Standard Operating Procedure: A War Story by Philip Gourevitch and Errol Morris - review by Caroline Moorehead

Caroline Moorehead

Ghosts of Abu Ghraib

Standard Operating Procedure: A War Story


Picador 286pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

At the end of April 2004, the US television programme 60 Minutes and the New Yorker magazine published a number of photographs taken in Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. They showed an American woman soldier pulling an Iraqi prisoner on a lead, a pyramid of naked detainees, a battered corpse packed in ice and a hooded man standing on a box, his arms outstretched, apparently connected to electric wires. In the pictures the young American soldiers standing around the prisoners were grinning. Private First Class Lynndie England's smiling face as she led the crawling Iraqi became the iconic picture of the day. President Bush would later say that the day the photographs appeared was the worst of the whole Iraq war.

For what was now revealed, beyond all doubt, was that the US had indeed, as many people suspected, been conducting a dirty war in Iraq. From the moment that Iraqi prisoners were deftly turned into ‘unlawful combatants’ in a ‘war on terror’, unprotected by the Geneva Conventions (which had been

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