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Documentary - Standard Operating Procedure - Errol Morris

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Standard Operating Procedure
Errol Morris
Sony Pictures Classics 2008
116 minutes plus extras

The Errol Morris documentary DVD Standard Operating Procedure is decent enough but not up to the standard he set with The Thin Blue Line. Morris uses the infamous Abu Ghraib pictures to tell the story of the people who took the Abu Ghraib pictures. In this case, pictures do not tell a thousand different words. The DVD jacket illustration says “The scandal was a coverup”, yet there is no mention of any real cover up here.

All Standard Operating Procedure does is tell the story people who followed, or tried to follow when it comes to the American media, the story of what happened at Abu Ghraib. What this documentary does is tell the viewer a bunch of fresh-faced and badly trained American soldiers took pictures of the humiliation and torture they submitted their Iraqi captives to. It also states a few times that military and non-military higher ups had directed these soldiers to do what they did.

There is no excuse for what happened in Abu Ghraib and the young soldiers should have known better. Morris makes it fairly clear they were in no position and had no training to know better. They also had few opportunities to change things.

Where Standard Operating Procedure fails is it does not go into who at the top ordered these soldiers to “soften” the detainees. There were four or five different U.S. government and para-government agencies present at Abu Ghraib. Nothing is said about the generals who regularly visited the prison and kept asking for results. It is clearly stated General Sanchez ordered the soldiers to destroy evidence, but nothing more is done with that information. The only general who took a hit from this humanitarian scandal is Janis Karpinski under whom the MPs served.

Standard Operating Procedure makes it clear the grunts bore the brunt of the scandal. There is absolutely no doubt Granger is guilty of a lot of the abuse and he got sentenced to 10 years for it. Lynndie England is not the sharpest spatula in the cutlery drawer. Another should have gotten off more lightly than she did as she had letter proof she was documenting the abuse and not just photographing it.

Many will expect this Erroll Morris documentary DVD to reveal something about what happened at Abu Ghraib. It reveals nothing more than what a well-informed viewer or somebody who saw bits and pieces of this story on 60 Minutes or 20/20 already knows.

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