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May 4, 2004
Do you think it was right for The New Yorker to print those pictures? I asked Q.

He thought for a moment. I think so, he said. You have to see them to understand how bad it was. You couldn't imagine it.

He is right -- when I turned the page and saw the photograph of a huddle of naked bodies, surmounted by the smiling girl-next-door face of a blonde American woman, I thought at first it was some kind of performance art. Bizarre. To look more closely and realize that the grinning girl was an American soldier filled me with something I did not recognize at first, and I closed the magazine.

What it filled me with was shame.

Shame, on behalf of the woman. What on earth was she doing? What could she have been thinking? And what can the Arab world possibly think, confronted with this pert American cheerleader-looking girl in such a place and such a posture? The damage to our already-shaky credibility there may be irreparable.

I betray some biases: that women should be better than men. That they should exercise more self-control. That women are not cruel like that, that only men are -- almost all sexual predators are men. Guilty. I do have those biases. And I'll probably hold onto them for a while, on the off chance that somebody will grow into them.

This is an isolated incident, we are told. An aberration. It had better be. One wonders why the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs didn't know about it until it came out in the paper. And why he didn't ask.

We weren't trained in dealing with prisoners, one of the soldiers involved in this repellent incident whined. Oh, please. You have to be trained not to strip men naked and pose them in sexual postures? And by the way, don't attach any electrical wires to people's genitalia?

They were preparing the prisoners for interrogation. Wearing them down. There was intense pressure to get people to talk. Okay. But every soldier reads the Geneva Convention -- in case he or she is captured. The rights you have are the rights you must extend to others.
Think about that, and be very scared.
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