The Abu Ghraib Prison Photos

A Resource for Instructors
Provided by Nicholas Burnett, Ph.D.
California State University, Sacramento
June 2004

This page is intended to serve as a link and resource page for instructors who seek to learn more and think about ways to teach about the Abu Ghraib Prison photos. I have provided links to resources on the web and tried to add a bit of commentary to explain the value of the resource. In some cases going to the links requires that you register to get access to the material but the registration is free and (in most cases) won't generate a lot of spam! I have avoided linking to sites that require payment for articles. In some cases, those same articles can be accessed by EBSCOHost or Lexis/Nexis.

The Photos

ABC News--Photos without much in the way of commentary with timeline--Photos and commentary with an obvious point of view. There is also a helpful discussion involving the time line for the release of images

The Abu Ghraib Prison
--Another site with a clear point of view but perhaps the best resolution of the three of these sites.

The Institutional Reports

The International Committee of the Red Cross --REPORT OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS (ICRC) ON THE TREATMENT BY THE COALITION FORCES OF PRISONERS OF WAR AND OTHER PROTECTED PERSONS BY THE GENEVA CONVENTIONS IN IRAQ DURING ARREST, INTERNMENT AND INTERROGATION--The ICRC took a lot of heat for not making this report public sooner. In fact they didn't release this report, it was leaked. Their position is that they have a better chance to effect change if they can work behind the scenes with the offending government. Didn't really seem to work in this case though.

The Taguba Report--ARTICLE 15-6 INVESTIGATION OF THE 800th MILITARY POLICE BRIGADE--This is the report that, in very blunt language, lays out the scope of the problem and begins the process of apportioning blame. It seems as though his superiors were not very happy so they actually sent another general with him to deny parts of the report when Taguba testified before Congress. Not a pretty sight.

Sworn Statements of Abu Ghraib Detainees--published in the Washington Post--link--You have to register to get access to the Washington Post site but it's free and doesn't seem to generate much in the way of spam. For clear but graphic descriptions of torture--sorry Don, but that's what it is--see these statements for context to the photos.


Susan Sontag, "Regarding the Torture of Others," New York Times Magazine, May 23, 2004--link
Sontag's is an important voice and her piece has generated a good deal of discussion. Well worth reading and even assigning to a class. For instance, here is Mark Goldblatt in the National Review--link. Or a more positive appraisal in Explanda--link

Mark Danner, "Torture and Truth,"and "The Logic of Torture," both in the New York Review of Books are terrific background articles on the photos, torture and the international political implications of the story.

Jonathan Curiel, "Awful images change perception of the war: They stir emotions words rarely can,"
San Francisco Chronicle, May 12, 2004--link--A thoughtful piece that discusses the Berg video primarily but within the context provided by Abu Ghraib.

"The Power of a Picture", editorial, Japan Times, May 10, 2004--link--Although condemning the torture, this piece makes a comparison to these acts and those perpetrated under Saddam Hussein in the same facility, correctly pointing out that what Americans did cannot hold a candle to the torture under Saddam. Nonetheless, it gives an interesting perspective from an ally.

George Edmondson, "Charges little noticed until pictures aired," Palm Beach Post, May 11, 2004--link

Guy Raz, "Iraqis snap up CDs of abuse images," CNN, May 26, 2004--link--Just in case you think that the Iraqis didn't get to see these images because of their more primitive technology and limited access, this gives a bit clearer idea of the spread of images in the Arab world.

Robert Jay Lifton, "Conditions of Atrocity, Nation, May 13, 2004--link--The famous pyschologist discusses the conditions that may have led the captors to behave as they did. Lifton does not however excuse their behavior and instead argues that the entire administration is to blame for setting the tone and establishing the conditions that allowed the torture to happen.

Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, Self Study Units on Covering Terrorism and Photography and Trauma--link--This is a very intriguing site. The entire website is devoted to the study of journalism and trauma and contains a wealth of information of what journalists should consider before publishing images and deal with emotional situations. The two self study units linked are not specific to Abu Ghraib, but there is a good deal on the site about reporting war images and the impact of this kind of coverage. This is an important site.

Iraqi Prison Photos, Dave Cagle's Professional Cartoonist Index, MSN/Slate--link--I know what you're thinking..."Cartoons, that's just sick!" However this is a collection of the response of syndicated cartoonists to the Abu Ghraib prison photos. I think you will find it to be a compelling collection...and another valuable set of visual artifacts in their own right.

Norman Solomon, "The Coming Backlash Against Outrage," FAIR--link--This well known media critic establishes ground on why the response to the photos may be blunted by the right. An interesting piece.

Timothy Noah, "The Right's Abu Ghraib Denial," MSN/Slate--link--An interesting piece from a blog about how the administration and some of their apologists have responded to the release of the pictures.

Handling the Horrible: Dealing with Shocking Images, Poynter Online Seminar--link--This is a link to one of Poynter's e-seminars, well worth a look.

Kurt Nimmo, "Limbaugh and the Babes of Abu Ghraib," Portland Independent Media--link--A leftist response to the simpering that Rush Limbaugh did in trying to deaden the political impact of the Abu Ghraib photos.

Pittsburgh Post Gazette, "Images of War: A Case by Case Basis" May 9, 2004--link--A bit of an inside look at the editorial process at one paper and how they decided to publish the Abu Ghraib prison photos--or not.

David Shedden, "Dealing with Shocking Images," Poynter Online--link--This may be the mother of all Abu Ghraib commentary sites. Shedden has done a heroic bit of research here to gather commentary on Abu Ghraib. Many of the citations I have listed here come originally from Shedden's collection but there are more here that have not been tapped. Overall, the Poynter Institute has been very aggressive in putting out web content to give shape and texture to this controversy.

Susan Brison, "Torture or 'Good Old American Pornography'?" Chronicle of Higher Education, June 4, 2004--link- -A very strong's a quote: "The war in Iraq may be the first war to be won or lost in cyberspace. In the battle for the hearts and minds of the Arab world, the deadliest weapons may, in the end, be images, and the digital photos and videos of abuse shot at Abu Ghraib may turn out to be America's undoing by friendly fire."

Seymour Hersh, "Torture at Abu Ghraib," New Yorker Magazine--link--One of the seminal articles that helped to break the story of Abu Ghraib from perhaps the foremost investigative journalist of his time.

Kareem Fahim, "Lost in America," Village Voice, May 25, 2004--link--A reflection on how Americans are feeling after the Berg video and the Abu Ghraib prison photos.

Kareem Fahim, "The Painful Lessons of Abu Ghraib," Village Voice, May 11, 2004--link--A review of the documentary Remote Control, that goes behind the scenes of the Arab newservice, Al-Jazeera. Some interesting links to Abu Ghraib.