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Standard Operating Procedure – New Documentary on Abu Ghraib

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Did you know that if you search the top rated documentaries of all time at the Internet Movie Database, you’ll find that the majority of those listed in the past five or six years are about the Iraq war or the blunders of the US and its foreign activities? That’s something of interest, that there’s so much push from this subset of filmmakers, the documentary makers, to inform the masses about the mistakes our country has made. Since these mistakes directly affect us Muslims, particularly those in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and (indirectly) here in the US, it would bring us benefit for us to get informed on the topics that have made it to the top rated lists.

So with that in mind, has anybody seen or know anything about this film on the Abu Ghuraib scandals, Standard Operating Procedure? It looks interesting, and reminds me of the excellent must-see documentary, Road To Guantanamo.It’s gotten pretty good reviews, like the 80% on Rotten Tomatoes and four stars from Roger Ebert. People who gave positive reviews said director Errol Morris did a good job of taking the scandal and turning it into an emotional documentary, focusing on the story through the accounts of former soldiers by way of interviews. However, there’s some interesting rebuttal against the documentary I found on amazon.com’s DVD listing for the film written by a former US soldier.

The self-proclaimed soldier criticized Morris because the film only gives the “tip of the iceberg” on this issue, namely because the soldiers are given the most attention and, thus, the most scrutiny. The soldier argues, instead, that the fingers should be pointed to those higher than the soldiers on site, the higher-ups. One of the interviewees, Janis Karpinski, former head of US prisons in Iraq, says the same thing (not about the film but in general): the heat lamp needs to be on those that were in charge, and the fact is, it isn’t.

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Still, a tip is better than nothing, especially for these types of issues.

Also, the reviews and this preview from CNN, display that the director is all about showing the “human” side to these soldiers is a bit weird. Not to say that they weren’t human beings, but considering their actions were at minimum inhumane, I hope the film doesn’t show any justification to their actions by way of “character conflict” or “development”. I don’t think it will because the director managed to get some pretty inside people interviewed who seem to reveal a lot, like Janis Karpinski and how she got demoted right after she spoke out (coincidence, anyone?)

Still, I wonder if it’s worthwhile watching. Has anyone seen it that can provide some more info on it? And if anyone’s down to watch it with me, holler. :)

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

SaqibSaab is an average Desi Muslim guy living in Chicago. He enjoys videography and design as side hobbies, and helps out with AlMaghrib Institute in Chicago, Wasat Studios, and other projects here and there. His go-around vehicle is a 2007 Volkswagen Jetta 5-speed Wolfburg Edition. Originally born in Michigan, he and his wife reside in Chicagoland with his parents who come from Bangalore, India. He blogs personally at SaqibSaab.com.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. abu abdAllah, the Houstonian

    November 1, 2008 at 4:40 AM

    innalhamdolillah. bismillah.


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  2. bintwadee3

    November 1, 2008 at 4:00 PM

    Astaghfirullaah. May Allaah forgive them and have Mercy on them, or may their abode be a fiery one. Ameen.

    Notice how that *insert adjective* Sabrina Harman is found GUILTY on accounts of:
    Conspiracy:
    the act of conspiring; an evil, unlawful, treacherous, or surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons; plot; a combination of persons for a secret, unlawful, or evil purpose; an agreement by two or more persons to commit a crime, fraud, or other wrongful act; any concurrence in action; combination in bringing about a given result.
    Dereliction of DUTY:
    deliberate or conscious neglect; negligence; delinquency: dereliction of duty.
    Maltreatment of DETAINEES
    1)to treat or handle badly, cruelly, or roughly; abuse: to maltreat a prisoner ; to treat in a rough or cruel way; abuse; cruel or inhumane treatment

    And what was her punishment? 6 months in prison and a bad conduct mischarge. That’s it. Only 6 months and a slap on the wrist.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabrina_Harman (Basic info on her)
    “Sabrina Harman was convicted on six of the seven counts on May 16, 2005 with an acquittal on one of the maltreatment charges. A military jury of four Army officers and four senior enlisted soldiers deliberated for about 3½ hours before returning their decision. They found her guilty on one count of conspiracy to maltreat detainees, four counts of maltreating detainees and one count of dereliction of duty.

    The jury acquitted Harman on one maltreatment count that accused her of photographing a group of Iraqi detainees who were forced by prison guards to masturbate in public. This acquittal was due to the testimony of one of Harman’s co-defendants who established the fact that she was not present when that incident occurred. The jury also found that she did not commit two of the nine acts that were part of the dereliction charge, but she was convicted of the overall offense.

    Harman was sentenced to six months in prison with credit for 51 days already served and a bad conduct discharge. She reportedly showed no reaction while the jury foreman read each of the verdicts, and she left the building without offering any comments to the press.”

    I wonder if any (or posssibly how many) of the military jury was part of the higher up chain of command.

    Something I just came across: Errol Morris wrote in the New York Times about the notorious photo of Harman and the murdered man. Check it out: http://morris.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/05/19/the-most-curious-thing/

    Also… Muslims always get the “if you guys are against terrorists, why doesn’t anyone come out and say it? Why doesn’t anyone go on tv and condemn these acts of terror? Why don’t you demand the Islamist governments to turn these Jihadists in?”
    My question to the American public is the same. Why did an extremely minute portion of the American economy express outrage while the majority (seemed) indifferent? Why did very few condemn them? Why did they not demand the officers be jailed for life or possibly hung for their war crimes? Why they did not demand further investigations?

    Hypocrisy from a people who scream “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. I remind you these are the inalienable rights of man. The keyword here being man.

    Not country. Not nation. Not league.

    Man.

    Let’s digg it up folks!

  3. Dawud Israel

    November 1, 2008 at 5:04 PM

    This is the rest of the iceberg: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/philip_zimbardo_on_the_psychology_of_evil.html

    You guys should think about posting this as well since unlike the other pieces, it’s from the psychologist who discovered HOW these things came to be and WHAT the dynamic was. He studied this stuff even before Abu Ghraib and is the academic authority who interviewed and researched on how Abu Ghraib came to be such a freakshow.

    You can also check out his book: The Lucifer Effect (Philip Zimbardo)
    Watch that short video for a basic overview.

    This is important because it’s more than just a narration of tragic events but also how to deal and prevent this all. Or any other massacre or tragedy for that matter.

  4. mulsimah

    November 1, 2008 at 9:02 PM

    its probly ten timz worse then they say bc we are only hearing one side of the story and not the story of the victims

  5. Siraaj

    November 1, 2008 at 9:24 PM

    Putting it on the soldiers allows them to say that this isn’t policy but rogues acting against policy and subject to public disciplining. To put it at the level of the higher ups would lead US leaders to have to go on trial for war crimes in the hague (which at a minimum at to happen).

    Siraaj

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