Unwinding Torture


“There is no such thing as a little bit of torture.” -Rear Admiral John Hutson

When I first was informed about the photographs of Abu Ghraib, I did not expect to see what those pictures displayed.  I was always somewhat aware of the iconic function of an image, but these photos brought that meaning to a whole new level.  I couldn’t decide whether I was more horrified or shocked, but above all of that, I did not know exactly what the significance was behind them.  After being informed a little bit more on the subject matter, I felt distressed to know that our soldiers were behind all of this.  I believe this was the first time I was not proud of our soldiers, but confused and wanted an explanation.  Although there are many pieces on this matter, it was not until I read Judith Butler’s, Frames of War: Survivability, Vulnerability, Affect, that some of my questions were answered.

In Chapter 1 of Frames of War, Butler focuses on certain issues and questions in relation to the context of war.  She believes that during wartime, there is a heightened sense of national identity.  Within this chapter, Butler calls into question whom the subject is, and who fits or does not fit into the cultural conception of human, during times of war.  Within this matter, Butler conveys the circumstances under which a life is ungrievable.  “An ungrievable life is one that cannot be mourned because it has never lived, that is, it has never counted as a life at all” (Butler 38).  Butler calls into question, “Why is it that the government so often seeks to regulate and control who will be publicly grievable and who will not?”  To demonstrate her point, she brings forth some of the photographs and poetry of Abu Ghraib prisoners, along with the controversy surrounding them.  From the content of the poetry, the collective pain the poets felt was revealed.  In a poem written by Abdulla Majid al-Noaimi, “My rib is broken, and I can find no one to heal me-My body is frail, and I can see no relief ahead.”  From the content of this poetry that Butler includes, it is also revealed how torture exploits the vulnerability of the body.  It becomes evident, among other things, that human bodies are denoted as vulnerable entities in this chapter of Frames of War by Judith Butler.

-Nicki Moon


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