The Instrument of Total War

David Rosen’s Counterpunch story “Rape as an Instrument of Total War” on AlterNet has sparked some thinking on my part about the conceptualization of war beyond the physical. As Rosen points out, through sex crimes have ‘always’ been a part of war (and are therefore an interesting point of discussion when we decide to evaluate how we perceive a domination and/or eradication of the other, and what gender that Other takes on). The Old Testament is replete with stories of the rape of women by conquering tribes. They have long been raped and kidnapped as “spoils of war” and often forced to marry their captors to survive. The abduction of Helen of Troy remains, after two-and-a-half centuries, a testament to the consequences of male conquest.

Yet the rules for warfare have shifted from dramatically physical to, in the WOT, drastically separate. How have sex crimes changed because of it?

For one, the reporting and tauting of sexualized crimes has gone down. This does not in any correlate to a supposed decline in the actions of these crimes. If anything it has given greater cover to their numbers and levels of intensity. Redacted showed us that clearly enough. For instance Rosen reports:

Charges of rapes of Vietnamese women by U.S. soldiers were made by Susan Brownmiller and others during the war (e.g., “Against Our Will,” 1975). It wasn’t until only quite recently that the full scale of confirmed atrocities by American forces in Vietnam was revealed to be more extensive than previously known. Reports in the Toledo Blade [October 19, 2003] and the Los Angeles Times [August 6, 2006] discuss more than three hundred atrocities (including rapes) that were finally substantiated by Army investigators, and this does not include the most notorious U.S. war crime, the 1968 My Lai massacre.

The eradication of the civilian population has been a strong and strongly denied theme throughout the WOT. Our aerial bombing and “high precision” yet low success strike tactics have left inconceivable damage on the face of the Iraqi and Afghani landscape. Not to mention doing little to contain or detract from terrorism: you cannot eradicate a movment when you play by their dominant rules.

Rape is the form of absolute war. It is a physical invasion and a display of unthinkable dominance, the purposeful depletion of one soul due to the force of another body. It represents the quintessential separation between heart and body, between what (if those who call themselves Christian or even fundamental ever cared to look at old Hebrew texts) we know to be our kidneys and our stomaches, our hearts and our eyes.

Sexual crimes femininize not by the body but by the submission of physical will. They represent an unthinking yet actualizing hegemony, a diversion from the nature of Evil which shows itself to us when the action could not have been preceded by empathetic thought.


~ by 1womanarmy on April 14, 2008.

One Response to “The Instrument of Total War”

  1. As a Vnam Vet. I can see the americans wanting to put their sperm into the Iraq society. If it can be done with the democratic way,no harm done. I would protect my women with roadbombs and anything to stop that advance. The japanese protected theirs,and pulled that act on Korea. If the loser was the winner,it would be the same way.All’s fair in love and rape? Look’s like it.

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