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Under such extreme conditions (Zimbardo’s “vinegar barrel”), behaviors exhibited by Abu Ghraib MPs should have been completely expected. The Military and Governmental agencies involved have behavioral experts and 30 years of research at their fingertips. To anticipate what might occur, and to plan accordingly – ensuring that supervision was relentless, prohibitions against improper behaviors were clear and unambiguous, training provided, and readily-accessed mechanisms provided for reports of questionable activity – was job of Army, Government, and Administration, listening to their own psychological experts.
Courts-Martial of individual guards for their unacceptable and abhorrent behaviors are warranted to extent that individual always bears ultimate responsibility for their personal actions. However, primary responsibility must fall on those who directed and developed a system almost guaranteed to produce those actions which have recently appalled all Americans and degraded our National image.
Not knowing research, not reading long reports, not having time to focus on a small area of an enormous task, does not excuse nor absolve of guilt. The top commanders are where buck stops and where accountability truly lies.
Dr. Bola operated a rehabilitation company, developing innovative job search techniques for disabled workers, for 20 years. A licensed clinical psychologist, she developed vocational programs for the mentally ill, served as a Vocational Expert for Social Security, Civil Court, and pioneered vocational testimony in Workers’ Compensation Hearings. She can be reached at http://drvirginiabola.blogspot.com