May 19, 2008, 10:56 pm
The following essay shows how a photograph aided and abetted a terrible miscarriage of justice. I invite readers to offer their own interpretation of the considerable amount of material contained in the footnotes.
“Well! I’ve often seen a cat without a grin,” thought Alice; “but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!”
– Lewis Carroll, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”
“How can you say she’s a good person?” I am sitting in an editing-room in Cambridge, Mass. arguing with one of my editors. I reply, “Well, exactly what is it that she did that is bad?” We are arguing about Sabrina Harman, one of the notorious “seven bad apples” convicted of abuse in the notorious Abu Ghraib scandal. My editor becomes increasingly irritable. (I have that effect on people.) He looks at me as you would a child. “What did she do that is bad? Are you joking?” And then he brings up the trump card, the photograph with the smile. “How do you get past that? The smile? Just look at it. Come on.”
The question kept coming up. How do you explain the smile? What does it mean? Not only is she smiling, she is smiling with her thumbs-up – over a dead body. The photograph suggests that she may have killed the guy, and she looks proud of it. She looks happy.
I should back up a moment.
I haven't had a chance to see his newest doc yet here in Austin but I can't wait.