I have now finished my blog, however there are some things that I could have improved.
I found a lot of research, like the documentary “Standart Operating Procedure”, by Errol Morris after I finished my blogs, which concerned the Abu Ghraib scandal. Also, I found some more articles on guardian.co.uk that would have made my research more complete.
What I also didn’t get a chance to do was researching whether events like this one have occurred before, where people took pictures of torture or prisoners of war who are in a lower position than them. I came to find that, apparently, nazi soldiers in WW2 took their cameras for their own use, and took pictures as they went trough the Soviet Union taking pictures of their hurt or even dead “enemies”. As I didn’t have enough time to research this I couldn’t add this to my blog.
I do realize that there are some gaps, and that my first few entries aren’t as strong as my latest one, however I tried to make up for this when I realized it.
There is one more video that I would like to add before I finish, just because I feel that even after all that time in prison, Lynndie England still doesn’t seem to have understood the reason why she was sent to prison in the firsts place.
She hesitates in taking any blame, and when she does it seems forced. Her cheeky, arrogant smile and attitude haven’t changed, and in my view, she sees it all as a joke. As if her making money and fame out of torturing others wasn’t enough.
Alex J. Bellamy (2008). Security and the war on terror, Taylor & Francis. p. 42-49.]
Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, 2007, Rory Kennedy
Liz Wells (1998). Photography: A Critical Introduction. London: Routledge. p.120-125
The photograph of Lynndie England and Charles Graner portrays a happy image of a couple, the man leaning over the woman in a traditional defensive manner, resting his head on her shoulder and the woman casually sitting on a chair relaxed, almost manly. She isn’t very graceful in her stance but both of them seem genuinely happy posing for the camera. They have a huge Hollywood smile and that sparkle of happiness in their eyes. Their relaxed mood makes it feel look like they are comfortable in their surroundings, almost like they’re home.
In fact, if you took the background out, which suggests that they are in a prison, this would just be a holiday snapshot of a couple who are having a good time.
Therefore, if you didn’t know the rest of the series of these photographs, you wouldn’t guess that this couple was Lynndie England and Charles Graner. The very two people, who became the faces of the Abu Ghraib scandal. Especially Lynndie England who became the “poster-girl of Abu Ghraib”.
Whilst I was doing my research, I didn’t really come across this photograph much. It was the rest of the series, the disturbing images, which made it into pretty much every newspaper around the world. The pictures of England and Graner posing behind a human pyramid made of naked Iraqi detainees.
The media is known for preferring to use more ‘shocking’ stories and images which are guaranteed to grab the audience’s attention and there is no point in denying that we do love scandalous stories. But this story seemed a bit extreme, even though it was said that there are more even more extreme photographs, which haven’t been released. But doesn’t this prove that once again it is the government controlling our knowledge and awareness of what going on by only releasing the ‘harmless’ photographs for damage control?
But how rational was it to publish these ‘harmless’ pictures in the first place?
All-American white soldiers, apart from one, who are part of the invasive force, who have come to democratize the mess that Iraq represents by torturing it’s natives. Linking this to my original image we can see that this applies to it. They feel so comfortable and supreme being the capturers who hold all authority whereas the natives are the one’s being captured and stripped of their basic rights. So displaying these images will make American patriots feel even more powerful as they feel that they have supremacy no matter what and the Middle East is in their hands, not worth anything because they are terrorists.
America is known for being a patriotic nation, so most of that nation would have a strong opinion about the ‘war on terrorism’ and fiercely believe in what the army was doing. For instance, Joseph Darby wasn’t able to go back to his hometown after reporting the abuse to his superiors, because his town was a military town so they saw him as a ‘rat’. The Army even went as far as telling Darby that his life was in danger if he went back. So because after 9/11 pretty much every middle-eastern person became a terrorist in the eyes of this patriotic majority, we can assume that a lot of people thought about this event like Lynndie England did. Her comment was that this was “nothing compared to what they would do to us”. It is therefore questionable how ethical it was to publish these pictures, as this majority still saw Darby as the bad guy instead of questioning the systematic problem of the U.S military.
This suggests that the media didn’t stress this problem strong enough for people to understand the measure of this event and torture. The media turned this into a twisted ‘love story’ instead by focusing on Lynndie and Charle’s relationship instead, giving her the excuse of being put under pressure and wanting to please her man and the Bush Administration to blame a few individuals who claimed to be following their orders. But looking at the picture, we see pride and self-satisfaction in their pose. And this is what’s most disturbing; the fact that they don’t see the error of their ways. The happiness of the main picture could also be related to this.
Knowing all this, we can now look at this and see what would have lead to their blissful state of mind that is reflected in this photograph: self-satisfaction and power. Even in the other pictures these are the factors and the fact that the tortures almost looks too routune,are even more disturbing than the torture itself.
It is not possible to look at this photograph as an individual one, because the rest of the series are what makes this more than a white couple smiling and this series is exactly why we know that these aren’t two lovers, these are ‘monsters’.
To conclude this essay I will ask a few questions:
My main argument which states that it wasn’t ethical to use these photographs so casually just to add a shock-factor to the stories, but would the world have taken this event seriously if it wasn’t for these graphic images? Would this picture of Lynndie England and Charles Graner be enough to identify the soldiers who did these disgusting things? Or do we need to see it for ourselves in order for it to sink in?
As I am going to end my blog with a Critical Review, I am now going to plan how I am going to structure it.
- Brief analysis and summary of photograph
- Wouldn’t be able to understand if you didn’t know series and story behind it
- Media want shocking stories, therefore concentrated on twisted ‘love story’
- Too extreme? Government only released ‘harmless’ one’s. Damage control?
- How rational was it to publish them? All American soldiers torturing Iraqis
- America is patriotic; will this aggravate hate against what they see as terrorists?
- Made look too normal? Media not critical enough?
- Focus on a few instead of systematic problem
- Questions: what if images weren’t released, how much attention would the story have gotten?
I have spent the last 9 weeks researching the story behind my main image. Looking at the photograph, there is a man and a woman in uniforms, obviously soldiers, in what looks like a prison. They seem quite intimate, with him protectively leaning over her. Also the huge smiles on their faces seem very genuine along with their sparkling eyes. Their comfort almost suggests that they’re home. But because now we know the story, we know that there is more to it than this.
From my research, I found that the picture we were given wasn’t used much, probably because it’s not ‘shocking ‘ enough. The rest of the series display the torture a lot more graphically, maybe too graphically even, which guarantees the pictures to have a bigger shock-factor.
This picture, like the others, was taken as a souvenir. This put them into the category of Domestic Photography. However, these pictures later became forensic evidence of what happened at Abu Ghraib. So in a way they served as photojournalistic photographs, which could have been taken by a journalist.
But how ethical is it that these photographs were so casually displayed all over the world? Native Iraqi’s who being tortured by the invasive force because in they’re eyes they were ‘all terrorists’? On the other hand you have this photograph of a couple pretty much taking a ‘holiday snapshot’.This will be the main point of discussion for my critical review.
I also came to look at different representations and theories about those representations. The media mainly focused on Lynndie England and Charles Graner who therefore became the faces of this scandal, which turned into the outcome of a twisted love story. Lynndie’s, possibly choreographed, defense more than played up to this reflection of the story, claiming that she was so in love that, even though she didn’t want to be in the pictures, she was did so to please her man. I also found a book, which analyzed Lynndie’s role in the media and the Army, and why she was portrayed in this particular way. What the book suggests is because the Military denotates “hegemonic masculinity”, the Lynndie England case’s message was: when women finally get some significant empowerment, they use it for the worse.
When it comes to justifying what happened, there were a lot of theories. The soldiers claimed that they were following orders, the Bush administration claimed that this was the work of a “few bad apples”. Researching into it, it seemed that there were a lot of policy changes for how detainees were to be treated. Soldiers claimed to be confused and said that they were never given clear guidelines. So why take pictures if you are only following orders? Lynndie England said that they were taking photographs to show the C.I.A their work, who then told them “good job”. I would have to agree with Seymour Hersh, who said, “372nd abuse almost seems routine, a fact of army life that the soldiers felt no need to hide. Others said that this happened because, for example, Lynndie “came from a place where people didn’t know better”.
But surely all this doesn’t justify what went on?
The outcome of all these soldiers got court martialled.
All of these US soldiers were dishonorably discharged from the U.S military for dereliction of duty, maltreatment, aggravated assault, and battery among other charges:
- Javal Davies: 6 months imprisonment
- Roman Krol: 10 moth’s imprisonment
- Charles Graner: 10 Years imprisonment
- Lynndie England: 3 Years imprisonment (was paroled after 521 days)
- Sabrina Harman: 6 month’s imprisonment
- Megan Ambuhl: “dereliction of duty and sentenced to reduction in rank to private and loss of a half-month’s pay”
- Ivan Frederick: 8 years 6 months imprisonment
Brigadier General Karpinski, who was in charge of Abu Ghraib and other Iraqi prisons at the time, was “demoted to colonel and subsequently retired”. She was the only “high-ranking” official to face serious punishment.
When it came to General Geoffrey Miller, he was promoted to Deputy Commanding General for detainee operations in Iraq. He even received the Distinguished Service Medal at the pentagon’s Hall of Heroes.
Lynndie England, who was ‘nobody’ before this scandal, released a biography when she came out of prison, ironically enough, called “Tortured”. It was written by Gary S. Winkler, and authorized by Lynndie England.
[http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2004/US/Northeast/05/04/karpinski/top.karpinski.cnn.jpg accessed 29/11/2010]
[Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, 2007, Rory Kennedy]
[http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/410K2tDhXzL._SS500_.jpg accessed 29/11/2010]
[http://news.findlaw.com/wp/docs/iraq/graner51404chrg.html accessed 29/11/2010]
[http://www.cdi.org/news/law/abu-ghraib-ambuhl.cfm accessed 29/11/2010]