The Real Story Behind Abu Ghraib

December 3, 2008

Standard Operating Procedure, directed by Errol Morris, tells the dark story behind the infamous photographs of detainee abuse and humiliation that came out of Abu Ghraib in 2004.

The images are haunting and uncomfortably familiar. Pictures of naked detainees stacked in a pyramid, a hooded prisoner standing on a box waiting to be electrocuted, a U.S. soldier giving the thumbs-up in front of a dead inmate in a body bag—these images are burned into minds around the world as symbols of the United States’ “war on terror.”

At face value, these images just show the ugly side of a few “bad apples,” but this documentary reveals the structures and policies that allowed routine human rights violations to happen and raises the important issue of accountability.

“I do not think that everything that happened at Abu Ghraib was directed by the White House or by the Pentagon. But I do think that polices were put in place by this administration that made it all possible,” said Errol Morris, the film’s director.  “…To me it’s a question of, what kind of country do we want to live in?”

The past elections prove that Americans do not condone torture; that Americans will not let their government flout human rights in the name of national security. Today, president-elect Obama announced the members of his future national security team, saying that they represent “the very best of the American example.”

But a fresh start and a new cabinet can’t wipe the slate clean. Questions of accountability still remain. President Bush still has the power to pardon any number of people potentially responsible for the egregious acts committed in the “war on terror.”

The American people deserve to know exactly what measures were taken to ensure their “protection.”