American soldiers brutalized Iraqis. How far does the responsibility go? During the era of Saddam Hussein, Abu Ghraib was one of the worlds worst and most notorious prisons. From torture, to executions, to terrible living conditions. This was the honest view of the horrors of war. The mistreatment at Abu Ghraib took a toll on not only the prisoners, but also on how we view these war crimes today. Between Abu Ghraib and The Stanford Prison Experiment, one can draw several lines of similarity, as well as several contrasting elements.

Something can be learned from witnessing such acts of disgust and mistreatment. When conducting the Stanford Prison Experiment, the subjects entered knowing that it was a fictional institution, simply to be used for study. General Karpinski was in charge of an operation that was far from fiction. Karpinski was sanctioned for overseeing an operation that was reportedly committing numerous instances of “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” according to Hersh (2004).

Such dehumanization is unacceptable in any culture, but it is especially so in the Arab world (Hersh, 2004). Similarities When the experiment was conducted, there were various similarities between what transpired at Abu Ghraib vs. what took place in the makeshift correctional facility at Stanford. At Abu, the photographs told it all. In one, Private England, was seen giving a thumbs up to a young Iraqi, who was naked except for a sandbag over his head, as he masturbated, according to Hersh (2004).

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This is not unlike the Stanford Experiment where the students (inmates) were made to wear blindfolds instead of bags, to “mask” their identity (Zimbardo, 2012). This was an example of dehumanization. In another photograph, England stands arm in arm with Specialist Graner; both grinning behind a cluster of perhaps 7 naked Iraqis, knees bent, piled up like a pyramid (Hersh, 2004). The Stanford Prison subjects were humiliated by being stripped naked and deloused with a spray to convey the belief that they may have had germs or lice, according to Zimbardo (2012).

The problems inside the Army prison system in Iraq were not hidden from senior commanders. During Karpinski’s seven-month tour of duty, there were at least a dozen officially reported incidents involving escapes, attempted escapes, and other serious security issues that were investigated by offiers of the 800th M. P. Brigade (Hersh, 2004). The Stanford Experiment had a rumored escape, but none that were ever actually carried out. This is a testament to how accurate the Stanford Experiment turned out to be.

Differences However, Taguba’s report listed wrongdoing such as: pouring phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell, etc. (Hersh, 2004). The subjects of the Stanford Experiment were subjected to very little, if any, physical harm and abuse.

It was mostly verbal, which still led to immense psychological damage. The M. P. s had worked with intelligence operatives to “set favorable conditions for subsequent interviews”-a euphemism for breaking the will of soldiers (Hersh, 2004). The Stanford students had interviews, but they were with the priest, to monitor their mental state, no to break their will. The effects of Abu Ghraib are still felt to this day. These events spoke to the traumatic issues that are dealt with when discussing war crimes and disciplinary actions at battle.

There were vast similarities between Abu Ghraib and The Stanford experiment, some of these were the way the inmates were made to feel dehumanized and stripped of their own identity. The differences are that Abu Ghraib caused many fatalities and far worse psychological damage than what was cause by the experiment.


Hersh, Seymour M. (2004, May). Torture at Abu Ghraib Retrieved June 24, 2012, from http://www. newyorker. com/archive/2004/05/10/040510fa_fact/? currentPage=all Zimbardo, Philip G. (2012). Stanford Prison Experiment Retrieved June 24, 2012, from http://www. prisonexp. org/


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