Review of Ghosts of Abu Ghraib directed by Rory Kennedy

Review of Ghosts of Abu Ghraib directed by Rory Kennedy
rating *****

Watch this film! When you’re done watching it, watch it again with the audio commentary. This is as good as it gets in documentary films.

Anyone with even a cursory understanding of what took place at Abu Ghraib realizes that the soldiers who were directly involved and later convicted were all scapegoats. The fact that the investigations into what took place have not uncovered the truth is unbelievable. The fact that the real perpetrators have gone unpunished is unbelievable.

This was an original HBO film. In the audio commentary director Kennedy states that her original intent was to learn about the physiological makeup up the MPs that were involved in the abuse. Only after she started interviewing them did she realize that the real story was how this whole thing got started, with the finger pointed directly at the White House.

Since none of the people who were really responsible for the abuse agreed to be interviewed, she uses archival footage where government officials like Donald Rumsfeld trip all over themselves trying to lay the blame elsewhere. Not only was torture and mistreatment of prisoners sanctioned by our government, but Bush is still trying to pass laws to allow even greater injustices.

One defense for the mistreatment of prisoners at both Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo has been the claim that these people are the worst of the worst. They are responsible for killing Americans and they don’t deserve any better. While in some cases this may be true, the fact is that fewer than a half dozen people have ever been brought to trial. All of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib who were photographed and were the recipients of the abuse were eventually released without charge. For a more in-depth look at the U.S. military’s record of false imprisonment since the war began read the book Enemy Combatant by Moxamm Begg.

Some ninety deaths have occurred directly by the hands of interrogators both military and by civilian. The longest sentence anyone has received for these deaths has been five months. I hope this film becomes a call to action for congress to do a proper investigation. All they really have to do is watch this film. It’s all laid out for them.

The commentary found on the disc is the best example I’ve seen yet of how audio commentary can enhance the value of a film. Rather than mute the sound or drastically reduce the volume during periods of silence, she lets the film play at the regular volume, only commenting when she wants to make an important point. The end result is a narration that gives valuable insight and adds a whole new dimension to the film.

This film has definitely made it on my best of the year list.

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