Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Standard Operating Procedure

The infamous photos of prisoner abuse from Abu Ghraib is focus of this second documentary on America's "War on Terror" (the first was "Taxi to the Dark Side" and unfortunately I failed to see the third one "No End in Sight"). It is a mixture of reconstruction, the original photos (and videos) and "talking heads". The pictures are so well known they have lost their shock value, its interviewees that are the star attraction of this documentary. The interviewees include Lynndie England and others prosecuted for the things depicted in the photos, Janis Karpinski the general in charge of running Abu Ghraib and many other prisons in Iraq, a civilian contract interrogator who worked at Abu Ghraib and an investigator who used the photos to build the cases against those prosecuted. For some reason no Iraqis are interviewed.

This is not a hysterical Mike Moore style documentary but a smooth measured one which doesn't tell you what or how to think, but gives you various peoples views on a very limited series of events. The interviewees talk about serving at Abu Ghraib (those prosecuted repeatedly mention the frustration they felt at being shelled by insurgents). They talk about where the prisoners came from (often army patrols would detain all men they came across) and policy of not releasing them even if there was no reason to hold them and the prisons were becoming overcrowded. They talk about:
  • the interrogation techniques by various agencies,
  • the different classes of prisoner (including those who were being hidden from the Red Cross),
  • how they worked out how to treat the prisoners and apparent lack of supervision by officers
The general excuses by the military police (MPs) are not surprising:
  • we did what the interrogators wanted us to do,
  • we felt frustrated by the shelling,
  • the interrogators did far worse
The reason why the MPs weren't prosecuted for some activities, such as handcuffing in tortuously uncomfortable positions, is that those things were "Standard Operating Procedure".

While it was very interesting to hear directly from the people involved rather than from: politicians, top brass, PR / spin doctors and journalists; but ultimately there was nothing surprising here.

Ian's rating 3/5

No comments:

Post a Comment