Just wanted to point out an excellent interview with Philip Zimbardo, the principal researcher of the controversial Stanford Prison Experiment, on the New York Times web site.
If, like me, you couldn't stomach watching the entire video (now removed from YouTube), you should at least watch this 8-minute interview, which also offers a nice summary of the experiment and its relation to Abu Ghraib.
Zimbardo's thesis is that we all have the capacity for good and evil; it's the situations we are put in that cause us to behave in good or evil ways.
Dr. Zimbardo was on the Daily Show the other day as well. The interview is on the show's website. If someone had mentioned to me that one day my research might land me a gig with Jon Stewart, I might have worked a little harder in grad school.
"Zimbardo's thesis is that we all have the capacity for good and evil; it's the situations we are put in that cause us to behave in good or evil ways."
What Phillip Zimbardo is missing in his attempt to explain how things such as Abu Ghraib happen, which ultimately relates to the take over of the US by the Necons and the subsequent total gutting of the Constitution etc, is the presence of psychopaths in power. Research by Robert Hare and Martha Stout place the percentage of psychopaths in the population at 4-6%. Not all are in jail or serial murders, yet these individuals have no conscience and thus rise to power because they don't have the normal feelings that hold the majority of us from stabbing another in the back and lying for our sole benefit. The book 'Political Ponerology: A Science on The Nature of Evil adjusted for Political Purposes' by Andrew M. Lobaczewski describes this process in detail.
Here is an article that looks at Zimbardo and psychopaths that is worth reading: