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Posted October 1, 2010
Important Exposure, Necessary Information
As is obvious in the complex responses to both the book and the film by Errol Morris and Philip Gourevitch, STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE places in our faces some facts we would rather shield than discuss. The story of the period of between September 2003 and February 2004 at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq is so well known not only from the news media but also from the Internet blogging sites that it need not be outlined in a review of this film. The facts documented by photographs taken by those who participated and observed the inhuman treatment of prisoners are indisputable: seeing them on the screen in full frame and in close-up shots is almost more than the compassionate eye can tolerate. But there it is and yes, we do need to witness the abuse and humiliation that describes the US prisoner treatment in Iraq, no matter who is to blame - enlisted personnel, MI, high ranking military officials, the White House. The fact that it occurred as such a gross abuse of human rights should awaken in all of us a more complete awareness that war makes humans do such things. It is ugly to watch, difficult to digest, and extremely trying on our set of beliefs that man's inhumanity to man has and does exist despite our need to believe otherwise. <BR/><BR/>Given the atrocities documented by this film, the style of the film as a work of cinema deserves to be addressed also. The flow of the documentary with the interplay of interview pieces by those infamous young people upon whose shoulders the blame was placed in what appears to be a diversionary technique to avoid deeper probing of the true guilt, along with the images of the prison itself - stark lines of cellblocks and living conditions so foul they seem to actually smell on the screen - is well conceived and beautifully/creatively captured by cinematographers Robert Chappell and Robert Richardson and enhanced by a strangely appropriate musical scoring by Danny Elfman. The film may be about things ugly, but the technique used to tell the story is high quality art. <BR/><BR/>Abu Ghraib, along with Guantanamo, will always be a scar on the conscience of America, even beyond the time that this ugly Iraq war is over. We should all look at this film with the hope that with seeing actual footage of a nightmare may help prevent recurrences in the future. Grady Harp
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