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LIVE Conversation Portraits: PHILIP GOUREVITCH and ERROL MORRIS: Standard Operating Procedure

May 13, 2008

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Philip Gourevitch in conversation with Errol Morris
moderated by Carne Ross, introduced by Paul Holdengräber
direction and live drawings: Flash Rosenberg
video editor: Sarah Lohman

"All I did was what I was told to do. I didn’t make the war. I can’t end the war. I mean, photographs can’t just make or change a war. It just doesn’t make sense. I mean, how do people see me as the villain? The government is just putting the blame on me because they can—just like a decoy. I can’t get mad. I mean, I’m over it. I’m fine. I mean, I’m not fine with it but whatever." ---Private First Class Lynndie England, Abu Ghraib, 2003. From "Standard Operating Procedure."

When the infamous photographs from Abu Ghraib prison were first made public four years ago, they seemed to constitute an awesome expose of the profound corruption of America’s response to September 11th. The sanction of torture, and the decriminalization of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners in wartime, have become defining legacies of the current Administration—and have given us the defining images of America’s changing standing in the eyes of the world. But it didn’t take long for the soldiers who took and appeared in the Abu Ghraib photographs to be singled out as depraved rogues, when in fact they were implementing America’s de facto policy in Iraq. Just as criminality had become the norm, the expose now became the cover-up.

Now, two of our keenest moral and political observers, author Philip Gourevitch and filmmaker Errol Morris, have taken on the story of the soldiers who took and appeared in the photographs—and they have produced a war story that explores the horror at the core of the ongoing campaign to fight terror with terror. In their new book, Standard Operating Procedure, Gourevitch and Morris expand on the investigation Morris conducted for his just-released film of the same title, to tell the story of Abu Ghraib from the inside out and the bottom up.

Philip Gourevitch and Errol Morris will be joined by Carne Ross to discuss the first full reckoning of what actually happened at Abu Ghraib prison based on hundreds of hours of interviews with the Americans involved.