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Standard Operating Procedure

by Philip Gourevitch, Errol Morris

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1813108,507 (3.76)4
Collects the stories of the American soldiers who took and appeared in the controversial digital photographs from Abu Ghraib, in a collaborative account of Iraq's occupation that reveals how it is being experienced by both guards and prisoners.



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First published under the title 'Standard Operating Procedure' (one of the authors directed the accompanying documentary by the same name), this is an insightful and disturbing book which pokes under the hood of the Abu Ghraib scandal. At times I found it a slightly discomforting read since the authors do such a good job of humanizing the men and women who were found guilty of the Abu Ghraib abuses which shocked the world in 2005. But the authors' purpose is clear. Ultimately the responsibility for the worse of what happened at Abu Ghraib lies at the feet of those who were never tried or questioned. In some ways, the trials of the MPs who were in the photographs actually helped to cover up the crimes of others (particularly the Interregators). In fact some of the worse crimes (as defined by the Geneva Convention) were never tried at all, since they were considered to be part of 'Standard Operating Procedures' as determined by the chain of command. For example, no one was ever investigated or tried for the beating to death of a prisoner by interrogators in a shower cell, but the army did try to convict one of the MPs who found the body afterwards for posing with and photographing the dead body. ( )
1 vote iftyzaidi | Jan 2, 2012 |
Philip Gourevitch based this book on conversations with Errol Morris and materials Morris had accumulated in making the film of the same name. We know from the start that this is not a cheap spin-off from the movie. In fact, even though the famous photographs are a big part of the story, none of them is used here, except for the detail on the cover -- a pair of naked feet standing in what might be a small puddle. As Gourevitch says, 'photographs cannot tell stories, and evidence is mute.'

This book looks, asks, listens, argues and challenges. From the interviews with the US men and women who took the photos, a complex picture emerges of fairly ordinary people, in the sense of not particularly diabolical or dead of soul, caught up in a foul and confusing situation not of their own making, doing appalling things, and in some cases not being able to tell how appalling even after they've gone to gaol for them. An extraordinarily mixed bag of motives led to the taking of photographs: to amass evidence of what actually happened, to create trophies in the war against 'people who have killed Americans', to please a lover ...

The first 150 pages tells the story of establishing a US facility in Abu Ghraib, of the staffing of it, and of key incidents that led the great scandal to break.

A man is beaten to death by probable CIA agents; a woman finds the corpse, which the MPs have been told died of a heart attack and – seeing that the man has been severely beaten – takes photos; no one is charged with homicide, but the woman is charged with destroying government property. And on and on. When the story breaks, there's no clearcut heroic whistleblower, no fourth estate fearlessly seeking the full truth. After a failed attempt at cover-up, the military makes sure someone pays, and of course it's the poor confused stressed-out low-rankers.

http://homepage.mac.com/shawjonathan/iblog/C1020611578/E20090108090104/index.htm... ( )
  shawjonathan | Jun 25, 2010 |
A most excellent, appalling book. It is an unflinching look at how individual people compromise their morals, and in the process, compromise the morals of an entire endeavor. Goerevitch has crafted a true crime story out of this episode and does not do it in a judging manner, but rather asks the questions of "Why?" without offering pat answers. Each reader will need to decide on their own why this happened.

My copy, on the Kindle, had many grammatical errors that distracted at first, but became invisible to my eyes as the story engrossed. ( )
  whjensen | Aug 19, 2008 |
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Morris, Errolmain authorall editionsconfirmed
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An examination of the unintended consequences of the occupation of Irak with a focus on events at Abu Ghraib prison which began to appear in global media in 2004. The prison quickly became notorious for the shocking photos of the abuse and torture of terror suspects by military men and women. Ultimately, it is the story of soldiers who were made to believe they were defending democracy.

Online: https://archive.org/details/StandardOp...
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