Sunday, July 19, 2009

Standard Operating Procedure

It's impossible to talk about Standard Operating Procedure without referencing Taxi to the Dark Side. Fortunately, both documentaries are vital to any discussion about US military interrogation techniques. While Alex Gibney's Oscar winner uses the death of an Iraqi taxi driver as a framing device, director Errol Morris and writer Philip Gourevitch (We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families) examine the issue through visual evidence (they also collaborated on a book of the same name).

While Gibney concentrates on Bhagram, Morris focuses on Abu Ghraib, but his self-described "non-fiction horror film," which features a dramatic Danny Elfman score and slow-motion reenactments, runs along two tracks. First, he aims to find out what happened at the infamous institution. Along with the photographs and video footage, he speaks to the guards and the brigadier general who oversaw their operations, including former army specialist Lynndie England, who has all the charm of Aileen Wuornos (so memorably immortalized in Monster). As in his Thin Blue Line, accounts contradict other accounts.

In Morris's world, absolute truth doesn't exist; it's up to viewers to decide which subjects seem most reliable. This leads to his parallel goal, which is to question the reliability of imagery. Photography was prohibited at Abu Ghraib, so he identifies the responsible parties, the reasoning behind their rule-breaking, and the stories behind the most incendiary pictures. If less emotionally engaging than Gibney's feature, Standard Operating Procedure is just as essential--and every bit as disturbing.

Click here to visit the official site.


Eric said...

Ordinary people in extraordinary situations. Yes, the soldiers that got thrown under the bus did evil things but that doesn't make them evil people. The Stanford prison experiment comes to mind; the SPE may have been flawed but that doesn't mean that it wasn't instructive.

This hilights the need for neutral oversight of extraordinary situations. Not just military and military police operations but also civilian police and prison operations. Bad situations can easily warp normal people into monsters. We need outside observers to help people keep from losing themselves. The military command structure and officers in general are supposed to fill that role but it looks like they were busy covering their asses and figuring out which grunts they could blame.

pimpsterhl said...

Sorry but i disagree. I'm not saying that people can't do extreme things in order to survive, however, history is full of examples of people that stand up against the norm of their surroundings or their time.

Not to say that being told these people are the enemy every day, that i would turn into Ghandi, but most on here didn't show ANY remorse and were kind of laughing and chuckling at horrid situations. That is the scariest thing to me personally.

I think it's time that people step up and stop waiting for evolution to make us perfect minded people all with a moral compass we will stick to always. People need to stop going along with the group and STAND UP for what they believe is right! War is terrible of course, but what the hell?? Are our soldiers brain washed so bad to where they'll do anything simply because they are ORDERED to do so? Yes there may be negative consequences for refusing orders, but i thought when you go and make a commitment to defend America, you would understand that if we can rationalize these actions, where exactly is the limit where they stand up and say NO SIR, I WILL NOT!!!?????

Just a thought...

Anonymous said...

I have to say i agree with pimp. While i understand the prison experiment, i think we need to raise above our natural tendency to follow orders.
As the saying goes, Evil Triumph when good man do nothing. As individual in a free state, we have a responsibility to do something. In the age of liberal democracy, where everyone is taught individual choice, to follow order or to stand up for human rights is a choice. A choice they should make.