Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Indiewire logo

Can Abu Ghraib Torture Docs Make a Difference?

ReelPolitik By Anthony Kaufman | ReelPolitik June 13, 2007 at 6:26AM

Can Abu Ghraib Torture Docs Make a Difference?
2

From my Huffington Post blog... If more Americans were familiar with torture, would they allow such dehumanizing and un-American actions to be performed in their name? Two new documentaries about Abu Ghraib -- Rory Kennedy's "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib" and Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein's "The Prisoner; or, How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair" -- recently hit DVD shelves, and they should be required viewing for all American citizens.

As I recently wrote in Utne Reader ("The Cost of Cruelty"), the films are valuable companion pieces to understanding the context and consequences of U.S. torture. "Ghosts" provides a chilling, exhaustive account of moral turpitude and misguided authority. Kennedy doesn't only reveal the photos, but those inside the photos, talking about their actions. M.P. Sabrina Harman, the woman who famously gave a thumbs-up in one of the pictures, now looks like a stunned animal as she talks about how the stacking of human beings came to be. And we hear one victim describe life at Abu Ghraib: "We listened as his soul cracked."

Likewise, "The Prisoner" offers a more intimate glimpse into the life of Abu Ghraib's victims -- innocent Iraqi journalist Yunis Khatayer Abbas recounts his disturbing nine months in U.S. custody, where he was accused of plotting to assassinate Tony Blair. To match the ludicrous charge, the filmmakers use comic-book-like animations to illustrate Abbas' ordeal. But, of course, nothing about his ordeal is remotely funny.

These stories from Iraq, Afghanistan and the U.S. military's unlawful and unjust interrogation tactics are only beginning to come out in full force, offering a valuable counterpoint to the White House's "few bad apples" rationalizations. As "Taxi to the Dark Side," Alex Gibney's upcoming documentary about the widespread use of torture in the U.S. military, also shows, the psychological horrors of sexual humiliation and sense deprivation go against the basic tenets of the Geneva Convention, and whatever John Yoo or Donald Rumsfeld say about them, they are still illegal torture -- perhaps the worst kind. (Here's a YouTube clip from "24" showing the nefarious wonders of 'sense dep.')

Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris is hard at work on his own Abu Ghraib/Iraq War doc, "S.O.P.: Standard Operating Procedure," which is now supposed to come out in time to make an impact on the 2008 elections. It would be about time. If torture doesn't work, eliciting wrongful confessions and going against universally recognized principles of human rights, why do 1/3 of American troops still support torture in Iraq, as last month's study on "Battlefield Ethics" by the U.S. Army Medical Command shows? Education is needed, both among the American people and its generals. A few good documentaries may not be enough to change policy, but at least they're a start.

This article is related to: Political Docs, Iraq, War

Follow us

E-Mail Updates



Recent Comments

By Niccolo Ungaro: I support Presdient Nasheed and add my name to this letter of support for his release.

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 6th, 2015 11:10am

By Niccolo Ungarp: I support Presdient Nasheed and add my name to this letter of support for his release.

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 6th, 2015 11:10am

By Abdul Majid: President Nasheed is our only hope for democracy in my country. This country cannot go forward with him in jail. Please help secure his…

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 6th, 2015 7:46am

By imran: As a maldivian myself I call upon the international community to fight against the fabricated accusations Against president nasheed.the real…

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 6th, 2015 5:12am

By Ahmed Aslam: I support president Nasheed! He has been jailed and tortured several times over the last 25 years fighting for democracy and human rights

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 6th, 2015 4:38am

By Ahmed Iyaz: President Mohamed Nasheed is the only President who gave Maldivians freedom of expression. I'm totally against of unlawful arrest of him and…

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 6th, 2015 3:58am

By Eugene Jarecki: I lend my voice passionately to this cause. It is of the utmost importance.

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 6th, 2015 3:03am

By Ahmed: Former President Nasheeds regime was a disaster to Maldives. A real dictator. Forcefuly arrested the Chief Judge at midnight while sleeping…

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 6th, 2015 2:06am

By Mohamed Salih Hassan: Former President Mohamed Nasheed should get fair trial. Call current govt of Maldives to hear majority of people's voice.

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 6th, 2015 2:01am

By Mohamed Shareef: my Dear HEP Yamin. Please Release Ex- HEP Mohamed Nasheed from Custody, Because PG& You create & Make This case Against him He…

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 5th, 2015 11:27pm