Standard Operating Procedure (2008) Director: Errol Morris
by Marilyn Ferdinand
Ferdy on Films
Errol Morris didn’t forget. After an exploratory interview with Karpinski, he determined that the story of Abu Ghraib hadn’t been fully explored, that the pictures had, in fact, closed down a wider investigation of the truth because they made it so easy to point a finger at the grunts on the ground and be done with it. Morris was sure that there was a story outside the frames of those pictures, a human face to the low-ranked monsters who were punished that deserved to be seen as well, a cover-up to be investigated. Returning to the investigative mode he so brilliantly executed with The Thin Blue Line, Morris doggedly pursued interviews and information, eventually getting Javal Davis, Tony Diaz, Lynndie England, Megan Ambuhl Graner, Sabrina Harman, Janis Karpinski, Roman Krol, and Jeremy Sivits—all prosecuted or otherwise punished for the abuse—to speak with him. Former Abu Ghraib MPs Ken Davis and Jeffrey Frost provided their version of events. Military interrogator Tim Dugan discussed what he saw and gave his opinion of the effectiveness of the MPs’ softening techniques. Finally, Brent Pack, a special agent for the Criminal Investigations Division, showed how he put together a timeline of events and corroborating evidence of who took part in the abuse through the use of the photographs themselves.
Morris introduces us to the prison first. We learn about an elaborate tour of the facility that was planned for Secretary Rumsfeld’s visit in September 2003. Rumsfeld entered the room where hangings took place under Saddam, then hurriedly left the prison with an offhand “fine, fine" comment. When Major General Geoffrey Miller visited Abu Ghraib a day later, the results were more “fruitful." He intended to run the prison in Gitmo fashion, and Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez issued the now infamous Interrogation and Counter-Resistance Policy for Iraq, which tacitly and explicitly authorized certain forms of torture and humiliation in opposition to the Geneva Convention. With the necessary instructions now in place, the 372nd MP Company took up their duties in Abu Ghraib.
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