Indeed, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 was written deliberately with loopholes that gave immunity to perpetrators of many kinds of sexual humiliation and abuse.
There is also the testimony by female soldiers such as Lynndie England about compelling male prisoners to masturbate, as well as an FBI memo objecting to a policy of "highly aggressive interrogation techniques".
The memo cites a female interrogator rubbing lotion on a shackled detainee and whispering in his ear – during Ramadan when sexual contact with a strange woman would be most offensive – then suddenly bending back his thumbs until he grimaced in pain, and violently grabbing his genitals. Sexual abuse in US-operated prisons got worse and worse over time, ultimately including, according to doctors who examined detainees, anal sodomy.
All this may sound bizarre if you are a normal person, but it is standard operating procedure for sex offenders. Those who work in the field know that once sex abusers control a powerless victim, they will invariably push the boundaries with ever more extreme behavior.
Abusers start by undressing their victims, but once that line has been breached, you are likely to hear from the victim about oral and anal penetration, greater and greater pain and fear being inflicted, and more and more carelessness about exposing the crimes as the perpetrator's inhibitions fall away.
The perpetrator is also likely to engage in ever-escalating rationalizations, often arguing that the offenses serve a greater good. Finally, the victim is blamed for the abuse: in the case of the detainees, if they would only "behave", and confess, they wouldn't bring all this on themselves.
Silence, and even collusion, is also typical of sex crimes within a family. Americans are behaving like a dysfunctional family by shielding sex criminals in their midst through silence.
Just as sex criminals – and the leaders who directed the use of rape and sexual abuse as a military strategy – were tried and sentenced after the wars in Bosnia and Sierra Leone, so Americans must hold accountable those who committed, or authorized, sex crimes in US-operated prisons.
Throughout the world, this perverse and graphic criminality has added fuel to anxiety about US cultural and military power. These acts need to be called by their true names – war crimes and sex crimes – and people in America need to demand justice for the perpetrators and their victims. As in a family, only when people start to speak out and tell the truth about rape and sexual assault can the healing begin.
The author is a writer and co-founder of the American Freedom Campaign
(China Daily July 24, 2008)