Saturday, March 20, 2010

Recent Reading: A Closer Look at the Soldiers of Abu Ghraib

Speaking of powerful stories (see previous post), we recently finished Standard Operating Procedure, an investigation into the abuses and torture of Iraqi prisoners at the infamous prison known as Abu Ghraib.

It's not "fun" reading, but it is an important work, nto least because it provides context for the whole sorted story. The book is by Philip Gourevitch and Errol Morris, based on hours and hours of interviews that Morris films for his film of the same name.

We came away from the book with more understanding, even sympathy, for the men and women who abused the prisoners. Yes, it's hard to defend their actions, but the interviews make clear how unprepared they were for the jobs they had. 

In short, Abu Ghraib presented a nearly impossible situation for these soldiers. Their conduct was still wrong, but their own words helped us see how terrible the assignment was and why these soldiers can't be blamed for the entire mess.

At Abu Ghraid, there was plenty of blame to go around, blame goes well beyond the prison walls, up the chain of command all the way to the Pentagon. 

Learn more about the film here. There's also a link to the book on the film's website.

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