Army private photographed holding a naked Iraqi by a dog leash, has been convicted leaving behind a nagging question: how far up does the responsibility go? By no means is Lynddie England alone. She is the scapegoat of a larger US Torture Establishment. A related question that demands scrutiny is the widespread use of porno torture. Photos and stories emanating from Abu Gharib and Guantanamo, the military prisons that would live in infamy, reveal that American soldiers, CIA interrogators, and

military contractors, all have engaged in porno torture against Muslim detainees. Unofficial stories circulating on the internet are beyond belief. But even official acknowledgement, though exposing only tip of the iceberg, furnishes credible clues that porno torture has been, and probably still is, a favourite tool to degrade and torment Muslim detainees.

General Antonio Taguba, who investigated charges of torture in Iraq, reported numerous episodes of porno torture. At Abu Gharib, detained Muslim boys were sodomized and detained Muslim girls were raped. Detained Muslim men were stripped naked and stacked in pyramids. Some were forced to engage in oral sex with each other. Some were forced to wear female underwears. Reports from the Gunatanamo gulag are no less pornographic. One Muslim detainee was smeared with the menstrual blood of a prostitute. Another was led to believe, through long therapy sessions, that he was a closet homosexual -- torture aimed at dismantling the detainee's self-identity. Yet another detainee reported: Americans stripped me, hit me and beat me up. I pointed to where the pain was but they took it as a joke and they laughed. All these sadistic episodes are examples of porno torture.

Porno torture is not defined in law. However, laws do define pornography and torture separately. Pornography is visual depictions, including photograph, film, and video, of actual or simulated sexually explicit conduct. Torture is the intentional infliction of severe physical or mental pain on a person for the purposes of obtaining information or a confession, punishment, or intimidation.

From these definitions, porno torture may be deduced as the intentional infliction of severe physical or mental pain for interrogative, punitive, or abusive purposes by forcing a person to engage in sexually explicit behaviour which is recorded, or staged before a live audience.

Note that porno torture is not the same as porno conduct. What distinguishes the two is the element of consent. The person engaged in porno conduct consents to visual depictions of his or her actual or simulated sexual acts. By contrast, porno torture forces the person against his or her will to engage in actual sexual acts for or before an audience. Just like porno conduct, porno torture is also photographed, filmed, or videotaped for the gratification of others. At Abu Gharib, for example, an act of torture was committed when naked detainees were forcibly stacked in a pyramid. This act of torture turned into porno torture when sexual torture was photographed, filmed, or videotaped. Recording of sexual torture however is not critical for pornographic purposes. Porno torture may be committed for the gratification of a live audience, with or without producing any visual record.

Torture is by no means an exclusive American practice. Almost all states, including Muslim nations, practice atrocious forms of torture.

Porno torture, however, is unique. It is unique not because it is harsher but because it is unusual. Very few states have been reported to practice porno torture. So a question arises: Why has the US Torture Establishment

invented porno torture to degrade and torment Muslim men, women, and children? There can be several believable explanations. Here are two:

The first explanation is legal. The Torture Establishment knows that the United States has not fully accepted the concept of mental torture. The Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment (1984), a universally subscribed international treaty, prohibits physical or mental torture and allows no exceptions under any circumstances. In 1994, however, the United States ratified the Convention with several reservations. One reservation narrows the scope of mental torture. No mental torture is actionable under US laws unless it causes "prolonged mental harm." Accordingly, the Torture Establishment might have foolishly concluded that porno torture may be inflicted on Muslim detainees since it presumably causes no severe physical injury or prolonged mental harm.

The second explanation is cultural-religious. The Torture Establishment interprets the war on terror as a religious war. It presumes that terrorists are Muslim fundamentalists with conservative sexual morality. The presumption is valid to the extent that Islamic culture shuns porno nudity and porno sexual acts staged for the gratification of an audience. However while a multi-billion dollar porno industry is permitted under the US laws, Muslim nations practice severe censorship to minimise the entry of porno products. This awareness of cultural difference empowers the Torture Establishment to use porno torture as an effective tool in challenging, confusing, and degrading the religious orientation of Muslim detainees. The Torture Establishment is betting that porno torture would cause severe mental pain and suffering to Muslim militants but no perpetrator will be prosecuted.

It is no surprise that the military court that convicted Lynddie England found no porno torture in the case. In fact, England was not even charged for committing any form of torture. She has been found guilty of one count of conspiracy, four counts of maltreating detainees, and one count of committing an indecent act. No Iraqi detainees were summoned as witnesses to tell their story of shame, degradation, pain and suffering that porno torture inflicted on their bodies, minds, and souls. Meanwhile, the Torture Establishment has buried thousands of pictures of porno torture in confidential files to avoid responsibility.

Dr Khan is a professor of law at Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas. Any comments to