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Ghosts of Abu Ghraib

4.2 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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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

Special Features

  • Over 30 minutes of previously unseen footage

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:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: HBO Studios
  • DVD Release Date: September 2, 2008
  • Run Time: 78 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000NY0YK4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,655 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Edwin C. Pauzer VINE VOICE on July 8, 2008
Format: DVD
"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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Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD
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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