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Abu Ghraib 
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Post Abu Ghraib
Any comments about the Abu Ghraib chapters? Has anyone gotten that far in the book?

Zimbardo made some startling claims regarding Chip Frederick, an Abu Ghraib guard whose defense he assisted. According to Zimbardo, Frederick was a balanced and well-regarded correctional officer before he went to Iraq. The working environment in Abu Ghraib drove him to take part in the abuse of prisoners. Higher-level officers and institutional factors bear much of the responsibility for Frederick's actions, though that doesn't absolve Frederick of blame.

That's perspective differs significantly from the "bad apples" line that appeared frequently in the mainstream media. Instead, Abu Ghraib supports Zimbardo's contention that emotionally healthy people can do horrible things under certain circumstances.



Sun Dec 09, 2007 2:46 pm
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Post Re: Abu Ghraib
JulianTheApostate wrote:
Any comments about the Abu Ghraib chapters? Has anyone gotten that far in the book?

Zimbardo made some startling claims regarding Chip Frederick, an Abu Ghraib guard whose defense he assisted. According to Zimbardo, Frederick was a balanced and well-regarded correctional officer before he went to Iraq. The working environment in Abu Ghraib drove him to take part in the abuse of prisoners. Higher-level officers and institutional factors bear much of the responsibility for Frederick's actions, though that doesn't absolve Frederick of blame.

That's perspective differs significantly from the "bad apples" line that appeared frequently in the mainstream media. Instead, Abu Ghraib supports Zimbardo's contention that emotionally healthy people can do horrible things under certain circumstances.


Not up to this yet. Just finished the Chapter with the Milgram experiment.

One question though...WHY are we to assume that human nature is inherently GOOD and that the Bad Barrel is the reason we behave badly? I just do not see it this way. To me...we are both bad and good. If it were not for our efforts to civilize and to create a moral and ethical code, we would be pretty horrible creatures. So we should look at the systemic effects on GOOD that we have also developed.

I am just saying that there is no magical system to create evil...it is there within us all the time and we fight to suppress it...not the other way around.

Mr. P.


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Mon Dec 10, 2007 9:40 am
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WHY are we to assume that human nature is inherently GOOD and that the Bad Barrel is the reason we behave badly? I just do not see it this way. To me...we are both bad and good.


I agree with this. I think what Zimbardo is saying though, is that for the most part, the people at Abu Ghraib are no worse than anyone else. The circumstances (the bad barrel), just let their 'badness' out.

If they hadn't been put in that situation, they probably would have lived out their lives as good citizens.



Mon Dec 10, 2007 11:57 am
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Another question I kept asking myself upon reading this chapter is: :If these systemic forces propelled Fredrick into his evil, why did it not propel all the guards into the same evil. There was the whistle blower. Maybe Fredrick has some dispositional factors that allowed him to become evil. Yes, maybe the situaltion and systemic forces acted as a catalyst, but still...only certain people succumbed to this evil behavior.

What makes us good/moral anyway? Is it just that we act good/moral in a certain barrel, or is it the ability of some to act good/moral in any barrel?

If you factor out the situations, a person is who he/she is and will be prone to act in a certain way regardless. Each situation is a special circumstance, I will agree with that. This research is not so profound to me as it seems to be to others...it seems pretty basic that we act according to situations. There is no research or existence at all outside of situations anyway! Maybe that is why I do not see Zimbardo's study and explanations as anything special.

I also did not like his framing of the latter half of the chapter as a Trial...there was no fair presentation of the other side...so his asking us for a verdict is kinda an empty tactic.

Mr. P.


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Wed Jan 02, 2008 2:52 pm
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The amount of information and the quality of the analysis given in chapter 14 are amazing. Abu Ghraib is one of those things I never expected to see analyzed in depth.
What Zimbardo writes about pornographic sites on the net and other "trophy pictures" taken before in other war situations gives a very useful perspective.


To add to all this horror, I found that the whistleblower, Joe Darby, was given six-month round the clock military protection on his return to the States and could not return to his hometown because his life was at risk from his irate patriotic neighbours. I had no idea, I can't watch CBS here and somehow I never heard.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/12/07/60minutes/main2238188_page4.shtml


One thing that was mentioned regularly in France at the time was surprise and admiration for the fact that the whistleblower's information was actually investigated by the military and went up to the top.
In another case of similar abuse of prisoners in Iraq mentioned in chapter 14, military commanders found incriminating photos in soldiers' bags and simply destroyed them. This is what I, and for example two non-commissioned officers I know in the Air Force, would expect the military to do in France, and that's in peace time.


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Sat Jan 05, 2008 7:53 am
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Mr. Pessimistic wrote:
Another question I kept asking myself upon reading this chapter is: :If these systemic forces propelled Fredrick into his evil, why did it not propel all the guards into the same evil. There was the whistle blower. Maybe Fredrick has some dispositional factors that allowed him to become evil. Yes, maybe the situaltion and systemic forces acted as a catalyst, but still...only certain people succumbed to this evil behavior.

Zimbardo would definitely agree with the conclusion that a person's individual nature and situational forces influence their behavior. As he point out when discussing the SPE and Abu Ghraib, some guards were abusive and others weren't.

However, he does debunk the widely discussed "bad apples" theory. Frederick was a reasonable guy in civilian life, but did some awful stuff in Iraq. The environment and pressures in the Abu Ghraib prison are a major reason why he, and the other soldiers, abused the prisoner so horribly.



Sat Jan 05, 2008 4:45 pm
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