A fascinating article by an expert in torturers. The author suggests that there is little evidence that the offenders in Abu Ghraib were in fact “bad apples” — particularly sadistic individuals. Most of them seem to have been pretty normal until they found themselves in Abu Ghraib. He invokes Stanley Milgram and Phillip Zimbardo and his own experience investigating Greek and Brazilian torture, to point out that almost certainly the widespread torture in Abu Ghraib was a matter of ordinary people becoming torturers because of situational factors — in other words, most of us would have done the same thing in the same situation. Most of us would have delivered apparently fatal electrical shocks in Milgram’s experiment, most of us would have abused the pseudoprisoners in Zimbardo’s experiment; most of us would have at least stood by and watched the Holocaust if not actually participated. Normal people trusting in authority can be turned into torturers if the authority they trust chooses to do so. That’s just a fact.
The question is — why was there a situation in Abu Ghraib which was such as to turn people into torturers? (Many of the techniques they used, according to this article, are not obvious torture techniques. They would have been well known to people familiar with Nazi, Stalinist, Greek, or Brazilian torture techniques, and not to ordinary soldiers. Somebody had done their homework and taught the soldiers well.)
Who was responsible, and more important, what can be done to prevent it from happening again?
Or stop it from happening in other places where it may still be happening, such as Guantanamo Bay?