9 years ago: House of Horrors

May 4, 2004, on this blog: House of Horrors

Thanks to the hard work of coalition contractors, the useful facility was made even more useful, more modern and more efficient. The coalition’s cleansing of Abu Ghraib involved the work of carpenters, plumbers and painters. It should also have included the work of priests.

The house of horrors has a fresh coat of paint, but it remains a haunted place.

The danger of superstitious tales of haunted houses is that they can be used to mask the moral agency of the people involved. Saddam and his followers should not be allowed to escape responsibility for the evils they ordered and carried out within the evil walls of Abu Ghraib. Nor should its current overlords.

The “superstitious” idea that the prison is an evil, haunted place does not excuse them for the deeds done there any more than they are excused by a “rational,” utilitarian calculus that this house of horrors can now be employed for some greater good.

Abu Ghraib is an unholy place. It is a house of horrors whose only facility is in allowing such horrors to continue.

Burn it down. Burn it down until nothing is left.


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And his own received him not

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  • Hexep

    It will never be burned down. Greed, pride, and anger are as eternal as the sun and moon; they have existed since the morning of the world and will exist until the last star falls from the night sky. The Americans will use it until someone throws them out, and then whoever throws them out will start using it themselves. And so on, ad nauseum. I bet the Bronze Bull is still in use somewhere, too.

    Abu Ghraib will stand for ten thousand years, among the other ziggurats of Iraq, to remind everyone who sees it or visits it or even considers it of the immutable fact that the human being is inherently evil and nothing can ever be done about it. It is the sword in the stone, slowly poisoning the Earth. Anyone with the strength to pull the sword from the earth will lack the courage to destroy it; anyone with the courage to destroy it will lack the strength and resolve to grasp it.

    In short, unlocked doors, etc.

  • Julian Elson

    I don’t know whether you’ve changed your mind in the past nine years, but I disagree. It should be preserved. To destroy it would be to contribute to the erasure of what happened there. Perhaps it could be preserved in some functional capacity — being a somewhat humane penitentiary, or perhaps being converted into an office park, or something — but there should be a wing (a visitor’s center) which contains information — as objective and as accurate as possible — about the history of this place, and what has happened there since its construction. The architects who designed it, the contractors who built it, the inmates, the torturers, the kitchens and food — preserve as much as possible of the records.

    Or maybe it shouldn’t have some other functional capacity. Maybe it should just be a museum.

    I don’t think it should be burned down. It should be preserved, and future Iraqis — and foreign visitors, including Americans — should be able to visit and learn the story of that place.

  • addicted4444

    Julian, while I agree with you in theory, in reality the problem is that what happened out there won’t be forgotten because it is still happening. At places like Guantanamo. The abuse at Guantanamo may not be as obvious as the ones at Abu Ghraib were, but they are probably more dangerous, since by locking up people without ever charging them of wrongdoing, because you are afraid that your inhumane treatment towards them may have turned them against you is just fundamentally wrong.

  • Fusina

    So…what you are saying is, “We need a Frodo”?

  • hidden_urchin

    Alas, all we have are a whole bunch of Denethors.

  • deltmachine



  • David S.

    I shouldn’t have bit, but I did. Not interesting at all; lots of incoherent junk punctured with random links. Lots of hostility towards atheists, random personal attacks, inability to make a coherent argument.

  • Well, that’s about the dumbest thing I’ve seen all day.

  • Stevarious

    Dennis Markuze is trolling other christians now?

    I guess it’s the christians’ turn to experience some of the garbage that atheists have been been putting up with for years.


    (please don’t actually click the link.)

  • Hexep

    Does it, in fact, show somebody winning James Randi’s challenge?

  • David S.

    Nope. I infer that he’s trying to imply something about Nostradamus, but as I said, it’s not coherent.

  • Jamoche

    It’s tumblr. Unless I really trust the person providing the link, that’s warning enough.

  • Dennis Markuze has been trolling Slacktivist for years.

  • Stevarious

    I did not know that.

  • Is Dennis really a christian? I know that his atheist victims always identify him as such, but i’ve never actually heard him say so. He seems to think that he is himself some kind of supernatural being and the reincarnation of nostradamus. He’s clearly some sort of theist, but what he’s revealed of his beliefs don’t sound like christianity to me.

  • More specifically, he seems to believe he is the Mabus reportedly predicted to be an AntiChrist figure by Nostradamus. http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Dennis_Markuze

  • AnonaMiss

    I hope you mean movie Denethor, not book Denethor.

  • Back in 2009, Slacktivist made it onto Unreasonable Faith’s list of The Top 30 Atheist/Agnostic Blogs. I think that might have been how this blog came to Markuze’s attention.

  • Mark Z.

    Think about that for a minute. You have a standing offer of a million-dollar prize. If you award that prize, you not only lose a million dollars, but make yourself look like a complete fool and destroy your career and undermine the cause you’ve spent your entire life advocating. Would you ever do it?

    So no, it does not show somebody winning James Randi’s challenge.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Why don’t I believe that? Not the part about the prize never having been awarded, but the part about looking like an idiot.

    If somebody proved psychic powers real? That would be the COOLEST THING EVER.

  • If James Randi came out in public and said “Hey, I issued this challenge confident that nobody would ever win it, and I was wrong: someone has in fact demonstrated psychic powers. Look, I’m as surprised as you are, but here’s the tests we did and here’s the data we collected, what other explanation do you suggest?!?” and handed someone a million-dollar check, he would (assuming the data he collected actually demonstrated what he claimed they demonstrated) win basically all the empiricist points ever.

  • A million dollars is a small price to pay for being “The guy who empirically proved that psychic powers exist.”

    Anyway, they withdrew the prize years ago because it was clear that they were going to be forced to give it to someone and it was their only chance to save face and avoid losing a million dollars in the face of the obvious truth of the supernatural in all the years it was offered, no one came close and they were wasting a lot of time on con-artists and semi-coherent folks who couldn’t even fill out the application properly (Seriously read something about this,like 99% of the applicants for the prize were not coherent enough to fill out the application meaningfully. Most often by failing to come up with an answer for “And how exactly do you intend to demonstrate that you actually have psychic powers?”, but quite often by utterly failing to come up with a meaningful answer to “So what is it that you do?”)

  • EllieMurasaki

    Did they? Damn. So much for a plot point in a story I’ve been half planning for a couple years.