The Ballad of Abu Ghraib

Overview

The first full reckoning of what actually happened at Abu Ghraib prison-"one of the most devastating of the many books on Iraq" (The New York Times Book Review)

A relentlesly surprising and perceptive account of the front lines of the war on terror, Standard Operating Procedure is a war story that takes its place among the classics. Acclaimed author Philip Gourevitch presents the story behind a defining moment in the war, and a defining moment in our understanding of ourselves- ...

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The Ballad of Abu Ghraib

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Overview

The first full reckoning of what actually happened at Abu Ghraib prison-"one of the most devastating of the many books on Iraq" (The New York Times Book Review)

A relentlesly surprising and perceptive account of the front lines of the war on terror, Standard Operating Procedure is a war story that takes its place among the classics. Acclaimed author Philip Gourevitch presents the story behind a defining moment in the war, and a defining moment in our understanding of ourselves- the infamous Abu Ghraib photographs of prisoner abuse. Drawing on Academy Award-winning filmmaker Errol Morris's astonishing interviews with the Americans who took and appeared in the pictures, Standard Operating Procedure is an utterly original book that stands to endure as essential reading long after the current war in Iraq passes from the headlines.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
For many Americans, the torture photos from Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison have left indelible memories: the black-hooded inmate, his arms outstretched like a scarecrow, his feet clinging to a tiny base; the grotesque mound of naked male bodies with two GIs standing behind it, beaming approval. In Standard Operating Procedures, Paris Review editor and frequent New Yorker contributor Philip Gourevitch and Oscar-winning Fog of War filmmaker Errol Morris combine their talents to produce a revelatory account of how standard military procedures devolved into full-scale mayhem. Informed by 200 of Morris's interviews with soldiers and prisoners, Gourevitch's narrative carves out a scathing picture of behavior distressingly at odds with who we, as Americans, think we are. Relentless, revealing, and unforgettable.
From the Publisher
"Here, author and journalist Gourevitch and documentary filmmaker Morris have compiled the complete story of Abu Ghraib, from Iraqi prison to prison of occupying American forces, and the crimes its walls concealed- only some of which were revealed in photographs that hit the global media in 2003. Drawing from Morris's lengthy interviews with the soldiers who photographed and participated in prisoner abuse, the authors render in clear detail the horror and inhumanity of Abu Ghraib, for prisoner and guard alike: "Inexperienced, untrained, under attack, and under orders to do wrong, the low-ranking reservist MPs who implemented the nefarious policy... knew that what they were doing was immoral, and they knew that if it wasn't illegal, it ought to be." From the squalid conditions to the lack of regulations to the appalling acts that jolted the world, this chronicle of unconscionable behavior, and the political maneuvering that took place in its aftermath, is as much a page-turner as any fictional thriller. Companion to Morris's documentary film of the same name, this deft piece of reportage will stir readers' anger, at both the actions and the consequences; not only was the torture purposeless ("Nobody has even bothered to pretend otherwise"), but "no soldier above the rank of sergeant ever served jail time... [and] Nobody was ever charged with torture, or war crimes, or any violation of the Geneva Conventions." A thorough, terrifying account of an American-made "bedlam," the latest from Gourevitch is as troubling, and arguably as important, as his 1998 Rwanda investigation We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will be Killed with Our Families." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"This book has to be read." — Newsweek

"A tightly knit and damning narrative... one of the most devastating of the many books on Iraq." — New York Times Book Review

"Philip Gourevitch's exemplary book will take its toll for years." — The New York Observer

"Gourevitch's eye for telling detail evokes the best of The New Yorker tradition-Capote's In Cold Blood, Hersey's Hiroshima... Standard Operating Procedure is essential reading for our time." — The Tennessean

"As much a page-turner as any fictional thriller... A thorough, terrifying account of an American-made 'bedlam,' the latest from Gourevitch is as troubling, and arguably as important, as his 1998 Rwanda investigation We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will be Killed with Our Families." — Publishers Weekly

"[A] gut wrenching morality check" — NPR's Talk of the Nation

"Admirable... remarkable power" — Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"A compelling story... [Gourevitch] is a master of looking more closely, which means both more sympathetically and more critically... Gourevitch's account takes us outside the frame, giving us the chance to understand the dynamic of the unit in which violence and romance were S.O.P... The book shows how lawlessness became the law." — The Los Angeles Times

"Remarkable." — The Denver Post

"Gourevitch...brings to this study of the Abu Ghraib scandal the same graceful balancing of reportage and insight that marked his extraordinary book on the Rwandan genocide, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families... the shocks arrive through language alone." — Time Out NY

NPR's Talk of the Nation

"[A] gut wrenching morality check"

Newsweek
This book has to be read.
Douglas Brinkley
…deeply haunting and brilliantly researched saga of good intentions gone awry…Standard Operating Procedure is a devastating critique of the Bush administration. It inspires outrage at everything and everyone from the Bush Doctrine to former attorney general Alberto Gonzales to the CIA.
—The Washington Post
Raymond Bonner
Unfortunately, the truth, which emerges with painful clarity from Standard Operating Procedure, is that what happened at Abu Ghraib was not only tolerated but condoned and encouraged. Harsh treatment wasn't punished; it was rewarded…this is one of the most devastating of the many books on Iraq.
—The New York Times Book Review
Michiko Kakutani
By insistently focusing on the photos and the lower-level soldiers who appear in them, the movie version of Standard Operating Procedure often has the inadvertent effect of playing into the "few bad apples" argument put forth by the Bush administration. This book version, in contrast, does an admirable job of situating those photos (which curiously do not appear in the volume) within a larger context, showing the roots those repellent images had in decisions made at the highest levels of the Bush administration…What Standard Operating Procedure, the book…does with remarkable power, is conjure the atmosphere and conditions at Abu Ghraib that existed during the period in which the photographed abuses occurred.
—The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143115397
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/28/2009
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip Gourevitch

Errol Morris is the author of the New York Times bestseller A Wilderness of Error and the Academy Award-winning director of The Fog of War, among other films, including Standard Operating Procedure; Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control; and The Thin Blue Line. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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    Posted January 27, 2010

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