I had heard of Abu Ghraib before taking this class, but didn’t really know what it was, and wasn’t privy to the details of the atrocities that took place. Watching the documentary Standard Operating Procedure was a horrifyingly eye-opening experience. I still can’t fathom the actuality of the scandal, even now, having researched the incident in depth. On the other hand, it is easily fathomable that these inhumane and disgusting practices took place in the wake of the September 11th attacks and the US initialization of the war on terror.
Wartime inhumanity is not a newfound concept. Conflicts since the beginning of recorded history have spurred states to turn to inhumanity in order to gather crucial information about the strategy and origination of combatant enemy establishments. Torture and humiliation have been used as interrogation tactics since pre-medieval times. They have also been employed as recently as WWI and WWII and throughout many other respectively recent wars and conflicts. In WWII, the deciphering of foreign codes and other means of surreptitious communication proved to be integral tidbits of information regarding enemy strategy, and led traceably to turning points allowing allied victory over axis powers. Those integral tidbits of information came from two sources: double crossing spies and interrogated prisoners of war. Unlike the modern day, however, these practices were often successfully kept secret to the general public because of the lack of media attention and general awareness. In this light, it is verifiably effective to subject enemies to inhumane interrogation techniques. It is wrong, but it is still done, and has been done, since the beginning of human history.
The one part of the story that allows my heart to rest easier is to know that many of those Americans who participated in these atrocities were convicted of their crimes and served prison sentences for their horrendous acts. While I have no doubt that the parts of the US Government were fully aware of what was going on in Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad, it is reassuring that those immediately involved in the scandal were sentenced for their crimes. The negative attention that this illegal and inhumane prison spurred in the news media (information was leaked to news media about Abu Grabe in 2004) leads me to believe that in the future, especially now as our world has become so interconnected, the US and other states who are tempted to participate in this inhumanity may think twice before stooping to that level barbarity.
What I took away from this is, disappointingly, that nothing ever changes with us humans. But then again, I have hope that everything may change with morally erect leadership and the widespread public recognition of inhumanity as it is in any form—atrocious.