Ghosts of Abu Ghraib

Documentary examines causes of inmate abuse in Iraq

Movies Reviews Rory Kennedy
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Ghosts of Abu Ghraib

Director: Rory Kennedy
Writer: Jack Youngelson
Cinematographer: Tom Hurwitz
Studio/Run Time: HBO Documentary Film, 82 mins.

Like many of the iconic disgraces speckling America’s military campaign in Iraq, the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison achieved notoriety for its sensational details, while the larger context—namely the reason it happened—remained absent from public discourse. For this reason, an inquisitive film like Rory Kennedy’s HBO documentary, now available on DVD, is important simply for the way it circles back to known events and weaves them together into a logical series of causes and effects. Her conclusion, based on extensive on-camera interviews with pundits and participants alike, including the “bad apples” themselves, recalls Stanley Milgram’s psychological experiments of the 1960s which famously observed that ordinary people are willing to in?ict tremendous pain if an authority figure takes responsibility for issuing the order. Kennedy begins and ends her film with footage of Milgram’s experiment, and in between she steps through the chain of events—and the less distinct chain of command—that created a real-life example. It’s as instructive as it is disturbing.