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December 31, 2008 > Standard Operating Procedure - 2008 Grand Jury prizewinner at the Berlin Film Festival

Standard Operating Procedure - 2008 Grand Jury prizewinner at the Berlin Film Festival

A Tri-City Documentary Film Series presentation

Submitted By Jane Bark

Academy-Award winning Director Errol Morris has done it again. Following his outstanding, highly acclaimed "The Thin Blue Line" and "The Fog of War," Morris has turned his camera to another controversial subject: the use of torture by the United States of America. And once again, Morris has not just delivered an expose, but also investigates the powerful role of media images in public perception and social change.

Is it possible for a photograph to change the world? Photographs taken by soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison changed the war in Iraq and changed America's image of itself. Yet, a question does remains. Did the notorious Abu Ghraib photographs constitute evidence of systematic abuse by the American military, or were they documenting the aberrant behavior of a few "bad apples"?

Commenting on the making of the film, Morris indicates that "We set out to examine the context of these photographs. Why were they taken? What was happening outside the frame? We talked directly to the soldiers who took the photographs and who were in the photographs. Who are these people? What were they thinking? Over two years of investigation, we amassed a million and a half words of interview transcript, thousands of pages of unredacted reports, and hundreds of photographs."

The full story of Abu Ghraib is still shrouded in moral ambiguity, but it is now clear what happened there. The Abu Ghraib photographs serve as both an expose and a cover-up. An expose, because the photographs offer us a glimpse of the horror of Abu Ghraib; and a cover-up because they convinced journalists and readers they had seen everything, that there was no need to look further.

In recent news reports, we have learned about the destruction of the Abu Zubaydah interrogation tapes. That obvious cover-up made front page news. But the cover-up at Abu Ghraib involved thousands of prisoners and hundreds of soldiers. We are still learning about the extent of it. Many journalists have asked about "the smoking gun" of Abu Ghraib. This may be the wrong question. As Philip Gourevitch has commented, Abu Ghraib is the smoking gun. The underlying question that we still have not resolved, four years after the scandal: how could American values become so compromised that Abu Ghraib - as well as the subsequent cover-up - could happen?

Discussion following the film will be led by Sharat G. Lin of the San Jose Peace & Justice Center. He writes on global political economy, the Middle East, India, and labor migration.

Standard Operating Procedure
Saturday, January 3
Fremont Main Library 510-745-1400
2400 Stevenson Blvd., Fremont
Admission Free

For more info on this forthcoming attraction, please go to:

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