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Ghosts of Abu Ghraib (2007)

Rory Kennedy  |  NR |  DVD
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Directors: Rory Kennedy
  • Writers: Jack Youngelson
  • Producers: Rory Kennedy, Liz Garbus, Jack Youngelson
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: Unknown
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: HBO Studios
  • DVD Release Date: September 2, 2008
  • Run Time: 78 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000NY0YK4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #228,559 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Over 30 minutes of previously unseen footage

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Ghosts of Abu Ghraib (DVD)

What was perhaps the most disgraceful episode in U.S. military history is examined in director Rory Kennedy's Ghosts of Abu Ghraib. By now there can't be many folks who aren't at least somewhat familiar with what went on at that notorious Baghdad prison in 2003, when U.S soldiers abused and mistreated--some would say tortured--Iraqi detainees (every one of whom was eventually released without charges). Yet while those acts were atrocious and unforgivable, perhaps even more troubling is the philosophy behind them. As Kennedy lays it out, the United States began committing violations of the Geneva Conventions, particularly the ones that prohibit torture, well before the invasion of Iraq and the incarceration of literally thousands of people at the dilapidated Abu Ghraib facility. Employing the kind of linguistic tap-dancing often used by the Bush administration to justify its actions, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others defined their captives not as prisoners of war but as "unlawful combatants," opening the door for the use of such "extreme techniques" as nudity and sexual humiliation, "stress positions" (such as standing on a rickety box wearing a sensory-deprivation hood), and intimidation by vicious dogs; while some photos of these activities have been widely circulated before, many of the shots we see here are much more explicit and, since they're in color, considerably more lurid. As for how and why these afffonts to basic human dignity were allowed, it's tough to find anyone actually willing to take responsibility. The guards who did the deeds, several of whom were interviewed for the documentary, say they were under-trained and far too few in number; their superiors say their pleas for additional support were ignored; and while the military brass and government bureaucrats were content to blame "a few bad soldiers" (like Pvt. Lynndie England and Sgt. Charles Graner, both of whom are now serving jail sentences), the suggestion here is that what went on at Abu Ghraib was less an aberration than a manifestation of defined government policy (the fact that no one appears on camera to refute these charges casts some doubt on Kennedy's objectivity). The director's audio commentary and extended interviews are the principal bonus features. --Sam Graham

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
114 of 114 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What Will Haunt Americans Forever July 8, 2008
"Continue!" commanded the experimenter. The volunteer did as he was told even though he thought he was providing extraordinarily painful levels of shock to the actor in the next room. All the volunteers did as they were told with the majority administering "lethal" levels at 450 volts. A psychologist named Dr. Stanley Milgram conducted this experiment at Yale in 1961. This is how Rory Kennedy's film begins.

Forty-two years later the United States is taking Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. But how should they be classified, as prisoners of war? John Yoo, counsel at the Department of Justice explains that these "detainees" do not fit the description of prisoners of war, and therefore, are not afforded the protections the Convention provides. Furthermore, it is believed that these detainees have information vital to the war on terror, and it must be gotten from them. But, once again, John Yoo is perplexed by the wording of the Geneva Convention which forbids "severe" treatment of prisoners. "What does that mean," Yoo asks the camera. He suggests that it should only describe loss of bodily functions, organ failure, or death. Yoo does not note for us that the last two are usually too late to reverse the technique. By this standard, Japanese officers executed after World War II for torturing allies did not commit torture at all--not even Saddam Hussein! The White House agrees with Yoo's assessment and decides that those in their custody will not be given protection under the Geneva Convention.

Now, it's a question of how to get information. Major General Geoffrey Miller (USA) is transferred from Guantanamo to Iraq. He believes that information must be obtained at all costs.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hang our American heads in shame. July 12, 2008
This would-that-it-were-incredible film starts and nearly ends with an early 1960s study entitled "Obedience" in which psychologists concluded that people will, if given adequate direction from perceived authority, perform in ways contrary to their ethics. (All right, it's a run on...Forgive me.)

After the Iraq debacle began, presidential counsel Alberto Gonzales redefined torture so as to UNdefine it, thereby justifying anything this country did. Then Iraqi prisoners were taken into Abu Ghraib.

Interesting, but the troops interviewed for the film reflected on how badly prisoners there at Abu Ghraib were treated by Saddam's regime, how many, for example, had been brutally executed there. Interesting, huh?

The MPs were eventually taken from the Abu Ghraib and military intelligence was given a more active role. Unfortunately, the interrogators weren't getting any information. God forbid, did it occur to them that the prisoners didn't have any information to give? Apparently not.

So the army felt it would make more sense to get a very Rumsfeld kinda guy, Gen. Geoffrey Miller, from Gitmo which was/is notorious for their getting information despite "techniques" used. (Note that just yesterday the Red Cross's report was released which indicated that what the US is doing in Gitmo IS torture, and it IS a war crime.)

This is apparently when "mistreatment" of prisoners occurred. They were sexually humiliated, electrocuted, all sorts of techniques of torture you have to see the film to believe that those purporting to represent "democracy" would practice.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scarier than ghosts... April 29, 2007
In a political science class of mine the other day, my professor popped in this film and gave no intro, except to say the title. After the film was over I realized why, because this documentary goes into greater detail then my professor ever could, in way far more telling.

First off, as you can see by the title, the documentary is about the prison camp Abu Ghraib. At first you get an introduction, through soldiers stationed there about the prison, and it's dreary past. This was a former prison used by Saddam after all; however, the focus wasn't on phantasms. In fact, the ghosts are perhaps a forewarning of the abuses we now know of; abuses that, as you find out throughout the film, are even more disturbing then you might have imagined, and once again show how humans can lose themselves in the situation, as these soldiers, who are actually narrating this themselves, did during their time in Abu Ghraib.

What most impressed me was the fact that this documentary was able to gather as many soldiers that worked there, along with a couple of the former prisoners. See at first, I didn't realize the people I was watching talk about the prison, the soldiers, were indeed the one's that were a part of the egregious acts, and you'd never imagine that till the end. Even more disturbing, is how these soldiers, clearly not jailers, were hung up to dry as "a few bad soldiers" when, as the movie shows, torture was a policy from above, not a spontaneous action from below.

Clearly, this film may shake peoples ideas differently based on their political viewpoints; however, I believe that no matter the party, or persuasion, you should watch this film. My only warning is that this film is graphic, so be forewarned. Otherwise, hopefully this excellent documentary will open your eyes, as it did mine, to the situation in Abu Ghraib that we only thought we knew...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and upsetting
Interesting look into what went on during the Iraq war and how the US treated some of the prisoners. Good interviews with people who were there at the time.
Published 8 days ago by BDUB619
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very moving, I'm a retired USMarine and it makes me think hard.... And think!
Published 19 days ago by Manuel Martinez
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Being informed is very valuable!!
Published 1 month ago by Kathleen J Cornell
5.0 out of 5 stars dvd
great, great movie.
Published 1 month ago by patricia t.
5.0 out of 5 stars Rory Kennedy does a great job as a documentary film maker and this was...
Rory Kennedy does a great job as a documentary film maker and this was no exception. It is truly a shame that this country, in the name of 'national security', sends its young... Read more
Published 1 month ago by DASola
2.0 out of 5 stars many of whom were released from Abu Ghraib and were never subjected to...
This was basically an Anti-American documentary using the events at Abu Ghraib as the typical manner in which the Americans treated the Iraqis in a war that should have never been... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Former Devil Doc
5.0 out of 5 stars A peak into atrocities
This provided an abundance of information on events that marred our history. Real people were used to describe events and discuss feelings surrounding war and prisoners. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Lisa Jahn
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I loved it.
Published 3 months ago by joe l mardis
5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie! The same occurred in a Texas county ...
Great movie ! The same occurred in a Texas county jail in 1997, where the higher ups gave the same instructions to the lower staff , as in the movie. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Ricardo
3.0 out of 5 stars Very sad commentary on our military....
Mostly what I had already seen from the news media. It is a sad commentary on the mentality of our soldiers and the ineffectiveness of their commanders to either see or do... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Douglas W. Fielder
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