Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 18, 2008

"You can’t feel because you’ll just go crazy"

The New Yorker has a few documentary excerpts with Sabrina Harman, an Army guard who took photographs at Abu Ghraib.

This part catches something people who have never been in such situations have problems to understand:

ERROL MORRIS: Are these kids suspected of being terrorists or just…?


ERROL MORRIS: If you could talk about that?

SABRINA HARMAN: I don’t know what all of them were in for. We had so many from age 10 all the way up. I think the youngest one was because his father was passing notes or doing something illegal, but they held him also. I don’t know if the kid was involved, but he, he’s, he’s a little kid. I mean, he could have fit through the bars he was so little.

ERROL MORRIS: So how does this make you feel? I mean, you’re seeing all these kids...

SABRINA HARMAN: Well, you go numb. I mean there’s…You really don’t have any feelings. You can’t feel because you’ll just go crazy, so you just kind of blow it off. You can only make their stay a little bit acceptable, I guess. You give them all the candy from the MREs [“meals ready to eat”] to make their time go by better, I guess, but there’s only so much you can do or so much you can feel.

When I was younger, I worked as a part-time paramedic. When we picked up the pieces of a bunch of drunk kids who had managed to wrap their car around a tree, our reaction was the same. We shut down our feelings. We also took pictures. Later we joked about it.

Moralizing people ask, "how can they be so uncaring." Well, one has to, or it destroys oneself. It is a survival mechanism.

Harman took pictures and was court-martial for her conduct. I am quite sure she could not do much about behaving like she did.

It is not the people that get put into such situations who are guilty (unless they torture or kill someone.) The people who created the situation are the ones that are responsible and must be put into jail.

So far, none of those have been bothered.

Posted by b on March 18, 2008 at 14:34 UTC | Permalink


"The people who created the situation are the ones that are responsible and must be put into jail."

So how best to express this on a 3'x4' board to hold up in the street? [Really. I need to make a sign for tomorrow.]

Posted by: beq | Mar 18 2008 17:01 utc | 1

b, you arrived at that horrific scene with the intention of saving lives. Your good intentions brought you and your colleagues into a situation not of your devising that you then had to cope with as best you could.

Torturors and killers who take pictures and joke about what they have done in order to cope... Please don't put yourself into that bracket. Those individuals are as guilty as the people who gave the orders. We all have free will. And guess what? If the executives of malign policies are let off the hook, who will be blamed, ultimately, given how we are all subject to the manipulations of news and info medias that are slaves to their masters' bidding? The victims. "It's not my fault: they made me do it." How often has "they" come to mean the tortured, the disappeared, the bombed, the executed?

Posted by: Tantalus | Mar 19 2008 13:59 utc | 2

The comments to this entry are closed.