The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘Abu Ghraib’

“Taxi to the Darkside”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 23, 2011

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]

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(BBC Broadcast, 2011)

From

This documentary murder mystery examines the death of an Afghan taxi driver at Bagram Air Base from injuries inflicted by U.S. soldiers. In an unflinching look at the Bush administration’s policy on torture, the filmmaker behind Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room takes us from a village in Afghanistan to Guantanamo and straight to the White House. In English and Pashtu.

Related Situationist posts:

 

 

Posted in Conflict, History, Law, Morality, Video | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Tenet: “Guilty”

Posted by Philip Zimbardo on May 8, 2009

bush-tenetMore than 10,000 people cast their votes during the last year and a half in a virtual voting booth at www.LuciferEffect.com. Their judgments accord with the recent Senate Armed Services bipartisan report that blames Bush officials for detainee abuse. It also finds that the prison guards and interrogators were not the “true culprits.”

The vast majority of these voters found all four Bush officials guilty of having created the legal frameworks, laws, and motivational conditions that provided the foundation for the abuses and torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prisons. The guilty verdicts (for George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and George Tenet) were true regardless of political preference, across all age groups, and whether or not they had read The Lucifer Effect book before voting.

Democrats were more likely to vote guilty than were those identified as Republicans, but even so, the majority of Republicans found each of the four officials guilty:

  • Bush: 95 % (Democrat) to 57% (Republican);
  • Cheney: 88% to 72%;
  • Rumsfeld: 89% to 72%;
  • Tenet: 83% to 70 %.

Those identified as “Other” political preference overwhelmingly gave guilty verdicts to all four:

  • 93% Bush;
  • 96% Cheney;
  • 95 % Rumsfeld, and
  • 89 % Tenet.

The percentage of guilty votes increased systematically with age of voters for all four officials: 86% of those under age 21 found George W. Bush guilty, as did 89% of those 21-40, 93 % of those 41-60, and a high of 97% for voters over the age of 60.

For Dick Cheney, the guilt verdicts were even higher at each age level, from 88% under 21, to 93% 21-40, to 97% 41-60, and a maximum of 99% for senior voters. Similar patterns can be seen for former Sec. of Defense Rumsfeld and former head of the CIA, Tenet.

My involvement with trying to understand the causes of the abuses and torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib began when I agreed to be part of the defense team organized by Gary Myers, legal council for one of the Army Reserve Military Police, Staff Sergeant Chip Frederick. In that role, I read all of the many investigative reports by various generals and one headed by James Schlesinger, former Sec. of Defense. I also read all of the relevant Human Rights Watch reports, International Red Cross reports, and more. I spoke with interrogators, military criminal investigators, and senior military officers who were on that scene. After in-depth interviews with Chip Frederick and reviewing his psychological evaluation by a military specialist, and his prior service record, I felt competent in rendering the judgment that he was a “good apple.” And further, that the conditions he and the other MPs were forced to work in and live in constituted the “Bad Barrel” that corrupted him and the other prison guards on the Tier 1A night shift (where all the abuses occurred).

These findings were summarized in two chapters of a book I wrote subsequently, Chapters 14 and 15 of The Lucifer Effect (Random House, 2007). While military justice put Frederick and many of the other MPs on trial for the abuses they had perpetrated on individuals they were supposed to protect while in their custody, none of the officers who should have been in charge were ever tried. Those abuses took place over more than three months in the fall of 2003 before being exposed. Command complicity involves responsibility for illegal or immoral behavior of one’s subordinates that officers should have known about – had they cared enough to be watching the store or the torture dungeon.

My summation to the military prosecutor in Frederick’s trial (2004) stated that although the soldier on trial was guilty of the abuses for which he was charged (for which he got an 8 year prison sentence), it was the Situation and the System that were also responsible. The Situation is the complex set of environmental circumstances in operation on the night shift in the interrogation center of Tier 1A—that created horrendous conditions for our soldiers as well as the detainees. The System includes those in charge of creating and maintaining those situations by means of resource allocation, legal rules, and top-down pressures for “actionable intelligence” by all means necessary.

I ended my conceptual analysis with a call for readers of my Lucifer Effect book to play the role of jurors in deciding on the guilt and accountability of some of the military command in charge at Abu Ghraib, along with Bush officials who were the ultimate Systems Managers. However, the World-Wide Web allows us to go beyond a rhetorical message of how one might vote in this case to creating a virtual voting booth where many people could openly register their vote on the guilt of the civilian officials whom they considered to be responsible for some of these abuses and tortures.

The summary of these votes by more than 10,000 people attest to the widespread public understanding that the abuses of human rights and integrity that have been perpetrated under the banner of protecting Homeland Security are traceable up to the highest levels of our government, and not just down to the foot soldiers doing their dirty work in the trenches of war. It is encouraging that the Senate Armed Services Committee also supports this viewpoint in blaming our leaders and not just the followers.

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For related Situationist posts, see “Lessons Learned from the Abu Ghraib Horrors,” “The Devil You Know . . . ,” “Common Cause: Combating the Epidemics of Obesity and Evil,” “Person X Situation X System Dynamics,” “The Lucifer Effect Lecture at Harvard Law School,” “From Heavens to Hells to Heroes – Part I,” “From Heavens to Hells to Heroes – Part II,” and “Jonestown (The Situation of Evil) Revisited.”

Posted in History, Ideology, Law, Politics, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Tenet: “Guilty”

Posted by Philip Zimbardo on December 19, 2008

bush-tenetMore than 10,000 people cast their votes during the last year and a half in a virtual voting booth at www.LuciferEffect.com. Their judgments accord with the recent Senate Armed Services bipartisan report that blames Bush officials for detainee abuse. It also finds that the prison guards and interrogators were not the “true culprits.”

The vast majority of these voters found all four Bush officials guilty of having created the legal frameworks, laws, and motivational conditions that provided the foundation for the abuses and torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prisons. The guilty verdicts (for George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and George Tenet) were true regardless of political preference, across all age groups, and whether or not they had read The Lucifer Effect book before voting.

Democrats were more likely to vote guilty than were those identified as Republicans, but even so, the majority of Republicans found each of the four officials guilty:

  • Bush: 95 % (Democrat) to 57% (Republican);
  • Cheney: 88% to 72%;
  • Rumsfeld: 89% to 72%;
  • Tenet: 83% to 70 %.

Those identified as “Other” political preference overwhelmingly gave guilty verdicts to all four:

  • 93% Bush;
  • 96% Cheney;
  • 95 % Rumsfeld, and
  • 89 % Tenet.

The percentage of guilty votes increased systematically with age of voters for all four officials: 86% of those under age 21 found George W. Bush guilty, as did 89% of those 21-40, 93 % of those 41-60, and a high of 97% for voters over the age of 60.

For Dick Cheney, the guilt verdicts were even higher at each age level, from 88% under 21, to 93% 21-40, to 97% 41-60, and a maximum of 99% for senior voters. Similar patterns can be seen for former Sec. of Defense Rumsfeld and former head of the CIA, Tenet.

My involvement with trying to understand the causes of the abuses and torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib began when I agreed to be part of the defense team organized by Gary Myers, legal council for one of the Army Reserve Military Police, Staff Sergeant Chip Frederick. In that role, I read all of the many investigative reports by various generals and one headed by James Schlesinger, former Sec. of Defense. I also read all of the relevant Human Rights Watch reports, International Red Cross reports, and more. I spoke with interrogators, military criminal investigators, and senior military officers who were on that scene. After in-depth interviews with Chip Frederick and reviewing his psychological evaluation by a military specialist, and his prior service record, I felt competent in rendering the judgment that he was a “good apple.” And further, that the conditions he and the other MPs were forced to work in and live in constituted the “Bad Barrel” that corrupted him and the other prison guards on the Tier 1A night shift (where all the abuses occurred).

These findings were summarized in two chapters of a book I wrote subsequently, Chapters 14 and 15 of The Lucifer Effect (Random House, 2007). While military justice put Frederick and many of the other MPs on trial for the abuses they had perpetrated on individuals they were supposed to protect while in their custody, none of the officers who should have been in charge were ever tried. Those abuses took place over more than three months in the fall of 2003 before being exposed. Command complicity involves responsibility for illegal or immoral behavior of one’s subordinates that officers should have known about – had they cared enough to be watching the store or the torture dungeon.

My summation to the military prosecutor in Frederick’s trial (2004) stated that although the soldier on trial was guilty of the abuses for which he was charged (for which he got an 8 year prison sentence), it was the Situation and the System that were also responsible. The Situation is the complex set of environmental circumstances in operation on the night shift in the interrogation center of Tier 1A—that created horrendous conditions for our soldiers as well as the detainees. The System includes those in charge of creating and maintaining those situations by means of resource allocation, legal rules, and top-down pressures for “actionable intelligence” by all means necessary.

I ended my conceptual analysis with a call for readers of my Lucifer Effect book to play the role of jurors in deciding on the guilt and accountability of some of the military command in charge at Abu Ghraib, along with Bush officials who were the ultimate Systems Managers. However, the World-Wide Web allows us to go beyond a rhetorical message of how one might vote in this case to creating a virtual voting booth where many people could openly register their vote on the guilt of the civilian officials whom they considered to be responsible for some of these abuses and tortures.

The summary of these votes by more than 10,000 people attest to the widespread public understanding that the abuses of human rights and integrity that have been perpetrated under the banner of protecting Homeland Security are traceable up to the highest levels of our government, and not just down to the foot soldiers doing their dirty work in the trenches of war. It is encouraging that the Senate Armed Services Committee also supports this viewpoint in blaming our leaders and not just the followers.

* * *

For related Situationist posts, see “Lessons Learned from the Abu Ghraib Horrors,” “The Devil You Know . . . ,” “Common Cause: Combating the Epidemics of Obesity and Evil,” “Person X Situation X System Dynamics,” “The Lucifer Effect Lecture at Harvard Law School,” “From Heavens to Hells to Heroes – Part I,” “From Heavens to Hells to Heroes – Part II,” and “Jonestown (The Situation of Evil) Revisited.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Naive Cynicism – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 8, 2008

Image by Wetsun - FlickrSituationist Contributors Adam Benforado and Jon Hanson have posted their recent article, “Naive Cynicism: Maintaining False Perceptions in Policy Debates” (57 Emory Law Journal (2008)) on SSRN. The paper was recently listed on SSRN’s Top Ten download list for LSPLDL: Political Process, and is a featured article on the Emory Law Journal Website. The abstract is pasted below.

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This is the second article in a multi-part series. In the first part, The Great Attributional Divide, the authors suggested that a major rift runs across many of our major policy debates based on contrasting attributional tendencies (dispositionist and situationist). This article explores how dispositionism maintains its dominance despite the fact that it misses so much of what actually moves us. It argues that the answer lies in a subordinate dynamic and discourse, naïve cynicism: the basic subconscious mechanism by which dispositionists discredit and dismiss situationist insights and their proponents. Without it, the dominant person schema — dispositionism — would be far more vulnerable to challenge and change, and the more accurate person schema — situationism — would be less easily and effectively attacked. Naïve cynicism is thus critically important to explaining how and why certain legal policies manage to carry the day. (To download a copy, click here.)

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For a recent Situationist post illustrating naive cynicism at work, see “Naïve Cynicism in Election 2008: Dispositionism v. Situationism?.”

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Posted in Abstracts, Conflict, Ideology, Legal Theory, Naive Cynicism, Politics, Social Psychology, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Lessons Learned from the Abu Ghraib Horrors

Posted by Philip Zimbardo on April 28, 2008

Image by Ahmed alRawi - FlickrOn April 28, 2004, four years ago, our nation, and the world, was shocked by the revelation of the abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers. More surprising than the fact of the abuse, for soldiers often abuse their enemies in wartime, was the nature of the “trophy photos.” Both male and female Military Police posed smilingly, giving high fives over a pyramid of naked detainees; dragging some around on dog leashes; and forcing others into sexually degrading poses. An iconic image of torture emerged from the digitally documented depravity which was shown in a helpless prisoner standing on a cardboard box, head hooded, electrodes attached to his fingers, fearing that when his body weakened and he fell off the stress box, he would electrocute himself.

Recall that the immediate response of the top military command and the Bush civilian command pronounced these acts as the work of a “few rogue soldiers,” as the moral failures of a few “Bad Apples.” General Richard Myers, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added in his televised interview that he was certain such abuses were not “systemic,” but should be blamed entirely on the immorality of those few culprits. Donald Rumsfeld, told the Senate Armed Services Committee, “These abuses happened on my watch. As Secretary of Defense, I am fully responsible.” Without a full scale investigation it was not possible at that time to determine whether such abuse was limited to Tier 1A Abu Ghraib, or was in fact, more widespread. The statements were simply urgent damage control to protect the reputation of America’s military and Bush’s war on terrorism. Rumsfeld’s acknowledgment of responsibility did not extend to a recognition of accountability or personal liability – for him or subsequently for any senior military staff: i.e., those who should have borne Command Responsibility for abuses, of which they should have been aware, that were inflicted by their subordinates given they occurred nightly over three long months.

Indeed, the bad apple refrain is played over and over again whenever there is a scandal in our police departments, prisons, and the military, or corporate worlds. Such attribution of evil deeds to the moral disposition of those who commit them fueled the feverish search for infidels in the decades of the Inquisition in many Catholic nations around the world. Focusing entirely on personal defects in the make-up of the culprits ignores the contextual circumstances in which the abuses occurred. However, proper understanding of any complex human behavior involves examination of the dynamic interplay between what actor brings into the behavioral setting and what the social-situational forces operating upon them bring out of those actors. Moreover, the crucial question that must be asked is what is the nature of the system of power that creates, maintains, and justifies situations that produce evil behavior and it also involves an awareness that the line between good and evil is not fixed, but sufficiently permeable to allow ordinary, even good, people to cross over and do really bad deeds at a given time in a particular setting.

As “Superintendent” of the mock Stanford Prison that I created as a simulation to be used in an experiment, I witnessed college student participants, purposely selected “good apples,” become corrupted by the situational forces operating in the “bad barrel” that I had designed. Normal, healthy students role-playing guards quickly began to abuse their prisoners so much so that many role-playing prisoners suffering from acute, extreme stress reactions had to be released. Our planned two-week study had to be terminated after only six days because the whole situation was running out of control. Sensing a similar scenario at work in the Abu Ghraib prison, I accepted the task of being an expert witness for the defense of the Army Reserve sergeant in charge of the MP battalion on the night shift of Tier 1A. As such, I had access to all the investigative reports issued by high-ranking generals and civilian officials, access to the infamous disks that were filled with a thousand trophy photos, and also direct access to the soldier himself by means of personal interviews, psychological testing, and a detailed investigation of his background. After reviewing all this material as well as interviewing military criminal investigators and knowledgeable officers, I concluded in the testimony I gave at his military trial, that although he was guilty as charged, the severity of his sentence should be mitigated both because of his exemplary character and the horrendous situational circumstances in which he and his buddies were forced to work and live.

Before his dungeon tour of duty Chip Frederick had been a remarkably patriotic, honored soldier, and a model citizen. The psych evaluation by a military psychologist concluded that he was normal on all measures; there was no evidence of any sadistic tendencies. Hardly the stuff of a bad apple.

But the situation in which he had to work could not have been worse. The prison was filthy and chaotic. It was subject to frequent blackouts and under almost constant bombardment. Prisoners were attempting to escape. There were no established standard operating procedures, and there was never any oversight or surveillance by officers. This young soldier was forced to work 12-hour shifts, 7 days a week for 40 consecutive nights without a break. When the unexpected insurgency burst out in Fall 2003, large scale arrests of suspected Iraqi men and boys swelled the prison population on Tier 1A from 200 to 1000 prisoners, without increase in the number of the 9 guards under his charge—none of whom had any mission-specific training. The massive assault of negative social psychological forces that had been at work in the Stanford mock Prison was overwhelmingly present in that all too real military prison.

How is the System implicated in these abuses? Tier 1A was under the control of Military Intelligence to be used as their interrogation site. The CIA backed up the control and civilian contract interrogators also conducted interrogations there. When their interrogations failed to elicit “actionable intelligence” (because most detainees had none to give), these authorities pressured the Army Reserve MPs to help them “soften up” the detainees, “take the gloves off,” do whatever was necessary to get them to spill the beans. The intentional absence of surveillance by senior officers during the night shift, coupled with praise of the MPs for breaking prisoners who did talk, and protected by the assurance of deniability for any specific abuses, the System that operated that dungeon provided an open-ended license for torture and abuse.

Many of the official investigative reports indict the system for the failure or absence of leadership, for conflicting leadership, and for the recruitment of these untrained MPs to abuse prisoners. The report by Brig. Gen. Antonio Taguba went further to identify specific officers whom he found guilty of dereliction of duty. Because he openly blamed the system, General Taguba was forced to resign prematurely; essentially he was fired for doing his job too conscientiously.

Chip’s sentence: dishonorable discharge, an 8-year prison term and forfeiture of 22 years of retirement income; he was also stripped of the 9 medals and awards he had earned. Cpl. Charles Garner got 10 years and Lynddie England 3 years; there were lesser sentences for the other MPs staffing that little shop of horrors in Tier 1A. Blame therefore was deflected onto the grunts to enable the big shots running any system to get away with murder and to avoid the vital messages about changing behavioral contexts that breed abuse, inhumanity, and criminal action. Errol Morris’s film, “Standard Operating Procedure,” released on the anniversary of the exposure of abuse at Abu Ghraib, confirms my thesis.

Such transgressions do not occur where military discipline is clear and oversight is practiced, where there is censure for violations and praise for honorable conduct. Rather, most systems of governance are veiled in secrecy; transparency is their enemy. Evil is a slippery slope that always starts with small transgressions and escalates gradually when human character is transformed by the power of social situations — while most good people observe and do nothing, thereby are guilty of the evil of inaction.

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For a collection of posts by or about Situationist contributor, Phil Zimbardo, click here. For other Situationist posts discussing The Lucifer Effect, click here. To buy the paperback version of the book, click here.

Posted in Book, Classic Experiments, History, Morality, Politics, Social Psychology, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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