Last week I wrote to criticize not the attention being paid to the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib detention center–abuse that properly deserves severe punishment–but the lugubrious liberal hand-wringing that has accompanied the revelations. (See Little Nell at Abu Ghraib, May 5.) I’m sorry, but I burst out laughing when I read that the abuses–which were mild compared to the tortures that Sadam Hussein inflicted upon his countrymen for more than a decade–are manifestations of American evil, colonialism, being a dead white male, or whatever’s in fashion to condem these days.

But reader “Larkspur” e-mails to chide me for a flip attitude:

“Let’s just take a few lines from what you wrote. ‘But I can’t help grinning at the yelps of outrage from our liberal opinion-molders–‘ Something about this amuses you – that’s great. Also ugly. And you cleverly characterize your opponents as dogs….'[T]the very same people who had nothing whatever to say about the genuinely ghastly physical tortures that Saddam Hussein inflicted on thousands of Iraqis over the years.’ Damn. I’m no scholar, but the odds of every single ‘liberal opinion-molder’ having “nothing whatsoever to say” about anything? Not even remotely credible. Shooting down this one would be a whole fish/barrel thing. “At Abu Ghraib, by contrast, there are no allegations of physical torture.” Yes, there are. You are mistaken. Also? The Secretary of Defense says there’s a whole lot more evidence out there. Don’t rush to judgment, or exoneration. ‘The pain was strictly psychological: having to strip naked, simulate sexual acts, wear hoods, and get hooked up to electrical wires that led to–nowhere.’ Again, you are incorrect. Even if this were accurate, I’m amazed that ‘strictly psychological pain’ is a grinworthy event for you. “Oh, and chicks were on the torture teams, which to misogynist Muslim fanatics is a Very Bad Thing.” Sweetie. Torture teams are a Very Bad Thing. ‘But in all the photos I’ve seen, not a single pyramided body looks bloody, pained, or starved.’ The. Bodies. Were. Stacked. In. Pyramids.”

It would help your argument, Larkspur, if you could cite a single instance of physically painful–in contrast to merely humiliating–torture at Abu Ghraib. And I don’t recall characterizing liberals as “dogs” in my post–although, hmmm (kidding!). I’ll repeat what I said: I strongly disapprove of what happened at Abu Ghraib. It stains our troops’ reputation as Americans and as the decent human beings that most of them are. The court-martials are about to begin, and I’m glad of it. But sorry, I don’t think that what happened was the most evil event of our era. And I’ll also repeat this: Where were all the breast-beaters when Saddam was force-feeding human beings into plastic-shredders and burying his victims in mass-graves?

And here’s reader E.H., who’s not a fan of the IWF:  

“You list as one of your objectives ‘Counter the corrosive effect of radical feminism in the courts.” There’s that offensive word ‘radical.’ I believe it’s more than accurate to say that Susan B. Anthony was considered a ‘radical’ feminist in her time. Perhaps it is good thing IWF wasn’t around then.

“How ironic it is that you claim to promote indpendent thinking among women by putting down feminism. Little more than a hundred years ago, women could not vote or own property. It was legal for a man to beat his wife as long as he did not use a stick wider than his thumb. Now we have in Washington radical ‘neocons’ heavily influenced by religious extremists, in the process of taking over all three branches of the federal government. They and their predecessors have fought to keep women in their ‘rightful place,’ subservient to men and economically powerless.

“One of the best ways to do this? Take away reproductive choices. Latest example: FDA refusal to give OTC status for the morning-after pill on the ridiculous and obviously ‘lobbied’ grounds that it ‘has not been tested on teenagers.’ Just for the record, I am a pharmacist and the mother of three teenaged daughters. Shame on you all for attempting to mislead young women into sabotaging themselves with a misguided perceptions of feminism.”

Just for the record, the IWF has no position whatsoever on the “morning-after” pill–although it doesn’t strike me as a bad idea to have a drug designed to be used by teen-agers actually tested on teen-agers. We do, however, have a strong position on the kind of feminism we stand for, and it’s the kind of feminism that Susan B. Anthony stood for: women’s right to vote, participate in public life, and have access to the same jobs and pay as men. But we believe also in women’s right to choose–to choose to stay at home full- or part-time to mother their children or to further their husbands’ careers. We think that that’s an honorable choice. So we don’t believe in “glass ceilings,” workplace affirmative action, and other ideas leading to government programs designed to improve aggregate statistics about women’s wages and jobs that reflect these individual choices. We don’t believe that American women are anyone’s victims.

Now for some misconceptions of yours to be put to rest, E.H. That “rule of thumb” wife-beating canard  is an urban myth. It’s been about five centuries since men could get away legally with hitting their wives. See Cecil Adams’ puncture-job in his syndicated column, The Straight Dope, if you don’t believe me. Second, married women have been able to keep their property since the mid-19th century. Gloria Steinem had nothing to do with these laws.