Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Hooded Man, Sergeant Ivan Frederick, 2003

Hundreds of photojournalists covered the conflict in Iraq, but the most memorable image from the war was taken not by a professional but by a U.S. Army staff sergeant named Ivan Frederick. In the last three months of 2003, Frederick was the senior enlisted man at Abu Ghraib prison, the facility on the outskirts of Baghdad that Saddam Hussein had made into a symbol of terror for all Iraqis, then being used by the U.S. military as a detention center for suspected insurgents. Even before the Iraq War began, many questioned the motives of the American, British and allied governments for the invasion that toppled Saddam. But nothing undermined the allies’ claim that they were helping bring democracy to the country more than the scandal at Abu Ghraib. Frederick was one of several soldiers who took part in the torture of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib. All the more incredible was that they took thousands of images of their mistreatment, humiliation and torture of detainees with digital cameras and shared the photographs. The most widely disseminated was “the Hooded Man,” partly because it was less explicit than many of the others and so could more easily appear in mainstream publications. The man with outstretched arms in the photograph was deprived of his sight, his clothes, his dignity and, with electric wires, his sense of personal safety. And his pose? It seemed deliberately, unnervingly Christlike. The liberating invaders, it seemed, held nothing sacred.

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