Friday, February 29, 2008

New Abu Ghraib Photos from Philip Zimbardo

As a witness called in the Abu Ghraib case, Dr. Philip Zimbardo, famous for the Stanford Prison Experiment, released yesterday at the Monterey TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference some photos not previously publicly available.

I am reminded in looking at the above photo of the infamous picture of Southern whites milling around in a picnic atmosphere, laughing and smiling, while above them dangle two lynched black men. I could not find an Internet posting of that photo, but did find this one below:

As Zimbardo, a social psychologist, has indicated, attributing these barbaric actions to a few bad apples constitutes the "fundamental attribution error:" explaining human behavior based on the individual personalities of people involved instead of the social context in which such behavior becomes the norm. This does not excuse the inhumanity of the individuals depicted here, but it does account for why such behavior can occur and why the actions of those who construct such situations are principally to blame.

In the case of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and other sites where U.S. forces and U.S. proxies are routinely torturing and killing innocents (70% of those being held in GITMO are, by the U.S. government's own admission, not guilty of anything) the blame lies with the Defense Department leadership and the White House, beginning with Bush and Cheney and on down to loathsome individuals such as David Addington, Jay Bybee, Alberto Gonzalez, John Yoo, Condoleeza Rice, Michael Mukasey, and Donald Rumsfeld.

Those who buy into the fraudulent claims by these monsters that we must do these things to "protect American lives" will buy anything at all, no matter how horrid and unjustified. Those who are in a position to put a stop to this immediately - U.S. Senators, for example, including those who are now running for the presidency - who have refused to stop it by filibuster if necessary - are complicit.

How can we sit by knowing that for seven years this kind of policy has been in place and is now, as you read these words, going on in our names, and not do everything in our power to stop it NOW? How can anyone who claims the mantle of moral leadership and aspires to be our president, not do everything in their power NOW to end it NOW?

Washington Post writer Monica Hesse, in describing the orange ribbons and wristbands being worn by many of Hollywood at the Academy Awards, called these orange protest symbols "cheap, ugly."

I beg to differ. What is ugly are these daily acts of inhumanity. Protest against torture is beautiful. Those who can permit these monstrosities to go on and who don't protest are the ones who are engaging in what can only euphemistically be described as "ugly."

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