Sabrina Harman, the specialist who took many of the most shocking and infamous photos of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, is the subject of an important article in the March 24 edition of The New Yorker.
The writers, journalist Philip Gourevitch and documentary filmmaker Errol Morris, investigate the circumstances that led Harman's unit, the 372nd Military Policy Company from Cresaptown, Maryland, to torture the prisoners under their control and to document the mistreatment on their digital cameras.
Harman, as it happens, was something of a softie. One of her fellow soldiers said she was "just too nice to be a soldier."
But the conditions at Abu Ghraib were horrendous. Hanson said the place looked like a concentration camp. "It was just disgusting. You didn't want to touch anything. Whatever the worst thing that comes to your mind, that was it—the place you would never, ever, ever, ever, send your worst enemy."
Even so, Harman learned to tolerate the conditions and accept the torture inflicted upon the prisoners. Prompted by a lack of guidelines as well as the Military Intelligence personnel who were questioning the prisoners, the Maryland MPs were inspired to continue mistreating the men.
Although Harman and her fellow soldiers were blamed for the torture, the article makes clear that they alone were not to blame. "[T]he abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was de facto United States policy," they write.
Harman, who wanted to become a cop, took many of the photos that later embarrassed the military and the nation. But as Gourevitch and Morris report, she was originally motivated by a fascination with photography and a simple curiosity about death.
As the mistreatment continued, however, Harman started using her camera to document the abuses, as a way of proving the mistreatment she was seeing.
In the end, Harman and several of her follew MPs were convicted for mistreating the prisoners. Only low-ranking soldiers were convicted, the authors note, and no one has been charged for the abuses that were not photographed.
There's more about the whole sad affair on The New Yorker website, which can be found by clicking here.