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What Happened At Abu Ghraib?
As you must have all heard, it was found that throughout 2004 many US Military Police were forced to take on the role of Prison Guards at the Abu Ghraib
prison. Under this role, many of them began to abuse the prisoners with horrific acts that included rape, torture and homicide. These were mainly carried out
by the staff on the night shift although the other guards were definitely not oblivious. There were many signs such as cuts and bruises on many of the
prisoners but they were ignored.
What Caused This?
Some people thought and may still believe - that these guards were insane or simply evil human beings. However some psychological research has shown
that there may have been other factors that caused these people to become the abusers that you have read and heard about. It has been suggested that
these military guards were under the influence of the agentic state, which is shown in the Agency theory to be a state in which a person will surrender their
free-will and conscience to serve the interests of a social group or someone of authority. What this means is that the first guards who carried out such acts
were following orders from an authority figure and believed that they were just doing their jobs, after this however, the other guards thought they were the
odd ones out and felt as though they must conform to the behaviour of the group to belong to and be loyal to their country. These guards will probably have
felt moral strain when carrying out these atrocities and one even said "you had to adapt to the situation very quickly it was like another world" and "at that
moment I was somebody else"; this would suggest that they felt trapped.
Another reason why the abuse began was because General Miller who worked at Guantanamo Bay prison and was famous for being able to get information
out of his prisoners was employed at Abu Ghraib and with him he brought his inhumane methods of handling and a confusion of what was allowed due to
Rumsfeld approving harsh techniques such as stress positions (e.g. standing for a long period of time). As time went by and no-one had raised any concerns
about the treatment of the prisoners, the abuse just got worse.
What Punishment Should There Be? You may know that only eleven of the low-ranking guards were punished ranging from a six month prison
sentence to a ten year prison
sentence and also a lowering in rank was a punishment. Charles Graner received the ten year imprisonment for his role in the abuse.
The punishment could have been more severe for some of the guards who took part in or witnessed the abuse as they could have stopped this from
happening even if they had no role in the acts themselves. I believe that the US Military Police who were acting as guards whilst in Abu Ghraib should have
come forward about what was going on inside the prison long before it was revealed. The abuse went on for such a long time around five months and the
prisoners who were mostly innocent were tortured and abused both physically and psychologically for no reason. They were and are human beings the same
as you and I, but the crime committed was covered up and not paid for properly.
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What Actions Can Prevent This?
All military guards and personnel should be completely trained physically and psychologically before entering a similar environment. Also, there should be more
guards so that there could be a wider shift rota, across days rather than hours to prevent the same people forming social behavioural groups which may result
in similar atrocities.…read more