Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Haunting 'Ghosts'
From CNN.com's Cybil Wallace:

What turned U.S. soldiers into the torturers at Abu Ghraib?

A new documentary, "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib," claims that -- unlike the official line that these were loose-cannon soldiers who went on a rampage on the overnight shift -- the soldiers were following orders. Whether you believe that or not, after watching this disturbing film you'll have plenty to ponder.

"Ghosts of Abu Ghraib" debuts Thursday night on HBO. It was also an official selection of the 2007 Sundance Film Festival’s American documentary competition. (HBO, like CNN, is a unit of Time Warner.)

The documentary features interviews with both the torturers and the tortured, and manages to paint both as having suddenly landed in a version of hell.

The soldiers -- both those accused of the abuse and witnesses to it -- say they were unprepared for their assignment, unsure of their ever-changing orders and existed in a place where insanity was the norm. One soldier described his time at Abu Ghraib as " 'Apocalypse Now' meets 'The Shining,' except this is real and you're in the middle of it."

And then there are the former prisoners, none of whom were ever charged with any crime after being held for up to five months. One former prisoner described watching his elderly father die after being refused medical treatment. They were also shown photographs –- featuring those now iconic images -- and recognized their family members in them.

It keeps coming back to those photos. The soldiers took hundreds of them, with a kind of disconnect to what was going on in front of them. At one point, a female soldier tries to explain why she posed with an Iraqi's corpse -– with a large smile and thumbs-up gesture.

That scene follows an interview with one of the prisoners. He describes hearing a man being tortured.

"We listened as his soul cracked," he said.
It is as it has always been in times of war, the very people that are suppose to protect and serve materialize suddenly into their inner demons and act in ways that they never would had they been in their right mind. But this is war and they�re not in their right minds. It is the same with teenagers that are in a large group egging on a fight between their classmates. They fall into the mayhem (the Lord of the Flies) and are easily manipulated by the bullies (there are a lot of bullies out there) and suddenly they become animals with no sense of right and wrong but instead a thirst to hurt, harm and belittle as well as torture another human. I have seen it first hand and human cruelty is by far the worst to experience or to witness and for it to be in a hateful manner because of race and religious belief just makes it worse. How sad that those in command are no better. It is the people in charge that must keep their people in line and level headed, they should be guiding them and keeping a close eye on them. It is as it always was and will always be with wars. We allow these fools into the military because we don�t find out that they are fools until it�s too late.

Yes War is Hell, for all of us! My father was in Vietnam and as a child it scared me because of his absence and the stranger that returned in his place. My brother was in Desert Storm and he came back not just a stranger but no longer my brother and now we see the men coming home from IRAQ after being there 2, 3, and 4 times and they come home damaged some physically and most emotionally. But this is War and we will keep on keeping on.
TORTURE? WHAT TORTURE? Forced into unflattering positions and photographed? Hardly on the scale of beheading, wouldn't you say? I am so sick of hearing this whole story. When someone is truly tortured, then it's worthy of a story, a trial. This is not.
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