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The Abu Ghraib Scandal and ethics

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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?


Written by coskufertingercmp

November 29, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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