Standard Operating Procedure

Standard Operating Procedure

by Philip Gourevitch, Errol Morris


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Standard Operating Procedure is a war story that takes its place among the classics. It is the story of American soldiers who were sent to Iraq as liberators only to find themselves working as jailers in Saddam Hussein's old dungeons, responsible for implementing the sort of policy they were supposed to be fighting against. It is the story of a defining moment in the war, and a defining moment in our understanding of ourselves—the story of the infamous Abu Ghraib photographs of prisoner abuse, as seen through the eyes, and told through the voices, of the soldiers who took them and appeared in them. It is the story of how those soldiers were at once the instruments of a great injustice and the victims of a great injustice.

In a tradition of moral and political reckoning, and all-powerful story- telling, that runs from Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness and Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Grand Inquisitor to Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song, Philip Gourevitch has written a relentlessly surprising and perceptive account of the front lines of the war on terror. Drawing on more than two hundred hours of Errol Morris's startlingly frank and intimate interviews with the soldier-photographers who gave us what have become the iconic images of the Iraq war, Standard Operating Procedure is a book that makes you see, and makes you feel, and above all makes you think about what it means to be human. It is an utterly original book that stands to endure as essential reading long after the current war in Iraq passes from the headlines—a work of searing power from two of our finest masters of nonfiction, working at the peak of their powers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594201325
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/29/2000
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 9.44(w) x 6.38(h) x 1.05(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

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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Standard Operating Procedure 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
whjensen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A most excellent, appalling book. It is an unflinching look at how individual people compromise their morals, and in the process, compromise the morals of an entire endeavor. Goerevitch has crafted a true crime story out of this episode and does not do it in a judging manner, but rather asks the questions of "Why?" without offering pat answers. Each reader will need to decide on their own why this happened.My copy, on the Kindle, had many grammatical errors that distracted at first, but became invisible to my eyes as the story engrossed.
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While the general public in this country is somewhat knowledgeable of the prolonged agonies of the ongoing Iraq War, few of us are as acutely aware of the dark cloud of atrocities accompanying that war. Information about the 'progress' and purpose of that war are parceled out by the somewhat restricted media, the more serious and sad aspects of what is actually happening are scrutinized before the media releases that information, leaving us with a generalized anxiety about conditions and prognostications of the conflict that has so little support from the public at present. Too often this 'protective shield' from the facts allows a certain degree of near complacency, and it takes the intermittent release of data such as the unveiling of the atrocities and prisoner abuse at the hands of American soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison that surfaced through blogs and magazines and newspapers to startle the public and remind us of the grim aspects that war can drive countries and individuals to perform. Yes, similar startle reaction accompanied the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War and the books and films that followed that event alerted the public of the realities that can happen in wartime. But it takes an important book such as STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE written by Philip Gourevitch with invaluable insights and interviews from co-author Errol Morris who created the film STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE to bring to our careful scrutiny just what is happening and what is possible under the guise of 'protection' in time of war. Gourevitch wisely divides this book into three sections - 'Before', 'During' and 'After - which allows the reader to absorb the events leading up to the creation of the Abu Ghraib prison, introducing the people involved in transforming this dank and pungent edifice housing Saddam Hussein's own grim prison and execution house into a 'redesigned' American prison. We meet the contractors, the military personnel from the officers down to the soldiers assigned to guard the detainee prisoners, to the prisoners themselves, and it is this thorough approach to reportage that engenders confidence in the writing and makes every riveting page of this immensely important and terrifying account sear the reader's eye. Photographs, such as those that flooded the blogsites and media for a brief moment a few years ago, can create a visceral impression, but Gourevitch's choice to exclude the visuals from his evaluation of Abu Ghraib and the inhumane atrocities perpetrated by our own soldiers on the prisoners makes his book even more disturbing. The use of letters home by the soldiers witnessing and taking part in the torture and 'interrogation techniques', letters and interviews supplied by Errol Morris from his research for his documentary film, allow us to hear about the situation first hand. Gourevitch is careful not to press his thumb on the scales that weigh the balance of 'indicated' and 'not indicated' actions and his doing so makes the reading all the more vivid. He allows us to observe how the situation arose, what actually happened there, and the repercussions and cover-up of the full story once the activities within the walls of that now infamous prison leaked out. This is a book that should be read by all citizens of this country (and of all countries who engage in war) to remind us all just how distorted and tested the state of humanity can become when the umbrella of 'war' alters human behavior that at times only retrospection (such as this book supplies) unveils. STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE is an important document and a fascinating, if grim, read. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp