Monday, April 14, 2008

Sound familiar?

In Zimbabwe this week, the high court has decided to go against the popular vote to anoint a president based on a shady recount.

Sound familiar?


Friday, April 11, 2008

Historiann on rape and war, and my thoughts

Charming afternoon topic, i know. But since i got pulled in over there and started going off, I thought I'd link to the discussion here, as well. Historiann asks:
Do you think there are some universal–or near universal–laws about rape in warfare, or about rape in general? Do you know of any exceptions to my (informed guess) that in modern warfare, “women’s rights and safety are dramatically degraded in war zones, and that women’s rights are never the priorities of the new governments that rise in the wake of these wars.”

Here's my response, in part:

It is (obviously) well-known that the promise of rape and/or prostitution is a major ‘reward’ held out by armies in all ages to motivate men to fight. I was recently reading a fascinating study of Temur (tamerlane) in which, upon sacking a city, the emperor ordered his men to bring him a certain number of enemy heads — and, amazingly, to rape (a certain number of) enemy women. Thus rape becomes both a quantified punishment to the subject population, and (obviously) a quantifiable ‘reward’ to his troops.

The Comfort Women book mentioned above is, of course, an absolute classic in the field- because it shows how much a modern state can *use* sex as part of the mythologizing of masculinity, and as part of the forced conversion of citizens into soldiers: japanese soldiers apparently didn’t feel like they were prepared for battle unless they’d visited a comfort woman prior to the campaign.

To my mind, there’s only one aspect of rape’s usage in warfare that you don’t touch on in this post: propaganda that the other side is going to rape your women. I’m most familiar with the phenomena in WWII and its aftermath, although I’m sure you could go back far further. In the european theater, both German and Russian propaganda harped almost incessantly on the uncivilized, sexualized barbarians the Huns (Russians) or germans were. Most interestingly to me, though, is the fact that by the end of the war, fear of the (presumed) mass rape of German women by rampaging Russian soldiers became quite possibly the single largest feature of Nazi propaganda on the front. The argument was simple, really, and quite brilliant as a piece of propaganda: implicitly, it was ‘they’re going to do to your wives what you did to theirs’.

What’s even more interesting to me, though, is that this myth- substantiated in part by the widespread actual crimes committed by invading Russian soldiers, became a central plank of the immidiate postwar west german state-sanctioned collective memory.(It’s still incredibly controversial how widespread it was– it’s very hard to research Nazi victims and not be called an apologist to genocide). The Massenvergewaeltigung (Mass rapes), as they were called, began to serve as way for postwar germany to come to terms with defeat, and disgrace, and to re-cast the German nation as a victim. I believe some politicians even made explicit comparisons between Germany, the nation, being ‘raped’ by Nazism and war, and the country’s women, being literally raped by Russian soldiers. (I’ll have to look that up.)

Two more quick asides with which you may or may not be familiar:

When American troops finially landed in France in 1917, the french military, as was established European practice at the time, arranged brothels staffed with French (and some colonial, i believe) women to accompany the American camps. Predictably, Wilson and the american military leadership (I don’t recall names right now) were aghast and adamantly declined. Of course, the brothels sprung up anyway, but without official gov’t sanction.

Which brings me to my final anecdote, also re: the american army: In WWII, all major army bases had ’stations’ for servicemen to disinfect themselves after venturing off-base to visit local prostitutes. Of course, with the moralizing and conservatism on the home front, this couldn’t really be public knowledge– but the army wouldn’t cease offering the prophylactic stations because they were terrified of the stratospheric STI rates some bases were reporting. So they kept them open, but barred photographers from taking any photos and even (i believe) subsumed the budget into something else so it wouldn’t be an obvious expense.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

People with too much time on their hands...

...make hilarious mashup youtube covers.

Things that I agree with...

Tenured Radical on Bringing College Drinking back above ground.

Jeremy Young (nonpartisan) on why Mike Gravel was not always this irrelevant.

BiPM on how much David Horowitz (and his Islamofascism Awareness week) is a f*cking useless ass.

The Academy's Bench Warmer on Stanley Fish on how people who are obsessed with postmodernism have missed the point. (A on B on C on D! New, Improved Blogosphere, Now with 100 times more analysis and even less original ideas!)

Echo chamber, indeed.

That's good for now.

On returning to blogging...

So I've decided that i want to go back to school to get a Ph.D. in history, even though

a) There are no job prospects,
b) I'm at a real job making a reasonable salary,
c) I haven't written or researched anything at all in 4 years,
and d) There are no job prospects.

So I've also determined that I need to start actually *thinking* again instead of just obsessively reading the news. So even if i don't have time to post thoughtful responses, I'm going to at least post some links to what I've been reading, to keep me honest.

For what that's worth.