The immensely gifted Columbian artist Fernando Botero created a numbered series of paintings and drawings of the prisoners' sufferings and humiliations at Abu Ghraib, his adipose style evoking Christian iconography. He has donated the collection to the University of California at Berkeley where they are now on display. "Art is a permanent accusation," said Botero, and certainly it will never be possible to consider these works apart from their shameful context.
Across the street from the Berkeley Art Museum is Boalt Hall, the scene of ongoing demonstrations against Professor John Yoo because of his participation in the writing of legal memoranda, during the Bush administration, authorizing enhanced interrogation techniques. Protestors have labeled Yoo a war criminal and demanded that his tenure be revoked. For his part, Yoo has said: "I saw that a small group can now attack us with the violence of a nation…the Geneva Convention never recognized this kind of enemy."
Let's take a step back. On the same campus two eloquent voices are being heard on the subject of torture. Each raises troubling questions for us to deliberate and neither should be silenced. This is what academic freedom is for and why universities exist. Let's all go back to class.
Abu Ghraib #44, 2005. Click on the picture for a closer look.
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