Abu Ghraib film premiered
Errol Morris, who received an Oscar for the 2003 documentary The Fog of War, took two years to try and capture interviews with the soldiers involved in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in order to make the documentary Standard Operating Procedure, a documentary which featured at the Berlin Film Festival on Tuesday.
The film examines the soldiers themselves and their involvement in the events, and just how much they were doing by themselves and how much was standard operating procedure.
Talking to Associated Press through Yahoo News he says that the resulting film showed huge contradictions in the people involved. When talking about Sabrina Harman, who took photos and appeared in the too, he said:
“At times she describes herself as crime scene reporter, forensic photographer and at other times she's participant...It's a mass of contradictions. ”
Errol Morris goes on:
“...all of them had a compass about what was right and wrong, all of them reflected on these things; and yet all of them became inextricably mired in the crimes of this place.”
What comes through the documentary time and time again is the fact that this was what they were told to do.
“...much of what you see in the photographs was policy instituted by military intelligence and not created by these soldiers.”
Something that those in the film echo time and time again, and since those events we have been hearing in film, television and print that these are standard operating procedures by military “intelligence”.
Eleven soldiers were found guilty of the abuse, none of whom had a rank higher than staff sergeant. Some received prison terms, others demoted, but no one high up in either military or civilian quarters received any comeback on these soldiers following policy and possibly orders.
I'm fascinated to see this film, and it's in the running for the Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival. However I do think that showing only the soldiers stories is a dangerous thing, for it's limiting our viewpoint for attaching blame.
Hopefully the film will continue to reinforce that these people were doing what they were ordered to do and what was, and indeed is, standard interrogation procedure. The real issue here is that the intelligence community in the west use such techniques on a regular basis, and these techniques are justified by the successes.
The question is do the results outweigh the need of the individual for basic human rights, the right not to be tortured guilty or innocent?
Although Standard Operating Procedure doesn't seem to cover this ground, it does seem to offer a fascinating insight into the people who actually carried out these interrogation techniques on behalf of the military, and suggests another very powerful Errol Morris film.