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The Abu Ghraib Photos You Haven’t Seen

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Donnachaidh Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-25-11 09:12 AM
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The Abu Ghraib Photos You Haven’t Seen

I’ve spent a big chunk of the last decade immersed in people’s wartime memories. I’ve traveled across the globe to interview survivors about them—soldiers, guerrillas, civilians. I’ve read countless memoirs, reporters’ accounts and historians’ works on the subject of war. Along the way, I’ve also learned a lot about memory, specifically how people remember and forget certain incidents.

I’ve spoken to not a few veterans who’ve committed atrocities—including men who readily admitted the brutal deeds they had carried out as teenagers or 20-somethings. But sometimes I knew about a specific horrific act they witnessed or probably carried out and it seemingly was news to them. “I don’t recall it, but I can believe it” is a standard response. Or there was the officer who reportedly went around rounding up men to kill a group of women and children. “I guess I’ve wiped Vietnam and all that out of my mind. I don’t remember shooting anyone or ordering anyone to shoot,” he said when confronted. But he didn’t dispute that the massacre had occurred, saying “I don’t doubt it, but I don’t remember.”

Riley Sharbonno didn’t round up people. He didn’t carry out any massacres and didn’t witness any. But Sharbonno did go to war. And he did return with memories that were mixed up, messy or missing. Monica Haller helped him to put them back together in a fascinating photo book—a term she eschews, instead calling the project “an object of deployment.”

A thick tome of more than 470 pages, “Riley and his story. Me and my outrage. You and us.” is a piece of art and a historical document. It’s a war story and a meditation on memory as well as a rumination on its absence.

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