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How Abu Ghraib echoes Robert Mapplethorpe

Unlike the X-series, the Abu Ghraib series is not exclusively homosexual in its images. U.S. Army Private Lynndie England, formerly of West Virginia (I assume she'll be relocating), is featured prominently in a number of the photographs. Currently in custody at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, London will likely be discharged from the Army; she may even do some time in military prison. But she probably has an opportunity-laden future. A book deal? Maybe a movie? She could no doubt get top dollar as a dominatrix in New York or some other metropolitan city in America. Or she could land one of those six-figure-plus jobs with Halliburton or one of the other companies that are advertising on their websites as looking for "military professionals" to work in Iraq—some companies are specifically looking for "interrogation specialists."

What will the rest of the world take from these two series of photographs? For several years, the Pew Research Center has been monitoring public opinion of the United States in foreign countries. Seventy-seven percent of Moroccans, citizens of a predominantly Muslim nation, held a favorable view of America before 2000. When the survey was conducted again in 2003, that number had declined to 17 percent. Although the overall changes in international opinion are not as dramatic as that in Morocco, most of the world's populace generally held a fairly high regard for America before 2000, and that regard drastically declined when the poll was taken again in 2003.

I don't think the photographs on the X-series will inspire many people to hate America. The same cannot be said about the Abu Ghraib series—or those few who as of 2003 didn't already.

Mike McGee is the gallery director at Cal State Fullerton.
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