Abu Ghraib film tells story behind grim photos

Tue Feb 12, 2008 3:17pm EST
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By Noah Barkin

BERLIN (Reuters) - A new film aims to show that the grim abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib was not merely the work of a few bad apples, but the product of an American military machine gone horribly wrong.

Four years on, the documentary by U.S. director Errol Morris tells the story of the low-level soldiers who ignited global outrage when their own photographs of their humiliation and intimidation of Iraqi detainees became public.

"Was Abu Ghraib just a set of a couple hundred pictures showing some bizarre events or was Abu Ghraib a nightmare created by America that in some real sense shows the true character of the war?" he said.

"Standard Operating Procedure," given its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival on Tuesday, features interviews with several of the soldiers involved.

All, including former Brigadier General Janis Karpinski -- the highest-ranking casualty of Abu Ghraib -- see themselves as scapegoats for superiors who they say condoned the abuse or looked the other way.

Combining interviews of the soldiers with images of the abuse snapshots, nightmarish slow-motion re-enactments and previously unseen video footage, the movie is a depiction of a jail described as reeking of "urine, feces and body rot."

The Abu Ghraib photographs shocked the world and dealt a powerful blow to America's image when they were first published in the spring of 2004.

"No one ever tried to make any sense of the pictures, or put them in some kind of context or explain them," Morris told Reuters in an interview.   Continued...

<p>Director Errol Morris attends a news conference to present his film "Standard Operation Procedure" running in competition at the 58th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 12, 2008. The 58th Berlinale, one of the world's most prestigious film festivals, runs from February 7 to 17 in the German capital. REUTERS/Johannes Eisele</p>