As a gay man and a person of Arab descent, Mubarak Dahir felt a double sting from the pictures he saw on the television news.

Looking at the blurred-out photos of hooded Iraqi prisoners being forced to perform simulations of gay oral sex on one another, I had to wonder what it was that my fellow Americans in uniform who were directing the scene found the most despicable: the fact that the men were performing gay sex, or that they were Arabs, he wrote on

No one can doubt the photos of naked Iraqi detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison clearly display the US military’s deep-seated culture of homophobia.

Members of a military police brigade were photographed smiling or giving a thumbs up gesture as they forced naked Iraqi men to simulate oral or anal sex, masturbate, urinate on one another, or stay handcuffed to a bed with women’s underwear over their heads. Prisoners were also threatened with male rape and were taunted with anti-gay slurs.

I think the first thing that has to be said is that the images are deplorable from a human rights perspective, Steve Ralls, spokesperson for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, told It’s very disturbing that American troops thought that same-sex sexual acts could be used as a tool of humiliation. That is clearly a strong statement on how the US military views lesbian and gay people.

A March report by Major General Antonio M. Taguba documented beatings of the prisoners, the rape of one man with a flashlight, and an assault on one prisoner with guard dogs. The Taguba report quoted a civilian contractor, Adel L. Nakhla, who worked in the prison and observed some of the abuse.

They called them all kinds of names such as -˜gays’ -¦ then they handcuffed their hands together and their legs with shackles and started to stack them on top of each other by ensuring that the bottom guy’s penis will touch the guy-on-top’s butt, Nakhla said.

Human rights activists agree that the culture of the US military, which has a policy of discriminating against gay men and lesbians under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, made the abuses possible.

It’s a military that is operating under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, so it’s no mistake that soldiers around the world would be living with this view that this sort of humiliation is not only acceptable, but expected, Paula L. Ettelbrick, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, told

Aaron Belkin, director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told the newspaper Southern Voice that the events reflect the most base, paranoid, or extreme elements of military homophobia. There are many different layers to homophobia -“ gays and straights can’t trust one another, gays are rapists, homosexuality is a mental illness -“ but these instances of torture in Iraq represent the most extreme, fringe paranoid elements of homophobia, that to be gay is to be subhuman.

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