Are the American Soldiers at Abu Ghraib responsible for their actions, and

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Are the American Soldiers at Abu Ghraib responsible for their actions, and should they be considered the 'evil wrongdoers' they were made out to be.

I find it hard to see why anyone would suggest they are not responsible at all for their actions. But surely it is a good question whether they alone are responsible for their actions. And here, of course, the controversy becomes political. Did "higher-ups" issue orders that were tantamount to suggesting that such abuse would be tolerated or even welcome? Did the "higher-ups" turn a blind eye to what was happening and fail to supervise the prison properly, perhaps intentionally, so as to distance themselves from what they knew was likely to happen? This latter responsibility, for oversight, is particularly important, since we know, from the Stanford prison experiment and the classic work by Stanley Milgram, that otherwise decent human beings, when subjected to the right sorts of stresses, will do almost arbitrarily horrendous things to one another.

Finally, then, one might ask whether what we know from these experiments does to some extent excuse the behavior of the soldiers at Abu Ghraib, that is, reduce their responsibility. This is a very hard question, and I am not qualified even to try to answer it. I will say, however, that I recently heard an excellent paper by Gideon Rosen on this very topic---not on Abu Ghraib specifically, but on the moral implications of the Milgram experiments. The paper doesn't seem to be available anywhere yet, but one day....

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