A few years ago, in my last album, right after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, I talked about how furious Senators and congressmen were, looking at such photos as a prisoner forced to wear women's panties on his head and a naked prisoner with a dog collar attached to a leash held by a woman who is pointing at the man's penis and laughing. Why were those legislators sputtering with such rage? Because THEY have to pay EXTRA for those services.
Now, I asked Sam Leff -- given his background as an anthropologist studying and writing about the hidden rituals of American sadomasochism -- for his take on the CIA's cover-up of torture videos.
"I have been watching with fascinated horror," he said, "as America's S/M patterns of culture have emerged into the open in the Abu Ghraib/Gitmo Bush administration. I've been flashing on some clear images of the fratboy reality underlying the White House torture tape controversy.
"Picture this. Bush and Karl Rove sitting around a big plasma screen (drinking beer?) and laughing their asses off watching helpless prisoners drowning under a waterboard, or naked getting cigarette burns, or maybe having analgesic balm applied to their genitals.
"Once the existence of the tapes became known, their cover story is that they were having a big discussion about whether or not to keep or destroy the torture tapes. Like that old pervert, J. Edgar Hoover, the reality is they were getting off looking at them as sadistic porn--over and over. Perhaps sharing them with the 'frat brothers' of their inner circle."
Indeed, in November 2005, Garry Trudeau was queried by Editor & Publisher about his Doonesbury strip the previous Sunday which had George Bush defending the branding of Yale University fraternity initiates with a red-hot coat-hanger in 1967, and Trudeau replied that it was "Totally fact based. Bush's commen in panel seven is a direct quote." He was referring to the collegiate Bush saying, "Insignificant! There's no scarring mark physically or mentally!"
Some pledges told the Yale Daily News that their branding was preceded by a physical beating. Said one: "By that time, my body was so numb [from the beatings] that the iron felt good, like a match was being held close to my body." Bush, who was president of the fraternity, said that the resulting wound was "only a cigarette burn." Or maybe enhanced pledging technique.