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Standard Operating Procedure - documentary DVD / independently produced DVD review
STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE Rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating: 4 1/2 stars
Featuring: Christopher Bradley, Sarah Denning, Joshua Feinman, Jeff L. Green, Merry Grissom
Director: Errol Morris   Distributor: Sony Pictures
DVD release: 14 October 2008   Runtime: 116 min. (1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Aspect ratio 2.40:1, Audio tracks (Dolby Digital 5.1 - English, French VO, Spanish VO), Subtitles (Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Thai, Korean), Commentary w/ dir. Errol Morris, 9 additional scenes

Errol Morris's Standard Operating Procedure is a difficult film to watch, but necessary. It documents the prison at Abu Ghraib and the scandal there that sent the world reeling when pictures of what went on there were leaked. Many of the images didn't sit well with the world at large. Detainees were shown in stress positions, naked, being made to masturbate in front of female jailers, humiliated and tortured - sexual, physical, and psychological torture disallowed by the Geneva Conventions.

Morris interviews many of the people involved in the scandal including Lynndie England, Megan Ambuhl, Col. (formerly Brigadier General) Janis Karpinski. Charles Graner could not be interviewed; he is still serving time for his role in the abuses that took place.

Standard Operating Procedure pastes all the pictures together to tell the story of the abuses, but it also digs deeper, revealing that this sort of treatment was more policy than anomaly. One suspects that the only thing out of the ordinary is that photos were taken. That was not approved. The jailers were not innocent, for the most part. They contributed to the human rights violations pictured; they could have blown the whistle - however, the military culture works to eliminate independent thought and action. When asked to jump, the only appropriate response is: "How high?"

The atrocities committed at Abu Ghraib should not have happened. Similar abuses may well be occurring at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other lapses in attention to the Geneva Conventions. Time will tell. Hopefully those who gave the thumbs-up to torture will have to answer to their crimes. What is certain is that these policies did not originate in Abu Ghraib.

I look forward to being once more proud of my country, to live in a society that takes the high road. We can't torture enemy combatants and expect lenient treatment of our own captured soldiers. Never mind that it's unlikely that any meaningful information can come from torture. It's just not right.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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