To the genocides we must add the extraordinary growth of military rape as a specifically modern phenomenon. As many as a million German women may have been raped during the collapse of Germany in 1945, mainly by Russian soldiers. Rape was common on both sides during the Vietnam war. Between a quarter and half a million Tutsi women were raped in Rwanda during the genocide of 1994, even girls as young as five being mutilated and raped before being killed. According to Human Rights watch in Asia for 2003 Indian soldiers in Kashmir raped women in order to humiliate and punish the entire community. There are documented accounts of extensive sexual violence by soldiers during the partition of India and against Tamil women during the Indian intervention in Sri Lanka during the 1980’s. Rape was not infrequently used as a form of torture in south and central America during the period of the Cold War. In Chile under Pinochet women prisoners were sometimes raped by specially trained dogs (a point, although only one among a multitude, the Vatican may have overlooked when it sent its telegram to Pinochet in 1993, on the occasion of his golden wedding, congratulating him on setting so shining an example of Christian living). Sophisticated theories of modern torture seek not just to extract information but to break down the personality, particularly by degrading and undermining its sexual foundations. It is Winnicott’s gathering together of the ego nuclei within the shelter of the good enough mother’s love in reverse, and, in its way, a testimony to the truth of Winnicott’s and Bollas’s analysis. Under Saddam rebellious Iraqi officers were made to rape each other before execution, sometimes by slow and horrible mutilation and sometimes by being torn apart between accelerating cars. According to the Zagreb Centre for Human Rights 4000 Croatian prisoners were sexually tortured in Serb detention camps during the Balkan wars of the nineteen-nineties. 70% of them suffered permanent physical injuries, 11% were castrated or partially castrated (sometimes by women), 20% were forced to fellate their fellow prisoners. There were reports from Bosnia of male prisoners having their testicles bitten off. The sexual humiliations visited on Iraqi prisoners at Abu Graib which became public knowledge in April 2003 are only the latest example in this long and sorry list. Lindie England, who became the best known perpetrator of the Abu Graib atrocities, was no moral monster either but an otherwise decent apple-pie eating All-American girl. Yet the Kasakela chimpanzees could hardly excel the twentieth century’s examples of inhuman barbarity. How are we to explain it?
A more sophisticated anthropology than Goldhagen’s sees genocide and rape as attempts by the perpetrators to re-assert identity. In the stress of war normal group boundaries are liable to dissolve and the threat of proximate death arouses profound personal anxieties. In these circumstances the perpetrators seek to establish new psycho-social groupings as defences against individual anxiety. As the normal civilized frameworks break down individuals are assailed by deeply buried pre-human biological drives which threaten to take over surface behaviour with the result that, paradoxically, perpetrators of atrocities resort to inhuman behaviour in order to ally the fear that they themselves have become inhuman. Basic animal drives to maximize reproductive potential and increase resources and territory take over, just as they did in the case of the Kasakela chimpanzees. According to many reports by survivors Bosnian women were told as they were raped that they ‘would make a Serb baby’, and were kept in custody to be raped continually until they became pregnant, and then secluded until too late in their pregnancy to make an abortion feasible. Croatian male prisoners in a Serb camp were beaten on the testicles. ‘As they were beating us they were shouting “ Now you will not be able to make any more utasha babies”.’
In such circumstances the male sexual competitiveness which is the basic rule of biological sexual life, especially in the case of mammals, takes over. But in war protection by the group is of all importance and therefore male-male competition has to be overridden at all costs, just as it had to be in the ice age caves. Just as in the ice age caves, therefore (See Walter Burkert’s Home Necans) males under such intense pressure and threat resort to sacrifice. The perpetrators link themselves together in a guilt bond through the perpetration of an unspeakable act. They do it by expelling social elements which are seen as obscene and impure, and which, if necessary, have to be artificially remoulded as obscene and impure in order to justify the perpetrators’ actions. This explains why the perpetrators so often see themselves not just as morally justified but as exceptionally pure in their motivation. The Nazis saw themselves as profoundly purified by the Holocaust, Pinochet compared himself to Christ rejected by the Jews when Chileans failed to elect him in the referendum of 1988, the Serbs employed the euphemism ‘ethnic cleansing’ The sacrificial victim, for the reasons given by Girard, (see R. Girard Violence and the Sacred) must preferably be both part and not part of the existing social group and this is exactly confirmed in so many twentieth century genocides. It was true of the Armenians in 1915, of the Muslims in Bosnia, of the Tutsi and above all of the Jews in Germany. Ironically, Bismarck’s granting of full German citizenship to the Jews made them excellent candidates for sacrifice. It also explains the connection of rape with genocide. The original act of sacrifice is the collective killing by males of a sexually desirable female. In both Rwanda and Bosnia women were frequently gang raped before being killed. The double unspeakable act confirms male solidarity in acts which are biologically designed to over-ride intra-male sexual competition.