Decribe the key issue Abu Ghraib

8 August 2016

Outline a key issue for obedience, discuss by using theories/studies from obedience for what happened in Abu Ghraib The Abu Ghraib prison is a notorious prison in Iraq, located in Abu Ghraib, near Baghdad. US soldiers were told to abuse and humiliate the prisoners by their leaders; this included chaining them up, treating them like dogs, and sometimes sexually harassing them. In April 2004 the abuses at Abu Ghraib were exposed with photos and videos showing US soldiers abusing naked Iraqis.

On the 22nd October 2004, a US solider – Staff sergeant Ivan Chip Frederick, aged 38 was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment for sexually and physically assaulting detainees which included performing a mock electrocution on an individual. Chief Warrant Officer Kevin Kramer, a military intelligence officer referred to an email sent by US command in Baghdad telling him to order his interrogators to be tough on prisoners. The email said that they “wanted the detainees to be broken”.

Decribe the key issue Abu Ghraib Essay Example

This theory could be used because the soldiers are trained to be agents of authority and believe they have a duty to protect America as agents of society thus as soldiers, they would be agents obeying the orders rather than autonomous individuals making their own decisions. The soldiers would not have been in an autonomous state, and would have therefore been more able to carry out the orders given to them by an authority figure.

This may have been because the soldiers were under the impressions that they would not be held responsible for their actions hence they thought it was acceptable to torture the Iraqi detainees as well as degrading them in the process. The agency theory can be used for what happened at Abu Ghraib. The US soldiers were in an agentic state; they were an agent for the authority, in the soldier’s case the authority was the higher up in command officers. When they were given a job to do for example, to sexually harass a prisoner they did it because they saw it as their duty not their own choice.

The soldiers took no responsibility for their actions because they were told to do them. When the abuse at Abu Ghraib was exposed to the public, all the soldiers said were that “they were only following orders”. In the soldier’s eyes and mind they were only doing their duty they were not committing any wrong. The authority had complete control over them and could tell them to do anything and they would do it. But once this abuse was exposed the soldiers agentic state broke down and they started to realise they had done wrong and got into an autonomous state and then took responsibility for their actions, as they realised they didn’t have to follow them but at the time they believed they had to because they were not in charge. Joe Darby was the one who took the photos and reported them; he was a ‘whistleblower’. A whistleblower is someone who reports something to someone which is engaged in illicit activity. Zimbardo’s prison experiment can also be used as a study to explain what happened in Abu Ghraib. In 1971, psychologist Philip Zimbardo and his colleagues set out to create an experiment that looked at the impact of becoming a prisoner or prison guard.

Zimbardo, a former classmate of Stanley Milgram, was interested in expanding upon Milgram’s research. He wanted to further investigate the impact of situational variables on human behaviour. The researchers set up a mock prison in the basement of Standford University’s psychology building, and then selected 24 undergraduate students to play the roles of both prisoners and guards. The participants were selected from a larger group of 70 volunteers because they had no criminal background, lacked psychological issues and had no major medical conditions.

While the Stanford Prison Experiment was originally slated to last 14 days, it had to be stopped after just six days due to what was happening to the student participants. The guards became abusive and the prisoners began to show signs of extreme stress and anxiety. While the prisoners and guards were allowed to interact in any way they wanted, the interactions were generally hostile or even dehumanizing. The guards began to behave in ways that were aggressive and abusive toward the prisoners, while the prisoners became passive and depressed.

Five of the prisoners began to experience such severe negative emotions, including crying and acute anxiety that they had to be released from the study early. According to Zimbardo and his colleagues, the Stanford Prison Experiment demonstrates the powerful role that the situation can play in human behaviour, Because the guards were placed in a position of power, they began to behave in ways they would not normally act in their everyday lives or in other situations.

The prisoners, placed in a situation where they had no real control, became passive and depressed. This study is much like the Abu Ghraib, even though the participants of Zimbardo weren’t told to be aggressive, they took the authority power, just like the US command did in Abu Ghraib. Conformity is also another study that can be used to explain Abu Ghraib. Conformity suggests some degree of conflict between what the group demands of the individual and what the individual would otherwise do.

If one participant that was chose to be a prison guard started acting aggressive towards the participants being prisoners, conformity would say that the rest of the prison guards would begin to follow that prison guard and become aggressive towards the prisoners themselves. Conformity is changing your belief or behaviour due to real or imagined group pressure and in Abu Ghraib there was real group pressure because the other prison guards were being aggressive so the rest of them though that’s what the experiment wanted them to do.

Hofling’s 1966 experiment can also be a study to support what happened at Abu Ghraib. Hofling’s experiment was when Hofling chose 22 nurses from different wards and hospitals including both private and public hospitals. The aim of the experiment was to see if nurses would obey an order they thought came from a doctor, even though by obeying, nurses would be going against their training. Nurses were called by a ‘Doctor Smith’ telling them to give a patient a dose of 20mg of Astroten, even though the label on the bottle said ‘10mg daily limit’.

Because the order came from a higher authority (the doctor), 21/22 nurses obeyed the order and went to give the patient double the daily amount even though 11/22 read the label. Power and perceive status may have caused high obedience, just like in Abu Ghraib when the US command sent the email to US soldiers to be aggressive towards them; the soldiers obeyed it because they were being ordered to.

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