Social psychology provides a platform for understanding how human beings behave within the society. The discipline is critical in utilizing scientific techniques to facilitate effective and efficient understanding, as well as an explanation of the thought, feeling, and behavior of individuals under the influence of actual, imagined, and implied presence of other people. From this perspective, the discipline is valuable in exploring and examining issues such as social perception, leadership, aggression, conformity, prejudice, and nonverbal behavior. In the development of this research, the focus will be on examination, exploration, and evaluation of the role of social psychology in Abu Ghraib Prison.
The assessment or achievement of this objective will consider examination of diverse concepts such as dehumanization, sexual racism discrimination, stereotyping, blaming the victim, and right wing authoritarianism. Categorically, the research paper will focus on the presentation of the role and influence of social psychology in determining the justification of the harsh practices of the American soldiers against the detainees and prisoners in the context of Iraq.
Background Information on Abu Ghraib Prison
During Saddam Hussein’s era, Abu Ghraib, which is located twenty miles west of Baghdad, was one of the world’s most notorious prisons associated with torture, vile living conditions, and weekly executions. According to diverse researchers, more than fifty thousand men and women could jam into the prison at one time, in twelve-by-twelve-foot cells, which were little more than the human holding pits (Tetreault, 2006). Nevertheless, following the collapse of the regime, the huge prison complex was stripped of all the relevant facilities such as doors, bricks, and windows.
The coalition authorities focused on repairing and cleaning the cells and the tiled floors, as well as toilets and showers. Moreover, the authorities focused on adding a new medical center to the institution. These elements were an expression of the takeover of the prison to become a United States’ military prison. In spite of these developments, there were still several prisoners in three critical categories: common criminals, security detainees for crimes against the coalition, and a small number of alleged high-value leaders for engaging in an insurgency against the coalition (Tetreault, 2006). During the management of the prison as a United States’ military prison, Abu Ghraib did associate with several scandals, which did take place in the course of the Iraq war. At this period, the prison had the opportunity to hold more than 3,800 detainees.
Most of these prisoners lived in tents within the context of the prison yards. Additionally, it is critical to note that the abuses against these prisoners or detainees did take place in the cell blocks 1A and 1B leading to the conviction of eleven United States’ soldiers of the crime relating to the abuses (Bennett, Lawrence, & Livingston, 2006). In the course of understanding the events, which did unfold in this context, it is valuable to examine and explore the role and influence of the social psychology of the activities regarding the prison. The approach will be valuable in the course of understanding the justification of the practices or abusive behavior by the American soldiers against the prisoners or detainees.
Dehumanization refers to the psychological processes or elements aimed at demonizing the enemy with the objective of making them look or seem less than human, thus, not worthy of the essence of humane treatment. In other instances, dehumanization can lead to increased incidences of violence, war crimes, genocide, and violation of the human rights. During this scandal, the prisoners or detainees did experience a diverse violation of their human rights through actions of violence and inhuman treatment. For instance, the soldiers focused on punching, slapping, and kicking the prisoners in an attempt to make them seem less human (Zimbardo, 2006).
These actions are acts of violence, which are dehumanizing. In other instances, the soldiers sought to jump on the naked feet of the prisoners with the objective of causing injuries to the detainees. On the other hand, there were dehumanizing issues relating to sexual harassment of the detainees. In most cases, the soldiers would take pride in the course of videotaping and photographing naked male prisoners and their female detainees’ counterparts. Moreover, the soldiers had to arrange, forcefully, the prisoners in diverse sexually explicit positions to execute their actions regarding videotaping and photographing.
These elements did violate the human rights of the detainees, thus, elements of dehumanization. Another element of dehumanization during this scandal was the approach by the soldiers to force the prisoners or detainees to remain naked for several days as a mode of punishment. There were other acts of dehumanization in the group such as the approach by the soldier to force the detainees to wear women’s underwear, which was a show of demeaning of their human nature. Besides, the male prisoners or detainees had to masturbate in front of the cameras and videos (Zimbardo, 2006). The soldiers also focused on exerting issues of violence among the male detainees through arranging such prisoners in a pile before engaging in actions or activities such as jumping on them.
On the other hand, the soldiers did position one of the prisoners on a box with a sandbag on his head before attaching wires to the fingers, toes, and reproductive organ with the objective of stimulating electric torture. In certain instances, there was a detainee who had ‘I am a Rapest (sic)’ sign wrote on his leg before appearing in front of a camera for photographing. These actions did dehumanize the prisoners or detainees regardless of the alleged crimes they did commit against the coalition. The soldiers forced on the utilization of such actions and attributes with the intention of demonstrating their powers or dominance over the detainees during this scandal.
Sexual Racism Discrimination
In the course of understanding this scandal, it is essential to understanding the role and influence of sexual assault, racism, and discrimination against the alleged ‘terrorist’ in Abu Ghraib prison. During the scandal, the directors and actors of the sexual humiliation, the prison guards, sought to express their belief in the opportunity to execute whatever they did wish for while enjoying themselves in the process of executing such actions. This is highly evident in the pictures the soldiers shared with their friends back in the United States before emerging on the media platform.
It is essential to note that Abu Ghraib elements of sexual humiliation, as well as submission, did expose the strands of racism, national arrogance, masculinity, and homophobia, which did characterize the military system of the United States. Categorically, the leaked images did demonstrate much regarding the social values of the United States, as well as the soldiers of the 372nd Military Police Company. The objective of the invasion of Iraq was to ensure that the nation did surrender while paying for the crimes regarding 9/11 attacks. In the statement as mentioned earlier, male detainees had to wear women’s underwear to demonstrate their weaknesses (Howard & Prividera, 2008).
The objective of the military practice in this approach was to subject these detainees to sexual and racial discrimination while equating their weaknesses or submission to the female picture within the society. Evidently, the violence against the prisoners or detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq by the male, as well as female American soldiers was global and sexualized. For instance, the pyramid of the male prisoners forced into stimulating sodomy did convey the project of the empire, thus, the West domination regarding non-West. On the other hand, the image of the soldiers pointing their fingers to the reproductive organs of the naked detainees did demonstrate or confirm the engagement of such military practitioners on the sexualized racial violence, as well as humiliation bordering on the gender lines. These actions by the soldiers sought to express the dominance of the West on Iraqi and the alleged ‘terrorists’ in the prison system. On the other hand, such actions focused on enabling the soldiers to gain gratification for their engagement in the war in Iraq.
Out-group Homogeneity Effect
It is essential to note that the prisoners or detainees were part of a group, which was an enemy of the coalition. This fact would only exaggerate the tendency by the American soldiers to feel or express spontaneous prejudice against the out-groups. From this perspective, the American soldiers focused on integrating synonymous elements such as oppression and discrimination. One of the critical principles of social psychology is the tendency of individuals or society members to prefer their groups while seeking to attribute or integrate bad behavior to the out-groups. Prejudice has the tendency to grow and develop in cases where individuals perceive out-groups as a threat to the cherished values (Howard& Prividera, 2008). This principle is highly applicable to the case of the scandal at Abu Ghraib in which the American soldiers or guards sought to perceive or conceptualize the detainees as outsiders or members of the out-groups. The concept is also applicable in the course of diverse situations. For instance, in a recent sample of the United States’ citizens, most of the research participants sought to perceive Muslims and Arabs as members of out-groups because of the inability to share their interests. Besides, Americans view these groups as insincere, dishonest, and unfriendly in their interactions or encounters.
From this assessment, it is valuable to note that social psychology did play a critical role in the course of the unraveling of the events in Abu Ghraib Prison in the context of Iraq. For instance, the American soldiers and guards did perceive the prisoners or detainees as outsiders to their group, thus, the need to subject them to the dehumanizing and humiliating actions (Fiske, Harris & Cuddy, 2004). Categorically, the American soldiers did see or view the prisoners as entities seeking to go against the cherished values, norms, and beliefs, thus, the approach to inflicting maximum pain aimed at subjecting them to dominance.
Furthermore, the behavior of the American soldiers and guards in the course of mistreating the detainees or prisoners did express them as members of out-groups regarding the global perceptions and conceptualization of the human rights and issues of dehumanization, as well as discrimination. Consequently, social psychology did play a critical role in the process of determining the relationship between the American soldiers and guards and the prisoners or detainees in the context of Abu Ghraib Prison, Iraq.
The principles of social psychology regarding affect, behavior, and cognition tend to apply to the examination of the issues of stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination. One of the cognitive components in the perceptions of the individuals regarding group members is the essence of stereotype. Stereotype refers to the positive, as well as negative beliefs, which individuals hold regarding or concerning characteristics of the social group. For instance, it is possible to term ‘French people as romantic’ or ‘old people as being incompetent.’ It is valuable to note that stereotypes are not only an outcome of the individual cognitive functioning but also a social product of the group life. Practitioners believe that stereotypes are not idiosyncratic creations of particular personalities (Bar-Tal& Teichman, 2005).
From this perspective, they are collective representations of one’s group and out-groups but shared by the members of the stereotyping groups with the objective of demonstrating or reflecting intergroup interactions and relationships. Stereotypes are collective in origin while evolving from the group interaction and influences towards becoming the shared beliefs regarding the group values and ideologies. Stereotypes have the obligation to play active, as well as passive roles in the course of determining the conduct of intergroup behavior. In this context, it is valuable to demonstrate the fact that stereotyping did play a critical role in the scandal as an element of social psychology(Bar-Tal& Teichman, 2005). In the civil platform, practitioners have the tendency of conceptualizing or viewing prisoners or detainees through the strategic construction of stigmatizing stereotypes concerning the criminality, dangerousness, and violence, as well as unmanageability.
From this perspective, it is appropriate to note that maximum-security institutions, as well as harsh practices associated with such regimes, to justify, normalize or deny the abusive behavior in agreement with the existing discourses of dangerousness (Bar-Tal& Teichman, 2005). Moreover, issues such as security threats, constructions of dangerousness, and dehumanization of the prisoners tend to offer powerful devices towards legitimizing utilization of the coercive force by the military system or state. Besides, the monopoly towards inflicting legitimate violence in the prison systems proves to be central to understanding diverse practices of the state power especially domination of human bodies in measuring peace, security, and social order.
Blaming the Victim
In spite of the global leakage of the photos of the events or activities in the prison system, it is essential to note that the state focused on using one of the principles of social psychology in the form of blaming the victims. The United States authority sought to manage the scandal through the exploitation of the concepts of patriotism, blind trust, and reflexive servility with the objective of diffusing the implications of the crisis (Zimbardo& Leippe, 1991). The media showed bloodied prisoners under the obligation to stimulate masturbation and oral sex, as well as stacked naked prisoners with bags over their heads, and guard dogs waiting to rip into the naked detainees. Blaming the victim technique did enable the authority to suppress any issues, which might have escalated regarding the scandal in the context of Iraq. The soldiers sought to blame the prisoners as perpetrators of the violent actions or terrorism, as well as providing the hub for terrorist attacks and preparation. From this illustration, the soldiers focused on using this technique in the course of justifying the use of abusive force or behavior as evident in the photos, which came out through the media.
Right Wing Authoritarianism
Right-wing authoritarianism (RAW) comes out as a potential risk factor regarding abusive behavior relating to ineffectiveness or inefficiency of the social dominance orientation. It is valuable to compare RWA and the two subscales of SDO: SDO-dominance and SDO-Egalitarianism to substantiate factors legitimizing the use of torture-like abusive behavior. The case of Abu Ghraib Military Prison comes out as one of the most appropriate contexts towards understanding the justification of the abusive or harsh practices by the military practitioners or soldiers. From this illustration, it is valuable to note that integration of SDO-dominance in the hierarchical multiple regression analysis did decrease RWA and SDO-Egalitarianism as the predictors (Larsson, Björklund, & Bäckström, 2012).
Similarly, in the equation, SDO-dominance was essential in revealing significant relation in the justification of the abusive behavior by the American soldiers in the context of the prison. It is valuable for the research practitioners to consider bridging the existing gaps relating to the overlap between RWA and SDO, thus, increased platforms for an understanding of the contextual factors on the operations or influence of SDO and RWA towards generating abusive behaviors. The American soldiers focused on the implementation of these social psychology aspects in the course of justifying the utilization of abusive behavior in the process of expressing or illustrating their dominance of the terrorist groups.
The research paper focused on examination, exploration, and evaluation of the role of social psychology in Abu Ghraib Prison. The assessment or achievement of this objective considered examination of diverse concepts such as dehumanization, sexual racism discrimination, stereotyping, blaming the victim, and right wing authoritarianism. In the first instance, the assessment did generate substantive findings regarding dehumanizing practices by the American soldiers and guards against the prisoners or detainees. Some of these actions did include torture, forcing the male detainees to wear female underwear, acts of sodomy, and photographing the prisoners while they are naked.
Secondly, the practices in the prison did associate with issues of sexual and racial discrimination especially against the female detainees in one of the notorious prisons. The objective of the military practice in this approach was to subject these detainees to sexual and racial discrimination while equating their weaknesses or submission to the female picture within the society. Thirdly, the issues of stereotyping did play a critical role in the justification of the harsh or legitimate prison practices by the American guards and soldiers in treating the people viewed as dangerous and criminals. In the course of defusing the crisis, the institutions focused on blaming the prisoners for their actions regarding issues such as providing hiding places for the Al-Qaeda, as well as engaging in terrorist actions. The United States authority sought to manage the scandal through the exploitation of the concepts of patriotism, blind trust, and reflexive servility with the objective of diffusing the implications of the crisis. From this perspective, it is valuable to note that social psychology did play a critical role in the course of justifying or denying the harsh practices in the contexts of Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq.
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