Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ Free Shipping
+ Free Shipping
The Ballad of Abu Ghraib Paperback – April 28, 2009
See the Best Books of 2018 So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year so far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
"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
About the Author
Philip Gourevitch is the author of We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families, A Cold Case, and The Ballad of Abu Ghraib (with Errol Morris). He has served as editor of The Paris Review and is a longtime staff writer for The New Yorker.
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 & Out of Control; and The Thin Blue Line. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
And the heart of the story concerns the individuals who took, and appeared in those photos, much, I'm sure to their regret. Most of the aforementioned sentient beings can recall the name of one: Lynndie England. Yes, she is the one who was holding the leash which was connected to an Iraqi prisoner on all fours. Perhaps the iconic image of the war. Though Gourevitch does not make this point explicitly, he did provide all the dots if the reader wants to connect them. The leash was also around Lynndie's neck, held most directly by Charles Graner, and less directly by the society from which she came. One of the "dots" was the fact that she worked in a factory gutting chickens, for very low pay, while she was in high school, in West Virginia. These individuals are ideal prospects for the Army recruiter, who paints the picture of the upward mobility the military can provide. Another dot was when Graner painted the words "Po' White Trash" on the back of his Humvee. Yet another was the fact that she wasn't even 21. So, there is also the dot of being placed in an environment where "everyone is doing it"; where everyone is "nodding and winking" that this is an essential part of the game; that the orders of Military Intelligence, who are seeking to break these prisoners in order to "save American lives," must be obeyed, and all her "chain of command" concurs; and yet another dot is the clouding of judgment that so often comes with "love." It would take an exceptional human being to say "No, this is wrong." Lynndie England was not exceptional. The author chooses a remarkably appropriate epigraph, a quote from Jean-Paul Sartre, for all of us to ponder: "Happy are those who died without ever having had to ask themselves: `If they tear out my fingernails, will I talk?' But even happier are others, barely out of their childhood, who have not had to ask themselves that other question: `If my friends, fellow soldiers, and leaders tear out an enemy's fingernails in my presence, what will I do?'"
The book focuses on the individuals who went to prison; those that received the dishonorable discharges. No doubt, because this is where the court testimony is. But the author also tries focus on the others, that proverbial "chain of command" that led all the way back to the nods and winks coming from the White House, including the proclamations that it is time "to take the gloves off." A few of the higher-ups received reprimands, and the severity diminishes the higher one goes, with only a certain moral condemnation left for the former Secretary of Defense, now comfortably retired three hours to my north, on his farm outside Taos. And Lynndie England, now released from prison, with Graner's baby, but without him, cannot even get her old job back in the chicken plant.
As one other perceptive reviewer said: In a better world, this book would be a standard assignment in every American Civics class, along with the Gettysburg address, and Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. A very well-written, balanced, and wrenching account of another serious stain on the ideals that many Americans rightly strive for. 5-stars plus.
We start with some great trains of thought like Lane McCotter's attempt to westernize the prison or it's use as a military prison, but the story becomes too convoluted and difficult to follow, littered with interviews, flashbacks and pieces of soldier's letters to loved ones. The end result is that you don't really know what to make of it all, and perhaps that was the point, but it's a pity to conclude a terrible history with a feeling of exhaustion and frankly, apathy. Not the goal, methinks.
I felt fascinated with Rwanda after Gourevitch's recounting in his previous novel. In fact, I studied the history far more extensively and even planned a trip to see it for myself. After reading this book, I was just relieved to have made it through, and I didn't feel the same sense of interest or fascination in pursuing the truth for myself. In fact, I just wanted the ballad, like the prison experience, to end.
Not his finest work. I'll certainly continue reading his work because he's an incredibly talented voice in modern journalism, but this book didn't seem to achieve the intended result of making the reader really, truly care.
So you ask why? At the very end of the book on p. 283, under "Notes and Acknowledgments" (not in a Preface or Introduction, of which there is neither), there is acknowledgment that no-photos was a deliberate decision, but a decision that is not really explained, except to say you can go elsewhere for them and that they are not the story ("The photographs have a place in the story, but they are not the story")?
I have two reactions to that. (1) Yes, I've seen Errol Morris's blogs on the NYTimes Web site, photos printed in The New Yorker, etc., etc., but it would still be very useful to have some included in print in the book. (2) How can the photographs not be a vital part of the story -- there would be no story without them because none of this would be widely believed without the visual evidence?
YMMV, but to me it needlessly weakens an otherwise valuable book and I don't understand how Errol Morris could put his name on the book with these omissions.
Most recent customer reviews
I would refer those who are curious or disappointed about the absence of photographs in this...Read more