Poisoned social climate, collective responsibility, and the abuse at Abu Ghraib--Or, the establishment of "rule that is lack of rule".
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The authors draw upon the experiences of one of the co-authors as an expert witness in sociology for mitigation at three of the courts-martial pertaining to the abuse at Abu Ghraib that were held at Ft. Hood, Texas in the year 2005 (for Javal Davis, Sabrina Harman, and Lynndie England). In addition, this paper is based upon the thousands of pages of affidavits, testimony, and U.S. Government reports concerning Abu Ghraib. These internal government reports, as well as the Levin-McCain report, point to collective responsibility and the responsibility of individuals high in the chain of command for establishing unlawful techniques. We review the shortcomings of a purely psychological approach for understanding the abuse, and turn to Durkheim's original understanding of anomie as a state of social derangement or rule by lack of rule to introduce the ideas of the social origins of and social responsibility for the abuse. We conclude with sociological suggestions for reforming some of the legal, medical, psychiatric, and other professional complicity in the abuse at Abu Ghraib.