Casualties of Rape

Friday, February 23, 2007

I am the history of rape
I am the history of the rejection of who I am
I am the history of the terrorized incarceration of
my self
I am the history of battery assault and limitless
armies against whatever I want to do with my mind
and my body and my soul and
whether it's about walking out at night
or whether it's about the love that I feel or
whether it's about the sanctity of my vagina or
the sanctity of my national boundaries
or the sanctity of my leaders or the sanctity
of each and every desire
that I know from my personal and indiosyncratic
and indisputably single and singular heart
I have been raped

-- Poem About My Rights by June Jordan (excerpt)

I went to see "Casualties of War" in the theater, when it first came out. I didn't know that much about it. I liked Michael J. Fox. He was so adorable in "Family Ties." And I was fascinated by Vietnam history. I probably should have read some reviews, but I hate spoilers. So I was totally unprepared.

I try to avoid movies with sexual violence because I am a survivor of sexual assault; multiple sexual assaults actually. So I was unprepared. Images of rape... sometimes I go numb... sometimes I just curl up in a fetal ball and shake...

This morning I read that Sgt. Paul E. Cortez was sentenced to 100 years in prison. It's not enough. I wrote about this here; about how Paul Cortez and his buddies raped a 14 year old Iraqi girl. A sociopath named Steven Green, who raped and killed the girl and set her on fire -- and killed her entire family -- was conveniently discharged by the Army a short time later and is now a problem for a civilian court. Whatever sentence he gets it won't be enough. Both Cortez and Spc. James Barker plead out and got their sentences of 100 years and 90 years respectively, with a possibility of parole. Me? I wanted to see them all sentenced to the maximum penalty under the UCMJ; death.

Some years ago I was staying with some friends in a beach house. It was a summer rental packed with people I barely knew. Flipping through channels one night one of those guys I barely knew stumbled on "Casualties of War." Can we watch something else? I asked. I like this movie, he replied. My voice felt so small all of a sudden. Can we please change the channel? I squeaked. So quiet. So invisible. He didn't hear me. Or maybe he didn't care.

So I bolted. I ran to the beach. My boyfriend found me there, curled up in the sand like a fetal ball...

Rape as metaphor. War as rape. Sean Penn grabbing his crotch, proclaiming "This is a weapon." It seems almost poetic somehow. For a moment it all makes sense. But the truth is not so clean.

In the movie, like in this most recent case of life imitating art, the girl was murdered. And I feel a sense of relief that she is dead. It seems almost merciful. Rape is worse than death. Soul murder.


DavidByron said...

I would be against the death penalty. 100 years seems more than enough of a sentence, especially considering the mitigating circumstances that these people are trained to kill innocent people and therefore no big surprise when that's what they do. They were trained to hate. They were wound up tightly and sent into it.

Now don't get me wrong here. I think every soldier in Iraq should be behind bars. Every soldier in Iraq has a piece of this killing on their conscience, and every soldier that's ever been to Iraq. But the sheer size of the sentence compared especially to the outrageous slap on the wrist of 1 month or whatever it was that the other soldier got for murder, makes me wonder if they are not scapegoating here, as they did with Abu Ghraib.

It's as if by picking on a couple of grunts who went over some imaginary line the military can wash all the blood off its hands for hundreds of thousands of lives taken. At any rate at least they feel the shame. At least they understand they need the services of a scapegoat.

Curmudgette said...

Mr. Byron,
That you are an apologist for rape and ignorant of all things martial does not surprise me.

Your entire post is based on a fallacious premise. In no branch of the US military are they "trained to kill innocent people." Quite the opposite. They are trained to kill other combatants. Period. Of course what makes Iraq especially difficult, much like in Vietnam, is that it is not so clear who the combatants are.

There is no excuse for what Green and his cohorts did and the line they crossed is far from imaginary. It's clearly spelled out in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. And so they have been prosecuted. I agree that others who have crossed clear lines have skated and the fault for that goes all the way up the chain of command to CINC Bush. Worst Commander in Chief ever, who has done more to degrade the armed services than any President in American history. But I risk repeating myself.

You, Mr. Byron, should learn that it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

DavidByron said...

I didn't even mention rape because I figured as a feminist you'd be doolally over it all and just say silly things and get yourself upset.

Obviously murder is worse than death and there were many murders here not just one. Is it stating that fact that makes me a "rape apologist" or just that as a man I must be a rapist in your mind?

I am aware that you said you were married to a military guy so I am not surprised to see you have an equally emotional and irrational reaction to the idea that soldiers are responsible for their actions.

The UCMJ doesn't say "just following orders" is an excuse as you suppose. Even the Nazis military rules didn't say that. What you are putting out here in support of the troops is false. US soldiers _in theory_ are supposed to reject criminal orders.

It is a trivial axiom or ethics that when you commit a crime you are responsible for the reasonably forseeable consequences. You spout this feminist nonsense about rape being a "weapon of war" (as if a soldier runs into battle with his dick in his hand instead of a rifle) but you refuse to see that rape is a reasonably forseeable consequence of war.

By going to war the US soldiers all agreed to participate in a crime which, amongst many other things, would inevitably lead to many rapes and more to the point many hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Is anyone going to say, "Wow a rape! Nobody could have seen that coming." And that rape couldn't have happened if not for the occupation, and that criminal occupation couldn't have happened if not for the supporting acts of the US military in Iraq.

I do not know if your husband has had anything to do with Iraq or not. I hope he has not.

But the point remains the same either way.

DavidByron said...

"Obviously murder is worse than death"

should be

"Obviously murder is worse than rape"

Curmudgette said...

Mr. Byron,
Isn't there a class you can take in reading comprehension? Or do you understand perfectly well what you read and actively choose to distort it beyond all recognition. In all seriousness, is this a cognitive problem or do you just get off on saying reckless, inflammatory things to see how far you can push people? I tend to think it's a bit from column a and bit from column b.

At any rate, that last screed is not worth the time or energy it would take to set it straight. You are even more tedious and predictable than I remembered.

DavidByron said...

You know you're kind of boring when you have nothing but flame to throw around.

Do you enjoy cheap shots? If you do I suppose you'd do nothing but go around flaming people all the time. It seems then that you felt you had to make some response here. For whatever reason you didn't feel able to respond to the substance of my comment but couldn't just stay quiet either.

In fact you've done pretty much nothing but flame me in this very boring manner since I arrived here. You're obviously capable of better. Better even as flame. I mean even the flame is lame. You're really phoning it in.

I deduce that you feel obliged to respond to me even when you have nothing to say. Why is that?

Do you want me to go? I did make that offer and you appear to have read it. You don't have to try and bore me into going if that's the idea.

You have an interesting way of thinking on some things. That's why I am here. If you are just going to phone it in there's not much point in either of us going through this is there?

You have comments enabled because you want people to leave comments, right?

Curmudgette said...

There is no substance in your comments to respond to.

As I said before:

If you leave your comments here, I may rebut them, but if memory serves, you are fairly impervious to new information, so I may just ignore them and trust that my readers can parse for themselves.

But as per my recollection of your previous online escapades, you are fact resistant and logic averse. You just make shit up. It is fruitless to engage you. I do not have the time, energy, or inclination to sate your rapacious need for attention.

DavidByron said...

Another 100% flame comment. You appear to be trolling your own site. If I'm not worth talking to then why do you keep posting replies?

What would you think of someone who behaved like you elsewhere? Someone who had nothing substantial to say and happily admited they didn't but insisted on posting flame all the place? Constantly provoking people who had been nothing polite to her?