More than Just Pictures
As soldiers at Abu Ghraib, people like Sabrina Harman were expected to not let things affect them; to do as they were told and remain obedient because it was for the “good” of the United States, and the world. However, when put in the situation, what instances are far too much to witness or even worst, participate in? With the aid of NeilKressel’s Mass Hate, we will look at these situations and try to explain how soldiers like Harman could witness and allow the torture and mistreatment that happened at Abu Ghraib, while at the same time taking some very thought provoking pictures.
Abu Ghraib, a prison in the middle of Iraq used as a detention facility by the United States. At Abu Ghraib, suspected Taliban members were interrogatedand tortured. Different strategies were used to “break” the inmates, many of these such as the removal of the human senses and public ridicule would be considered cruel and inhumane by the common Joe in the U.S. However, for twenty-six-year-old M.P. (Military Police), Sabrina Harman, torture and death were common place. Harman, like many M.P.s was very emotional at first about her stay at AbuGhraib, she couldn’t help but to feel bad for the inmates even if they were indeed terrorist. She eventually learned to deal with her emotions by becoming a different person while torture was going on, and the pouring her feelings onto diary entries and letters to her “wife” Kelly, these became her escape. “She managed to subtract herself from the scenes sketched. By the end of her outpourings, shehad positioned herself as an outsider at Abu Ghraib, an observer and recorder, shaking her head, and in this way she preserved a sense of her own innocence” (Gourevitch and Morris, 34). She literally gave up responsibility by becoming a witness and not a participant. In some occasions, she arguably became directly involved when she herself was used as a torture tool by mocking an Arab’s culture;this was done by stripping the Arab of his clothes and having her, a woman, watch as he suffered. She gave up her responsibility to authority in this case her commander by “just” watching. The power of the situation that many M.P.s at Abu Ghraib was also felt by one of the M.Ps in the film Taxi to the Dark Side: “People ask me, “why didn’t you something when you saw that torture rules were beingviolated?” “you go over there and do that”, I responded”.
Witnessing everything that was going on at Abu Ghraib, Harman, an aspiring forensic photographer, also took pictures. “(Harman) shot him from a variety of angles, zooming in and out” (Gourevitch and Morris, 39). Eventually she realized that seeing a dead guy was not such a big deal, she became so comfortable with the dead that sheeventually started posing in the pictures, with the bodies and even with a thumbs up. She also started to feel as if some of the inmates (those she believed to be actual terrorist) were less than her and the rest of the “good” people. We could say that dehumanization, as shown by Kressel though the Zimbardo study was occurring. The Zimbardo study, was an attempt to see how people would act in a prisonsituation, with some people being the guards and others the prisoners. “The experimenter, as a warden, established some basic rules. In an effort to depersonalize the prisoners, guards were to refer to them only by number” (Kressel 175). At Abu Ghraib, day by day, the M.P.s felt more and more in control of the inmates; eventually the inmates were reduced to a subhuman, cartoon-like state. “and he(prisoner) was also sometimes called Mr. Burns, after the scrawny villain on “The Simpson.” The nick-names made the prisoners both more familiar and more like cartoon characters, which kept them comfortably unreal when it was time to mete out punishment.” The fact that after a point they were not as human or “real” to Harman, allowed her to also take the pictures without feeling much remorse. As...
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