But Who Will Be Watching?

4 comments February 22nd, 2007at 12:39pm Posted by Eli

It’s a shame this is only being shown on a premium cable channel:

“Ghosts of Abu Ghraib,” a new HBO documentary produced and directed by Rory Kennedy, daringly approaches a scandal that hardly anyone wants to see reexamined — least of all, one can safely assume, the Bush administration and the Pentagon.

The reason is not just that what happened at Abu Ghraib is, to understate in the extreme, unpleasant. The documentary says it’s also because this breakdown was not so much nervous as inevitable — and not so spontaneous, having been sanctioned by the top brass, including former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

(…)

The photos [Kennedy] shows from Abu Ghraib are very explicit and, unlike the versions shown in newspapers and on television in 2004 when the story broke, uncensored.

We see naked prisoners in humiliating situations — a man tied at the end of a leash, like a dog; a group of naked prisoners arranged in a lopsided human pyramid; men positioned in ways to suggest homosexual acts. Kennedy was right to show these pictures, but she should have been less genteel in what she showed of the 9/11 attacks. America violated the rules on interrogation of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and for that, there is no excuse. But one must take into account the fury felt in the aftermath of 9/11 over monstrosities that also violated every covenant of “civilized” warfare.

This is irrelevant bollocks, and it would have created a false equivalence between genuine terrorists and largely innocent victims who had nothing to do with 9/11. It would reinforce one of the unspoken reasons for the torture; namely collective punishment against the Arab/Muslim world for being home to the terrorists.

This discrepancy doesn’t really lessen the film’s power. And in interviews with some of the men and women who perpetrated the torture, or who posed cheerfully (almost like tourists at Niagara Falls) with the victims, we see them looking anything but furious or consumed with wrath. Instead, they smile in the photos and, in the interview segments, they speak with a kind of numb, casual regret — but nothing like wrenching shame or sorrow.

Like I said, the 9/11 argument is bollocks. The torturers weren’t blinded with rage, they just got off on inflicting pain and humiliation; on having absolute power over their victims.

Kennedy suggests the torture was not an outbreak of lunacy but the direct result of policies handed down by Rumsfeld that were designed to circumvent the Geneva Conventions (which specify that prisoners of war be “treated humanely”) and U.N. conventions against torture, to which the United States is, at least technically, a signatory. That was done by, among other things, refusing to classify the up to 6,000 inmates of Abu Ghraib as prisoners of war; Rumsfeld instead calls them “unlawful combatants” at a news conference. Then the term “torture” was redefined so narrowly in government memos that it would be almost impossible to commit it.

When the scandal broke, the administration sent out “conscious disinformation,” one former official recalls, including the trivializing assertion that what happened at Abu Ghraib was just ” ‘Animal House’ on the night shift.”…

It could easily be argued that it was the torturers and not the tortured who suffered the most as a result of what happened at Abu Ghraib….

Umm… NO.

The wider moral of the film is simpler and nonpolitical and painfully, poignantly evident: When you treat people as less than human, you become less than human yourself.

Okay, I can buy that. Just don’t try to tell me that the torturers suffered more than their victims.

I’m glad this is getting more attention, and that Kennedy is making the case that Abu Ghraib was the result of deliberate high-level decisions rather than a few “bad apples.” Unfortunately, it’s about two and a half years too late.

Entry Filed under: Bush,Iraq,Prisoners,Republicans,Torture,TV,War

4 Comments

  • 1. baconpowder  |  February 22nd, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/02/abughraib200702

    Really insightful article written by the director of the soon to be released film “The Prisoner.” This film will actually be coming to theaters

  • 2. Smarty  |  February 22nd, 2007 at 5:58 pm

    Nice post. I’m glad this is getting more attention. It’s shocking how quickly this was swept under the rug.

  • 3. charley  |  February 22nd, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    Fernando Botero, the first artist to depict Abu Ghraib, finally gets a public viewing in the United States.

  • 4. Eli  |  February 22nd, 2007 at 8:59 pm

    Really insightful article written by the director of the soon to be released film “The Prisoner.” This film will actually be coming to theaters

    Ooo, thanks for the tip! That’s excellent stuff.

    It’s shocking how quickly this was swept under the rug.

    Shocking, yes. But not surprising, unfortunately. The thing that’s interesting to me is that the “bad apples” lie was debunked after the pictures faded from memory, and the public was never really re-exposed to them after that. So I’m curious to see what the reaction is now that the pictures *and* the administration’s guilt are joined together into a single presentation.

    Fernando Botero, the first artist to depict Abu Ghraib, finally gets a public viewing in the United States.

    Excellent. I’ve seen some of his stuff; I know he’s not a fan.


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