An Absolute Stunner. Those are the words that best describe director Errol Morris’ “Standard Operating Procedure”, a film about the abuse that was and was not captured in the lurid photos and videos from Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. Watching this film, just recently released on DVD, is not like watching your typical historical documentary, it is an experience. With eerily beautiful cinematography, amazing computer animation and Danny Elfman’s appropriately surreal musical score, Morris places you inside the infamous prison as a virtual witness to the events described by the people who were there.
Among those interviewed in the film are Lyndie England, who became the poster child of the scandal as the woman seen in many photos mocking naked Iraqi detainees, also memorable are retired General Janis Karpinski and Sarah Denning, the soldier who took most of the images the public saw. All of those interviewed seem deeply haunted, and in some cases seem depressed by what was done at Abu Ghraib. But the picture that emerges from all of the accounts is that what took place was more than just the work of a “few bad apples” instead it was the product of a familiar mentality we witnessed for 8 years, in which any end is justified. As one soldier in the film said “You could kill people off camera, you could blow their heads off, as long as it’s not on camera, it’s ok. But if it’s on camera, you’re done.”
This is a film that every American should see especially as we try to grasp the full extent of the damage done by the Bush Administration to our friends, our Constitution and our reputation in the name of fighting the “war on terror”.