Last night at the Sydney Film Festival I saw Errol Morris’ documentary on Abu Ghraib, Standard Operating Procedure:
It is a powerful and eerie collection of interviews with the major interrogators at the Iraqi prison. It’s clear that these men and women were in above their heads, unsure what to do, what was right, what was wrong, scared of being killed and keen to “save” American lives fighting the war outside. I actually felt sorry for some of them, especially the younger women. Although they undoubtedly committed crimes of abuse against some of the Iraqi detainees – humiliation, torture, sexual acts etc – most of these were done because of directions, or lack thereof, from above. To this day, no major players have been charged. Perhaps after the Bush administration leaves the scene things will change.
This wasn’t an isolated incident (as we now have evidence that many American soldiers routinely abused the Iraqis.) Film-maker Morris (his New York Times blog is well worth reading) often makes films that deliberately challenge a viewer’s perception of a subject. His latest is no exception.