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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, February 20, 2006
    A lecture from the University of Hell
    This is the first part of a script written by Norman Kember for a ‘performance’ at Greenbelt in 2002; he delivered the lines while walking through a crowd of young people dressed as a devil.

    "Welcome young and old devils to this refresher course in temptation techniques – not that most Christians need a devil to prompt them, they are all pretty good at working out excuses – the best of reasons – why they shouldn’t carry out the ideas the Great Enemy puts into their consciences to do.

    "Now you might ask what's a devil doing in the Peace Zone. The answer is simple – we like to be close to the heart of things in Christianity. Why bother to cause mischief on the fringe when we can cause mischief close to the centre. It’s no great shakes to take common human failings like greed and turn them into an accounting fraud. That’s basic temptation technique, any junior devil can do that.

    "But to take the best of human qualities – loyalty, courage, comradeship, endurance, sacrifice – and turn them into the satanic enterprise called war – now that takes real skill. In war we can make quite ordinary decent human beings carry out all manner of inhumanities. So there’s nothing so satisfying for us as twisting good aims for bad ends."

    And this is an extract from the lengthy LRB article by Eliot Weinberger What I heard about Iraq in 2005:


    I heard that a human rights organisation, Christian Peacemaker Teams, was distributing a questionnaire to inmates released from Iraqi prisons. Those surveyed were asked to check ‘yes’ or ‘no’ after each question:

    Stripped of your clothing (nude)?
    Beaten by hand (punches)?
    Beaten by stick or rod?
    Beaten by cables, wires or belts?
    Held at gunpoint?
    Had cold water poured on you?
    Had a rope tied to your genitalia?
    Called names, insults?
    Threatened or touched by dogs?
    Dragged by rope or belt?
    Denied prayer or wudhu [ablution]?
    Forced to perform sexual acts?
    Were you raped or sodomised?
    Did someone improperly touch your genitalia?
    Did you witness any sexual acts while in detention?
    Did you witness any rapes of men, women or children?
    Urinated on or made to touch faeces, or had faeces thrown at you?
    Denied sleep?
    Denied food?
    Witnessed any deaths?
    Did you witness any torture or mistreatment to others?
    Forced to wear woman’s clothes? [Question for men only]
    Were you burned or exposed to extreme heat?
    Exposed to severe cold?
    Subjected to electric shock?
    Forced to act like a dog?
    Forced in uncomfortable positions for a lengthy period of time?
    Forced to stand or sit in a painful manner for lengthy periods of time?
    Lose consciousness?
    Forced to hit others?
    Hung by feet?
    Hung by hands or arms?
    Threatened to have family killed?
    Family members detained?
    Witnessed family members tortured?
    Forced to sign anything?

    I heard a man who had been in Abu Ghraib prison say: ‘The Americans brought electricity to my ass before they brought it to my house.’


    The predecessor to this piece, What I heard about Iraq, featured in the London Review of Books in February 2005. I am keenly considering taking part in the worldwide reading of this text on March 20th, third anniversary of the invasion - perhaps you'll join me?