Standard Operating Procedure
Errol Morris’ latest documentary addresses Iraq — specifically the infamous photographs of abused prisoners at Abu Ghraib and the so-called bad apples who took them. The director asks: How did these pictures come into existence? And what, if anything, do they reveal? The snapshots and videos are annotated by interviews with four of the bad apples as well as letters home written by the most diligent of the amateur photographers, Sabrina Harmon. What emerges from this testimony, which also includes the former brigadier general in charge of the prison, is the suggestion that these bored, ignorant, scared MPs were just entertaining themselves. The pictures, they say, were posed. For Morris, who seems skeptical that photographs can ever disclose anything, the issue is legalistic. Focusing only on the photographic evidence, he asks if these images prove the commission of criminal acts or if they simply illustrate what one MP calls “standard operating procedure.” If there’s a moral distinction, I must be too dense to grasp its significance.