By now, every newsreading sentient being on the planet has heard of the New Yorker piece on how the torture happened. Part of it, that hasn’t been written up much, got me mad, red-faced sleep-stealing mad. It seems that a lot of the planning was based on amateurish racist loony-science. Everywhere you look around this story there is filth, filth.

If you go about two-thirds of the way through the New Yorker piece (search for “Patai”), it provides some background on how a 1983 book entitled The Arab Mind by one Raphael Patai influenced the pre-war pro-war thinkers.

To start with, the notion of the “Arab Mind” (or Jewish, or Japanese, or French, or Californian) is intellectually bankrupt, on the basis of statistics if nothing else. The mind is an individual thing, every individual is an exception, and thinking in terms of group minds was exactly what the Nazis did, and it’s no coincidence that this kind of thinking led to Abu Ghraib.

But let’s judge the book by the effect it induced, and I quote:

The Patai book, an academic told me, was “the bible of the neocons on Arab behavior.” In their discussions, he said, two themes emerged—“one, that Arabs only understand force and, two, that the biggest weakness of Arabs is shame and humiliation.”

Let me go walk around the room a couple of times to cool off or I’m gonna break this keyboard. To start with, the basic weakness of everyone is shame and humiliation, hadn’t you noticed? This is why scumfucks like Saddam, his henchman, and his henchmen’s recent successors in Abu Ghraib like to use torture.

Second, “Arabs only understand force...” So, let’s adopt that, repugnant as it is, as a hypothesis and apply the scientific method to it. Just to the West of Iraq is a lab where we can put it to the test: Israel has been speaking the language of force to the (Palestinian) Arabs for quite some time now. Hmm, seems they still are as I write this. It’s a two-way conversation, but in recent years, the Israelis have been killing somewhere between two and three Palestinians for every Israeli the Palestinians kill.

I’d call that the language of force, wouldn’t you? Based on the reaction the Israelis are getting, the hypothesis just got falsified. Thank goodness.

But why would a pro-war geopolitical theorist pay attention to the actual evidence on the ground in the neighborhood when they’ve got an exciting volume about the Arab Mind that tells them to go ahead and torture? Let’s give Orwell the last word: The object of torture is torture.


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May 16, 2004
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