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Forum Post: Men Who Kick Down Doors: Tyrants at Home and Abroad

Posted 7 years ago on March 22, 2013, 9:40 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Men Who Kick Down Doors: Tyrants at Home and Abroad

Thursday, 21 March 2013 10:25 By Ann Jones, TomDispatch | News Analysis


Picture this. A man, armored in tattoos, bursts into a living room not his own. He confronts an enemy. He barks orders. He throws that enemy into a chair. Then against a wall. He plants himself in the middle of the room, feet widespread, fists clenched, muscles straining, face contorted in a scream of rage. The tendons in his neck are taut with the intensity of his terrifying performance. He chases the enemy to the next room, stopping escape with a quick grab and thrust and body block that pins the enemy, bent back, against a counter. He shouts more orders: his enemy can go with him to the basement for a “private talk,” or be beaten to a pulp right here. Then he wraps his fingers around the neck of his enemy and begins to choke her.

No, that invader isn’t an American soldier leading a night raid on an Afghan village, nor is the enemy an anonymous Afghan householder. This combat warrior is just a guy in Ohio named Shane. He’s doing what so many men find exhilarating: disciplining his girlfriend with a heavy dose of the violence we render harmless by calling it “domestic.”

It’s easy to figure out from a few basic facts that Shane is a skilled predator. Why else does a 31-year-old man lavish attention on a pretty 19-year-old with two children (ages four and two, the latter an equally pretty and potentially targeted little female)? And what more vulnerable girlfriend could he find than this one, named Maggie: a neglected young woman, still a teenager, who for two years had been raising her kids on her own while her husband fought a war in Afghanistan? That war had broken the family apart, leaving Maggie with no financial support and more alone than ever.

But the way Shane assaulted Maggie, he might just as well have been a night-raiding soldier terrorizing an Afghan civilian family in pursuit of some dangerous Talib, real or imagined. For all we know, Maggie’s estranged husband/soldier might have acted in the same way in some Afghan living room and not only been paid but also honored for it. The basic behavior is quite alike: an overwhelming display of superior force. The tactics: shock and awe. The goal: to control the behavior, the very life, of the designated target. The mind set: a sense of entitlement when it comes to determining the fate of a subhuman creature. The dark side: the fear and brutal rage of a scared loser who inflicts his miserable self on others.

As for that designated enemy, just as American exceptionalism asserts the superiority of the United States over all other countries and cultures on Earth, and even over the laws that govern international relations, misogyny -- which seems to inform so much in the United States these days, from military boot camp to the Oscars to full frontal political assaults on a woman’s right to control her own body -- assures even the most pathetic guys like Shane of their innate superiority over some “thing” usually addressed with multiple obscenities.

Since 9/11, the further militarization of our already militarized culture has reached new levels. Official America, as embodied in our political system and national security state, now seems to be thoroughly masculine, paranoid, quarrelsome, secretive, greedy, aggressive, and violent. Readers familiar with “domestic violence” will recognize those traits as equally descriptive of the average American wife beater: scared but angry and aggressive, and feeling absolutely entitled to control something, whether it’s just a woman, or a small wretched country like Afghanistan.

Connecting the Dots

It was John Stuart Mill, writing in the nineteenth century, who connected the dots between “domestic” and international violence. But he didn’t use our absurdly gender-neutral, pale gray term “domestic violence.” He called it “wife torture” or “atrocity,” and he recognized that torture and atrocity are much the same, no matter where they take place -- whether today in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Wardak Province, Afghanistan, or a bedroom or basement in Ohio. Arguing in 1869 against the subjection of women, Mill wrote that the Englishman’s habit of household tyranny and “wife torture” established the pattern and practice for his foreign policy. The tyrant at home becomes the tyrant at war. Home is the training ground for the big games played overseas.

Mill believed that, in early times, strong men had used force to enslave women and the majority of their fellow men. By the nineteenth century, however, the “law of the strongest” seemed to him to have been “abandoned” -- in England at least -- “as the regulating principle of the world’s affairs.” Slavery had been renounced. Only in the household did it continue to be practiced, though wives were no longer openly enslaved but merely “subjected” to their husbands. This subjection, Mill said, was the last vestige of the archaic “law of the strongest,” and must inevitably fade away as reasonable men recognized its barbarity and injustice. Of his own time, he wrote that “nobody professes” the law of the strongest, and “as regards most of the relations between human beings, nobody is permitted to practice it.”

Well, even a feminist may not be right about everything. Times often change for the worse, and rarely has the law of the strongest been more popular than it is in the United States today. Routinely now we hear congressmen declare that the U.S. is the greatest nation in the world because it is the greatest military power in history, just as presidents now regularly insist that the U.S. military is “the finest fighting force in the history of the world.” Never mind that it rarely wins a war. Few here question that primitive standard -- the law of the strongest -- as the measure of this America’s dwindling “civilization.”

The War Against Women

Mill, however, was right about the larger point: that tyranny at home is the model for tyranny abroad. What he perhaps didn’t see was the perfect reciprocity of the relationship that perpetuates the law of the strongest both in the home and far away.

When tyranny and violence are practiced on a grand scale in foreign lands, the practice also intensifies at home. As American militarism went into overdrive after 9/11, it validated violence against women here, where Republicans held up reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (first passed in 1994), and celebrities who publicly assaulted their girlfriends faced no consequences other than a deluge of sympathetic girl-fan tweets.

America’s invasions abroad also validated violence within the U.S. military itself. An estimated 19,000 women soldiers were sexually assaulted in 2011; and an unknown number have been murdered by fellow soldiers who were, in many cases, their husbands or boyfriends. A great deal of violence against women in the military, from rape to murder, has been documented, only to be casually covered up by the chain of command.

Violence against civilian women here at home, on the other hand, may not be reported or tallied at all, so the full extent of it escapes notice. Men prefer to maintain the historical fiction that violence in the home is a private matter, properly and legally concealed behind a “curtain.” In this way is male impunity and tyranny maintained. Women cling to a fiction of our own: that we are much more “equal” than we are. Instead of confronting male violence, we still prefer to lay the blame for it on individual women and girls who fall victim to it -- as if they had volunteered. But then, how to explain the dissonant fact that at least one of every three female American soldiers is sexually assaulted by a male “superior”? Surely that’s not what American women had in mind when they signed up for the Marines or for Air Force flight training. In fact, lots of teenage girls volunteer for the military precisely to escape violence and sexual abuse in their childhood homes or streets.

Don’t get me wrong, military men are neither alone nor out of the ordinary in terrorizing women. The broader American war against women has intensified on many fronts here at home, right along with our wars abroad. Those foreign wars have killed uncounted thousands of civilians, many of them women and children, which could make the private battles of domestic warriors like Shane here in the U.S. seem puny by comparison. But it would be a mistake to underestimate the firepower of the Shanes of our American world. The statistics tell us that a legal handgun has been the most popular means of dispatching a wife, but when it comes to girlfriends, guys really get off onbeating them to death.

Some 3,073 people were killed in the terrorist attacks on the United States on 9/11. Between that day and June 6, 2012, 6,488 U.S. soldiers were killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing the death toll for America’s war on terror at home and abroad to 9,561. During the same period, 11,766 women were murdered in the United States by their husbands or boyfriends, both military and civilian. The greater number of women killed here at home is a measure of the scope and the furious intensity of the war against women, a war that threatens to continue long after the misconceived war on terror is history.



Read the Rules
[-] 1 points by OTP (-203) from Tampa, FL 7 years ago

The rise of MMA goes hand in hand with this.

Way too many people with no self control trying to be the ultimate badass.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 years ago

Getting the Picture

Think about Shane, standing there in a nondescript living room in Ohio screaming his head off like a little child who wants what he wants when he wants it. Reportedly, he was trying to be a good guy and make a career as a singer in a Christian rock band. But like the combat soldier in a foreign war who is modeled after him, he uses violence to hold his life together and accomplish his mission. We know about Shane only because there happened to be a photographer on the scene. Sara Naomi Lewkowicz had chosen to document the story of Shane and his girlfriend Maggie out of sympathy for his situation as an ex-con, recently released from prison yet not free of the stigma attached to a man who had done time. Then, one night, there he was in the living room throwing Maggie around, and Lewkowicz did what any good combat photographer would do as a witness to history: she kept shooting. That action alone was a kind of intervention and may have saved Maggie’s life.

In the midst of the violence, Lewkowicz also dared to snatch from Shane’s pocket her own cell phone, which he had borrowed earlier. It’s unclear whether she passed the phone to someone else or made the 911 call herself. The police arrested Shane, and a smart policewoman told Maggie: “You know, he’s not going to stop. They never stop. They usually stop when they kill you.”

Maggie did the right thing. She gave the police a statement. Shane is back in prison. And Lewkowicz’s remarkable photographs were posted online on February 27th at Time magazine’s website feature Lightbox under the heading “Photographer As Witness: A Portrait of Domestic Violence.”

The photos are remarkable because the photographer is very good and the subject of her attention is so rarely caught on camera. Unlike warfare covered in Iraq and Afghanistan by embedded combat photographers, wife torture takes place mostly behind closed doors, unannounced and unrecorded. The first photographs of wife torture to appear in the U.S. were Donna Ferrato’s now iconic images of violence against women at home.

Like Lewkowicz, Ferrato came upon wife torture by chance; she was documenting a marriage in 1980 when the happy husband chose to beat up his wife. Yet so reluctant were photo editors to pull aside the curtain of domestic privacy that even after Ferrato became a Life photographer in 1984, pursuing the same subject, nobody, including Life, wanted to publish the shocking images she produced.

In 1986, six years after she witnessed that first assault, some of her photographs of violence against women in the home were published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and brought her the 1987 Robert F. Kennedy journalism award “for outstanding coverage of the problems of the disadvantaged.” In 1991, Aperture, the publisher of distinguished photography books, brought out Ferrato’s eye-opening body of work as Living with the Enemy (for which I wrote an introduction). Since then, the photos have been widely reproduced.Time used a Ferrato image on its cover in 1994, when the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson briefly drew attention to what the magazine called “the epidemic of domestic abuse” and Lightbox featured a small retrospective of her domestic violence work on June 27, 2012.

Ferrato herself started a foundation, offering her work to women’s groups across the country to exhibit at fundraisers for local shelters and services. Those photo exhibitions also helped raise consciousness across America and certainly contributed to smarter, less misogynistic police procedures of the kind that put Shane back in jail.

Ferrato’s photos were incontrovertible evidence of the violence in our homes, rarely acknowledged and never before so plainly seen. Yet until February 27th, when with Ferrato’s help, Sara Naomi Lewkowicz’s photos were posted on Lightbox only two months after they were taken, Ferrato’s photos were all we had. We needed more. So there was every reason for Lewkowicz’s work to be greeted with acclaim by photographers and women everywhere.

Instead, in more than 1,700 comments posted at Lightbox, photographer Lewkowicz was mainly castigated for things like not dropping her camera and taking care to get Maggie’s distraught two-year-old daughter out of the room or singlehandedly stopping the assault. (Need it be said that stopping combat is not the job of combat photographers?)

Maggie, the victim of this felonious assault, was also mercilessly denounced: for going out with Shane in the first place, for failing to foresee his violence, for “cheating” on her already estranged husband fighting in Afghanistan, and inexplicably for being a “perpetrator.” Reviewing the commentary for theColumbia Journalism Review, Jina Moore concluded, “[T]here’s one thing all the critics seem to agree on: The only adult in the house not responsible for the violence is the man committing it.”

They Only Stop When They Kill You

Viewers of these photographs -- photos that accurately reflect the daily violence so many women face -- seem to find it easy to ignore, or even praise, the raging man behind it all. So, too, do so many find it convenient to ignore the violence that America’s warriors abroad inflict under orders on a mass scale upon women and children in war zones.

The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq had the effect of displacing millions from their homes within the country or driving them into exile in foreign lands. Rates of rape and atrocity were staggering, as I learned firsthand when in 2008-2009 I spent time in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon talking with Iraqi refugees. In addition, those women who remain in Iraq now live under the rule of conservative Islamists, heavily influenced by Iran. Under the former secular regime, Iraqi women were considered the most advanced in the Arab world; today, they say they have been set back a century.

In Afghanistan, too, while Americans take credit for putting women back in the workplace and girls in school, untold thousands of women and children have been displaced internally, many to makeshift camps on the outskirts of Kabul where 17 children froze to death last January. The U.N. reported 2,754 civilian deaths and 4,805 civilian injuries as a result of the war in 2012, the majority of them women and children. In a country without a state capable of counting bodies, these are undoubtedly significant undercounts. A U.N. official said, “It is the tragic reality that most Afghan women and girls were killed or injured while engaging in their everyday activities.” Thousands of women in Afghan cities have been forced into survival sex, as were Iraqi women who fled as refugees to Beirut and particularly Damascus.

That’s what male violence is meant to do to women. The enemy. War itself is a kind of screaming tattooed man, standing in the middle of a room -- or another country -- asserting the law of the strongest. It’s like a reset button on history that almost invariably ensures women will find themselves subjected to men in ever more terrible ways. It’s one more thing that, to a certain kind of man, makes going to war, like good old-fashioned wife torture, so exciting and so much fun.

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[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 years ago

Who Did You Rape in the War, Daddy?: A Question for Veterans that Needs Answering

Tuesday, 19 March 2013 11:43 By Nick Turse, TomDispatch | Op-Ed


On August 31, 1969, a rape was committed in Vietnam. Maybe numerous rapes were committed there that day, but this was a rare one involving American GIs that actually made its way into the military justice system.

And that wasn’t the only thing that set it apart.

War is obscene. I mean that in every sense of the word. Some veterans will tell you that you can’t know war if you haven’t served in one, if you haven’t seen combat. These are often the same guys who won’t tell you the truths that they know about war and who never think to blame themselves in any way for our collective ignorance. The truth is, you actually can know a lot about war without fighting in one. It just isn’t the sort of knowledge that’s easy to come by. There are more than 30,000 books on the Vietnam War in print. There are volumes on the decision-making of Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, grand biographies of Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, rafts of memoirs by American soldiers -- some staggeringly well-written, many not -- and plenty of disposable paperbacks about snipers, medics, and field Marines. I can tell you from experience that if you read a few dozen of the best of them, you can get a fairly good idea about what that war was really like. Maybe not perfect knowledge, but a reasonable picture anyway. Or you can read several hundred of the middling-to-poor books and, if you pay special attention to the few real truths buried in all the run-of-the-mill war stories, you’ll still get some feeling for war American-style. The main problem with most of those books is the complete lack of Vietnamese voices. The Vietnam War killed more than 58,000 Americans. That’s a lot of people and a lot of heartache. It deserves attention. But it killed several million Vietnamese and severely affected -- and I mean severely -- the lives of many millions more. That deserves a whole lot more focus.

Missing in Action (From Our Histories)

From American histories, you would think the primary feature of the Vietnam War was combat. It wasn’t. Suffering was the main characteristic of the war in Southeast Asia. Millions of Vietnamese suffered: injuries and deaths, loss, privation, hunger, dislocation, house burnings, detention, imprisonment, and torture. Some experienced one or another of these every day for years on end. That’s suffering beyond the capacity of even our ablest writers to capture in a single book.

Unfortunately, however, that’s not the problem. The problem is that almost no one has tried. Vietnamese are bit characters in American histories of the war, Vietnamese civilians most of all. Americans who tromped, humped, and slogged through Vietnam on one-year tours of duty are invariably the focus of those histories, while Vietnamese who endured a decade or even decades of war remain, at best, in the background or almost totally missing. (And by the way, it’s no less true for most of the major movies about the war. Remember the Vietnamese main characters in Apocalypse Now? Platoon? Full MetalJacket? Hamburger Hill? Me neither.)

The reasons for this are many and varied, ranging from racism and ethnocentrism to pure financial calculation. Few Americans want to read real stories about foreign civilians caught up in America’s wars. Almost no one wants to read an encyclopedia of atrocities or a tome-like chronology of suffering. And most Americans, above all, have never wanted to know the grotesque truths of their wars. Luckily for them, most veterans have been willing to oblige -- keeping the darkest secrets of that war hidden (even while complaining that no one can really know what they went through).

The truth is, we don’t even know the full story of that war’s obscenity when it comes to the American experience. This, too, has been sanitized and swapped out for tales of combat horror or “realistic” accounts of the war in the boonies that focus on repulsive realities like soldiers stepping on shit-smeared punji sticks, suffering from crotch rot, or keeling over from dehydration. Such accounts, we’ve been assured, offer a more honest depiction of the horrors of war and the men who nobly bore them.

Don’t believe it.

As the narrator of Tim O’Brien’s "How to Tell a True War Story" puts it:

“A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil.”

Which brings us back to that rape on August 31, 1969.

Aside from Daniel Lang’s Casualties of War, a brilliantly-compact and harrowing account of the kidnap, gang-rape, and murder of a young Vietnamese girl (a New Yorker article-turned-book-turned-movie), you’re not likely to encounter the story of the rape of a Vietnamese woman by Americans in “the literature.” And yet the sexual assault of civilians by GIs was far from uncommon, even if you can read thousands of books on the Vietnam War and have little inkling that it ever happened. Hints about the harassment or sexual assault of American women -- nurses, enlisted women, and so-called Donut Dollies -- also rarely make it into the histories. And you can read most, perhaps all, of those 30,000 books without ever coming across a case of GI-on-GI rape in Vietnam.

But that’s just what happened on that August 31st at a U.S. base in Vietnam’s far south, when three GI’s attacked a fellow American, a fellow soldier. For the purposes of this piece, we’ll call him Specialist Curtis. We know his story because the court martial records of one of his assailants, who was found guilty of and sentenced to prison time, made it to the National Archives where I found the document. But really, we know it because, according to the military judge presiding over the case, Curtis delivered “clear, strong, convincing, not halting, not hesitant, not reluctant, straight-forward, direct, willing, sincere, and not evasive” testimony. He and others told a brutal story, an obscene story -- that is, a true war story.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 years ago

What Veterans Won’t Tell You

Curtis was feeling sick that late summer day and wouldn’t drink with his hootch-mates, so they pounced on him, held his mouth open, and poured whisky down his throat. When he began to retch, they let him go and he ran outside to throw up. He returned to his bunk and they attacked him again. The cycle repeated itself twice more.

The last attempt to force Curtis to drink began with a threat. If he didn’t imbibe with them -- “them” being a fellow specialist, a private first class, and a private -- they swore they would anally rape him. Curtis resisted.

In a flash, the three tore off his bed sheets and flipped him onto his stomach. They leaned on him to hold him down as he thrashed and bucked, while they ripped off his underwear. Then they smeared hand lotion all over his buttocks. As Curtis cried out for help, the private mounted him. He began to rape him and was heard to exclaim that it was “really good, it was tight.” After the private was finished, the private first class raped Curtis. The specialist followed. “I know you enjoy it,” Curtis heard one of them say before he blacked out from the pain. Across the hootch, another private watched the entire episode. Curtis had protested, he’d later say, but this soldier did nothing to intervene. He was, he later testified, “very scared” of the three attackers.

After Curtis regained consciousness, he retreated to the showers. When he finally returned to the hootch, the fellow specialist who raped him issued a threat. If he reported the attack, they would swear that he had paid them $20 each to have sex with him.

That’s a true war story.

And that’s a Vietnam War story that’s absent from our histories of the conflict -- all 30,000 of them.

Given the stigma attached to rape, especially decades ago, and the added stigma attached to male rape victims, it’s shocking that the case ever became public, no less that it went to trial in a military court, or that the victim gave clear, graphic, painful testimony. The truth was out there, but no one ever told this story to the wider world -- neither the victim, the perpetrators, the witnesses, the lawyers, the judge, the commanders at the base, nor a historian. You could read thousands of books on the Vietnam War -- even books devoted to hidden histories, secrets, and the like -- and never know that, in addition to rifles and rice paddies, war is also about rape, even male-on-male rape, even GI-on-GI rape. Just how many such rapes occurred, we’ll never know, because such acts were and generally still are kept secret.

Veterans don’t tell these stories. They almost never offer up accounts of murder, assault, torture, or rape unsolicited. They don’t want you to know. Such realities need to be mined out of them. I’ve done it for the last 10 years, and believe me, it can be exhausting. Veterans, their advocates, and their defenders often tell us it’s never okay to ask if a soldier or marine killed somebody “over there.” But if veterans refuse to offer up unsanitized accounts of their wartime experiences and it’s improper for us to ask what they did, how can civilians be faulted for failing to understand war?

To set the historical record straight, I’ve traveled across the globe, walked into people’s homes, and asked them questions to which, in a better world than ours, no one should have to know the answers. I’ve asked elderly Vietnamese to recount the most horrific traumas imaginable. I’ve induced rivers of tears. I’ve sat impassively, taking notes as an older woman, bouncing her grandchild on her knee, told me what it was like to be raped with an American weapon.

As I said, war is obscene.

I also asked these questions of American veterans because -- some notable andiconic exceptions aside -- too few have had the courage of that Vietnamese grandmother. After all, some American raped her with that weapon, but as far as I know -- and if anybody knew, it would probably be me -- he never leveled with the American public about the true nature of his war. He never told the truth, publicly apologized, voiced regret, or even for that matter boasted about it, nor did he ever make a case for why raping a woman with a weapon was warranted in wartime. He kept it a secret and, if he’s still alive, continues to do so today. We all suffer for his silence.

On a single day in August 1969, on one base, three GIs raped a fellow American soldier. Three rapes. One day. What does that mean? What does it say about men? About the military? About war? We can’t know for sure because we’ll never know the whole truth of sexual assault in Vietnam. The men involved in wartime sex crimes -- in raping Vietnamese women, in sodomizing them, in violating them with bottles and rifle muzzles, in sexually assaulting American women, in raping American men -- have mostly remained silent about it.

One of the rapists in this case may have passed away, but at least one is still apparently alive in the United States. Maybe even on your street. For decades we knew nothing of their crimes, so we know less than we should about the Vietnam War and about war in general. Maybe it’s time to start asking questions of our veterans. Hard questions. They shouldn’t be the only ones with the knowledge of what goes on in armies and in war zones. They didn’t get to Vietnam (or Iraq or Afghanistan) on their own and they shouldn’t shoulder the blame or the truth alone and in silence. We all bear it. We all need to hear it. The sooner, the better.

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