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The Babylon ComplexTheopolitical Fantasies of War, Sex, and Sovereignty$
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Erin Runions

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823257331

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823257331.001.0001

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Revenge on Babylon

Revenge on Babylon

Literalist Allegory, Scripture, Torture

(p.148) Four Revenge on Babylon
The Babylon Complex

Erin Runions

Fordham University Press

This chapter analyzes the use of the Bible in torture. Boney M’s song “Rivers of Babylon”—which sets the biblical Psalm 137 to music—was played at ear-splitting volume in the attempts to break prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Examination of this generally overlooked detail reveals much about why torture has been considered both permissible and necessary in the war on terror. The use of this particular psalm as a form of torture—ending with revenge as it does—calls for an interrogation of the relationship of revenge to torture. The chapter traces the interpretive tradition that promotes violence and revenge toward Babylon. It suggests that an apocalyptically inflected form of biblical interpretation, involving a literalist reading of allegory, allows this text to be used as torture. “Rivers of Babylon” at Abu Ghraib reveals how allegory, scripture, torture, and revenge are used to establish the truth of U.S. sovereignty and to diminish any threat to it in the future.

Keywords:   Abu Ghraib, allegory, biblical interpretation, literalist, Psalm 137, revenge, Rivers of Babylon, torture

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