The Pure Product

I suppose there is some sense in which Tony Lagouranis is a victim, but I'm having a hard time working up much sympathy for him. According to the Washington Post, which has a weepy article about the effects of torture on torturers this morning: "Not long ago in Iraq, he [Lagouranis] felt 'absolute power' . . . over men kept in cages. Lagouranis had forced a grandfather to kneel all night in the cold and bombarded others in metal shipping container . . ." but now feels "creeping anxiety" when he rides the train & just doesn't seem to get the same joy out of watching reruns of Hawaii Five-0 as he used to. "Now," the reporter tells us, "Lagouranis's power had dissolved into a weakness so fearful it dampened his upper lip. Sometimes, on the train, he has to get up and pace. But he can't escape."Acts have consequences. This is a loser we're talking about here, a guy who was "eager" during his training to abandon the Geneva Conventions. (He was, it is important to add, a representative loser -- representative of a nasty cultural infection that goes all the way up to the loser-in-chief.) Let's be clear: at any point Mr. Lagouranis could have exercised his existential right to refuse. To say no. It took him a long time to come around to seeing what was wrong with his behavior & now he is indulging in the art of the confessional memoir: "'At every point, there was part of me resisting, part of me enjoying'," Lagouranis said. 'Using dogs on someone, there was a tingling throughout my body. If you saw the reaction in the prisoner, it's thrilling'." He knew what the Geneva Conventions said. He liked the power. He enjoyed torturing people. Now he doesn't like it. Now he feels bad. He made men piss themselves in fear, now his upper lip is "dampened" when he recalls what he did. Tough shit, Tony. And there needs to be a special place in hell for Laura Blumenfeld, who wrote this story, in which she so easily assumes the (however regrettable) need for the occasional torture session.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

2 thoughts on “The Pure Product”


    How many so far have even thought
    their own way up to Erasmus
    or seen their own way up to Turner
    today I mean less than probably
    one percent the rest of us still decadent
    ascetics or destitute ecstatics
    medievally pessimistic about ourselves
    in view of the alacrity of our waste-
    fulness and desperate neediness
    to feel pain to know we’re alive
    that consciousness of the body
    driving us from it into it but awarely
    how many so far have even suffered
    their own way up to Eve or to Eurydice?

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