Reflecting on Standard Operating Procedure

Immediately following Standard Operating Procedure, I have three immediate reactions. The first comes from the idea of a “ghost detainee”, referenced by Military Police Sergeant Javal Davis. It’s a troubling idea for many reasons, one of which is that the possession of ghost detainees puts military personnel unfamiliar with the detainees identities in impossible situations, with little idea who they are dealing with (if anybody significant). It seems to be very compromising with little reward.

The second reaction emerges from something else said by Sergeant Davis. In discussing the photos, he mentioned that the photos record the humiliation of detainees that was rampant at Abu Ghraib; they do not record the actual torture. It is horrifying to imagine these images as that which the soldiers felt comfortable photographing. As Neel mentioned in class on Monday, the photos available to the public are not the worst of those taken at Abu Ghraib; some have been withheld because of the fear of the blowback they would generate. That is a deeply disturbing thought.

My final reaction to the film is that I am troubled by the words of Brent Pack, the Army Special Agent in the Criminal Investigation Division. Speaking of the photos at Abu Ghraib and what qualifies vs. what does not qualify as standard operating procedure, Special Agent Pack said, “I spent four months in Guantanamo Bay. People that haven’t been where I have been, I can’t expect them to see the pictures in the same way.” This quote troubles me because it seems to be clearly verbalizing the problem: those involved in close proximity with places like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib are unable to see the photos for what they are. Because these personnel are overexposed to images like these, the images do not possess the elements of horror and deep, deep wrong to them that they do to the average citizen. This is troubling to me, but seems to be an unavoidable vicious cycle: anybody who works in this area will be desensitized to the horror of images like these, and will thus be less likely to deal with the problem as it needs to be dealt with.

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