Synopses & Reviews
An utterly original literary and intellectual collaboration by two of our keenest moral and political observers has produced a nonfiction Heart of Darkness for our time: the first full reckoning of what actually happened at Abu Ghraib prison, based on hundreds of hours of exclusive interviews with the Americans involved. Standard Operating Procedure reveals the stories of the American soldiers who took and appeared in the iconic photographs of the Iraq war-the haunting digital snapshots from Abu Ghraib prison that shocked the world-and simultaneously illuminates and alters forever our understanding of those images and the events they depict. Drawing on more than two hundred hours of Errol Morris's startlingly frank and intimate interviews with Americans who served at Abu Ghraib and with some of their Iraqi prisoners, as well as on his own research, Philip Gourevitch has written a relentlessly surprising account of Iraq's occupation from the inside out-rendering vivid portraits of guards and prisoners ensnared in an appalling breakdown of command authority and moral order. What did we think we saw in the infamous photographs, and what were we, in fact, looking at? What did the people in the photographs think they were doing, and why did they take them? What was standard operating procedure and what was being creative when it came to making prisoners uncomfortable? Who was giving orders, and who was following them? Where does the line lie between humiliation and torture, and why and how does that matter? Was the true Abu Ghraib scandal a result of an exposA1/2 or a cover-up? In exploring these questions, Gourevitch and Morris have crafted a nonfiction morality play that standsto endure as essential reading long after the current war in Iraq passes from the headlines. By taking us deep into the voices and characters of the men and women who lived the horror of Abu Ghraib, the authors force us, whatever our politics, to reexamine the pat explanations in which we have been offered-or sought-refuge, and to see afresh this watershed episode. Instead of a few bad apples, we are confronted with disturbingly ordinary young American men and women who have been dropped into something out of Dante's Inferno. Standard Operating Procedure is a book that makes you think and makes you see-an essential contribution from two of our finest nonfiction artists working at the peak of their powers.
"What Standard Operating Procedure, the book, does...with remarkable power, is conjure the atmosphere and conditions at Abu Ghraib that existed during the period in which the photographed abuses occurred." Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
"[Gourevitch]weaves Morris' interviews, court transcripts and journalists' accounts into a compelling story of a prison plan gone wrong." Los Angeles Times
"[O]ne of the most devastating of the many books on Iraq." Raymond Bonner, New York Times
"If you thought you heard the whole story of Abu Ghraib prison, think again. Here is the rest of the story." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Standard Operating Procedure
is a war story that takes its place among the classics. It is the story of American soldiers who were sent to Iraq as liberators only to find themselves working as jailers in Saddam Hussein's old dungeons, responsible for implementing the sort of policy they were supposed to be fighting against. It is the story of a defining moment in the war, and a defining moment in our understanding of ourselves the story of the infamous Abu Ghraib photographs of prisoner abuse, as seen through the eyes, and told through the voices, of the soldiers who took them and appeared in them. It is the story of how those soldiers were at once the instruments of a great injustice and the victims of a great injustice.
In a tradition of moral and political reckoning, and all-powerful story-telling, that runs from Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness and Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Grand Inquisitor to Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song, Philip Gourevitch has written a relentlessly surprising and perceptive account of the front lines of the war on terror. Drawing on more than two hundred hours of Errol Morris's startlingly frank and intimate interviews with the soldier photographers who gave us what have become the iconic images of the Iraq war, Standard Operating Procedure is a book that makes you see, and makes you feel, and above all makes you think about what it means to be human. It is an utterly original book that stands to endure as essential reading long after the current war in Iraq passes from the headlines a work of searing power from two of our finest masters of nonfiction, working at the peak of their powers.
The first full reckoning of what actually happened at Abu Ghraib prison-"one of the most devastating of the many books on Iraq" (The New York Times Book Review)
A relentlesly surprising and perceptive account of the front lines of the war on terror, Standard Operating Procedure is a war story that takes its place among the classics. Acclaimed author Philip Gourevitch presents the story behind a defining moment in the war, and a defining moment in our understanding of ourselves- the infamous Abu Ghraib photographs of prisoner abuse. Drawing on Academy Award-winning filmmaker Errol Morris's astonishing interviews with the Americans who took and appeared in the pictures, Standard Operating Procedure is an utterly original book that stands to endure as essential reading long after the current war in Iraq passes from the headlines.
About the Author
Philip Gourevitch is the award-winning author of We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda
and A Cold Case
. He is the editor of The Paris Review
and a longtime staff writer for The New Yorker
Errol Morris is a world-renowned filmmaker the Academy Award-winning director of The Fog of War and the recipient of a MacArthur genius award. His other films include Mr. Death, Fast Cheap & Out of Control, A Brief History of Time, and The Thin Blue Line.