by Doctor Science
This post is about the attack on Lara Logan, and rape as a weapon of war and policy.
Summary: Sexualized violence, rape, and even gang rape are not just signs of bestiality, barbarism, or boys inevitably being boys: they can be military and police tactics, and they are part of the toolbox of U.S. as well as Egyptian military/intelligence forces.
SERIOUS TRIGGER AND RAGE WARNING.
As reported by CBS news:
Lara Logan was covering the jubilation in Tahrir Square for a "60 Minutes" story when she and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration. It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into frenzy.As with any report about rape, some of the news and blogospheric coverage -- and many blog and especially news-site comments -- have been horrifically vile, the kind of thing that makes a woman think about moving to (a) a lesbian separatist commune, or (b) Mars. Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon has a good roundup, filtered for your sanity and blood pressure.
In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers.
Many people feel that the attack on Logan -- which I think the evidence would call "gang rape" -- is only to be expected in a misogynistic, Islamic society. Others stress that this kind of behavior is barbaric, not culture-specific. Feminists point out that gang rape happens in nice white Christian societies, too. Female reporters say that rape is an occupational hazard for them.
One point I have not seen discussed is that rape is one of the things the United States paid the Mubarak regime for. Sexualized violence, rape, and even gang rape are not just signs of bestiality, barbarism, or boys inevitably being boys: they can be military and police tactics, and they are part of the toolbox of U.S. as well as Egyptian military/intelligence forces.
the Interior Ministry and the Central Security Services started outsourcing coercion to these baltagiya, paying them well and training them to use sexualized brutality (from groping to rape) in order to punish and deter female protesters and male detainees, alike.Emphasis is my own, to stress that rape is not actually something most men will do "naturally" or "instinctively": it is something that has to be taught or "modeled", especially if you're using it to make a directed political point or military tactic.
In Chapter 6 of The Dark Side, "Outsourcing Torture", Jane Mayer outlines how Mubarak's Intelligence Services (Mukhabarat) was the CIA's trusted ally when the U.S. wanted to torture someone without getting blood directly on American hands. This torture would include whatever might break a person, including -- maybe even especially including -- rape. The willingness of Egyptian Intelligence to use sexualized violence -- their tactical experience with rape -- was one of their skills, one of the things the U.S. bought with our military and foreign aid to Egypt (about $2B/year, almost all of it for military or "security" purposes).
Not that Americans can't do the job on their own. A fair amount of the reported prisoner abuse at both Abu Gharib and Guantanamo involved rape, object rape, or threats of rape. Here in the U.S., prison rape is notoriously common, and tolerated by prison officials and the justice system. Jokes about prison rape are common, and expressions of schadenfreude at the arrest of criminals often anticipate that the criminal will be raped as they "deserve". It's pretty clear to me that at least a substantial minority of Americans think rape is an appropriate deterrent or punishment for all sorts of crimes.
The U.S. military don't just use rape against prisoners or enemies, it also tolerates rape against its own personnel. This same week, as many Americans take the opportunity to castigate Egyptian or Muslim culture for its "barbaric" treatment of women, more than a dozen U.S. veterans who say they were raped or assaulted by comrades filed a class-action suit in federal court Tuesday attempting to force the Pentagon to change how it handles such cases.
The suit names Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld. The plaintiffs say individual commanders have too much say in how allegations are handled and that they want reforms in the system.As I wrote when talking about rape culture in the military, when decent treatment depends entirely on the Commanding Officer, it proves that decent treatment is *not* policy: policy comes from higher-up and is enforced by military discipline. I'm certain that some US military units do not tolerate rape either inside or outside the unit, but it's also clear that some *do* -- which means that rape is available as a tactic, something a commander can tolerate or even encourage to get a desired result.
In one incident, an Army Reservist says two male colleagues raped her in Iraq and videotaped the attack. She complained to authorities after the men circulated the video to colleagues. Despite being bruised from her shoulders to elbows from being held down, she says charges weren't filed because the commander determined she "did not act like a rape victim" and "did not struggle enough" and authorities said they didn't want to delay the scheduled return of the alleged attackers to the United States.
To get back to Logan's case: the report says she was attacked by a *group*, not some random person, nor were they a mob or crowd -- in the sense of people who are complete strangers to each other. The people who attacked her had some sort of connection to each other, some association, though there's no telling right now what that association was or what political faction they were part of. But the toolbox of "things a group of Egyptians inclined to violence might easily do" definitely includes rape and sexual assault: this is something they have all heard of, something they might have done before or that might have been done to them. And the United States has helped make it that way.