In 2008 Wafaa Bilal, an Iraqi born artist, had visitors to a website vote on whether a dog whose name is Buddy or the artist himself should be subject to water-boarding, a torture mechanism used on prisoners of war. At this website visitors were provided this image to help them choose the victim. The vote was in the dogs favor and ended up with Bilal as the chosen victim. To complete this work he was subject to only a few moments of waterboarding to experience the torture that many people from his country experience at the hands of the US during the Iraqi war.
The choice of a dog instead of a human American citizen I though was interesting. On this website visitors were forced to choose one of these living beings for torture. I’m sure (or at least I hope) many of these visitors had a difficult time with this, not wanting either to be subject to pain. But the choice to make the American choice the cutest was interesting. Many people have a more difficult time witnessing animals being hurt rather than humans. This dog was cute…and wearing stripes and stars. How can you not save that poor innocent dog? When although you might not want to see the Iraqi human suffer, if you had to decide between the two it might be easier to make a case that the Iraqi, who is not American, who is from the enemy side in this war, could possibly deserve the torture more than the puppy. In the video of Bilal being waterboarded, the person performing the torture is dressed as Santa Clause. Another Western symbol of innocence and happiness.
I believe his intention was to illustrate how we make assumptions about our own nation, in this case Americans and the US, and how we make quick judgments of those who are different. We can only see what is good about our side in the war and what is bad and deserving of torture on the other side.