Essay 2 – Abu Ghraib and the visual legacy of Iraq



“In some future college classroom, a professor will require her students to read about the things this country did in the early years of the 21st century. She’ll assign portions of the Senate torture report. There will be blank stares and apathetic yawns. There will be essays and writing assignments. The students will come to know that this country isn’t always something to be proud of.”

Eric Fair, an Army veteran, and a contract interrogator in Iraq in 2004

Final Essay
Write this on Medium and put the link in your Google Doc 
Due Wednesday by 11:15 with a link on your reading notes
Length: 750 -1,000 words

Throughout the class we have been talking about how images shape or memory and thoughts about war. Typically these are images of soldiers in combat or the consequences of combat, but the images of Abu Ghraib brought us a vastly different side of war. Here is the assignment:

You are assigned to write a history textbook for high school students. History textbooks are in many ways a narrative; Given a limited amount of space, what do we think is most important to teach children? Where would these images and this story fit into your book? This requires you to weigh the importance of Abu Ghraib in relation to other events – the September 11 bombings, the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, even things like a information about the Korengal Valley, where Restrepo took place.

In her essay, “Regarding the Torture of Others” Susan Sontag writes:

“Photographs have an insuperable power to determine what we recall of events, and it now seems probable that the defining association of people everywhere with the war that the United States launched pre-emptively in Iraq last year will be photographs of the torture of Iraqi prisoners by Americans in the most infamous of Saddam Hussein’s prisons, Abu Ghraib.”

Part of your argument should respond to this statement, placing the Abu Ghraib images in the visual legacy of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Think of all of the images (both photographs and video) that you have seen over the past several days. Where do these photos fit into that visual legacy and to what extent is that visual legacy the actual legacy of the war.

Include at least two images in your response. Anything online is available to you, but don’t plagiarize. Also, this is an essay, meaning that while your opinion matters, you have to make an argument. Give reasons.

Again, publish your essay on Medium.


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