Abu Ghraib - Case of Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

newdemocracyworld.org/War/Pogo.htm).Reported by John Spritzler, this is what Zimbardo and Milgram found:

The usual points of reference in psychology are two classic studies that attempted to explore the capacity for evil residing in "normal" people. In 1971, Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo created a simulated prison and randomly assigned students to be either guards or prisoners. With astonishing speed, the "guards" indulged in forms of torture and humiliation not unlike those horrifying us today. This followed on earlier experiments by Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram on obedience to authority. Milgram recruited volunteers to participate in what he described as a study on learning. An actor sat in a chair that students believed was wired with electricity. Each time this actor would give an incorrect answer, the students would be directed by Milgram to deliver a larger shock. As the subject in the electric chair seemed to suffer more and more, 2 out of 3 of the unwitting students administered shocks that would have been lethal in real life.

Every soldier? These experiments demonstrate that Everyman is a potential torturer (Spritzler, 2004).

Given Fromm's remarks, the situation, the people involved as young reservists whose leadership was absent and failed to set the proper example for conducting themselves as 1) U.S. Military personnel obligated to follow an oath of ethics and a code of service, and 2) who failed to fulfill their own identity that might have helped these young reservists touch their humanity rather than their inhumanity; and 3) who succumbed to the worst tendencies of evil known to mankind by abusing the very miniscule amount of power granted them over other human beings. Leadership, immaturity, and individual character flaws prevented these people from behaving in a way that was both humane and expected of them.

When people in positions of power, authority, and leadership fail to bring together the personal integrity, rules, and examples of leadership that might lend itself to performing in a way other than what transpired at Abu Ghraib, then you have Abu Ghraib.

Dr. Steven Breckler, PhD., cites the social conditions that existed at Abu Grhaib, and cites Solomon Asch in providing insight into how good people might otherwise do very bad things (Breckler, Steven, 2008, found online at (http://www.apa.org/ppo/issues/breckler604.html).

One example comes from research on social conformity. When you drive down the highway, and notice that the drivers in front of you are all shifting lanes to the right, do you follow suit? Do you move, with the crowd, to the right? Most likely, the answer is yes. Why do you do it? In the absence of other information, you assume that the other drivers know something or see something that you don't know or didn't see. You conform to their actions. In most situations, conformity is probably a good thing. Yet, it can lead you astray. In the classic research on conformity, Solomon Asch found that people often follow the incorrect lead of others even when the truth is as plain as can be (Breckler, Steven, 2008, online)."

Each of the individuals cited here contribute a body of work and thought on what went wrong at Abu Ghraib; but at the end of the day, each of us must be responsible for our own actions, and find within ourselves the humanity and moral obligation to do what is right. When we fail to do that, society has not failed, we have failed ourselves.

Works Cited


Abu Ghraib Guard Admits Seven Charges of Abuse." Daily Post (Liverpool, England) 3 May 2005: 6. Questia. 13 Feb. 2008 http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5009410197.

Anderson, Kevin B., "Thinking about Fromm and Marxism," Logos 6.3, found online at http://www.logosjournal.com/issue_6.3/anderson.htm, retrieved 12 February 2008.

Breckler, Steven (2008), "How Psychology can Help Explain the Iraqi Prisoner Abuse," American Psychological Association, found online at http://www.apa.org/topics/iraqiabuse.html, retrieved 12 February 2008.

Dittman, Melissa (2008), "What Makes People Do Bad Things?," American Psychological Association, found online at http://www.apa.org/monitor/oct04/goodbad.html, retrieved 12 February 2008.

Phillips, Stone, (2005), "Behind the Abu Ghraib Photos, Dateline NBC television and online at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9532670/,retrieved 12 February 2008.

Spritzler, John (2004), Abu Ghraib: "We Have Met the Enemy, and He is not Us," newdemocracyworld.org, found online at http://www.newdemocracyworld.org/War/Pogo.htm, retrieved 12 February 2008.

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