March 2, 2008

With More Abu Ghraib Images Come More Dimensions


I don’t remember which Senator, upon previewing the larger body of Abu Ghraib photos, insisted they never be released.  Psychologist Philip Zimbardo, however, was not so inclined.  This shots was obtained while serving as an expert witness for one of the AG defendants.  Zimbardo, who is famous for his study revealing cruel behavior by students posing as prison guards, included the new material in a slide show for the TED conference.

Wired has published these additional images.  Several are similar to those that have already circulated, but a few others are new and truly horrific.

Given our thorough familiarity with the hooded and wired figure, I was struck by this new variant, capturing the soldier either clipping or picking his nails, the picture of nonchalance.  What is also troubling, by the way, is what looks like blood stains on his pants, especially in the genital area.

What makes this photo particularly disturbing is how it expands on the singular image in my head of the hooded figure.  That shot was more strictly about sadism.  This photo, with the paunchy preoccupied soldier, suddenly ties in the theme of indifference.  And, on that score, it starts to reference how we all look away.

(Update 8:30 AM:  Credit to BAGreaders for the clarifications.  Given the other images in the series, with all the blood and sexual abuse, I see how I read the “cammo” spot as a stain, especially given its location.  And, the soldier previewing on his point-and-shoot does, in fact, add a new dimension.  In this case, our exposure to this image perversely and unwittingly enlists us in the production (or, should I say “execution?”) of what ultimately became the iconic and indelible symbol of Abu Ghraib, if not, the war itself.  This — in a still frame — is like of a behind-the-scenes, bizarro-Discovery Channel  version of “The Making Of The Abu Ghraib ‘Victim On The Box’.” )

Disturbing New Photos From Abu Ghraib (Wired)

TED 2008: How Good People Turn Evil, From Stanford to Abu Ghraib (Includes Zimbardo slide show – Wired)

The Most Obscene Pictures Taken At Abu Ghraib (BNN)

(image: Philip Zimbardo via U.S. military)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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