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The Abu Ghraib Makeover


Clinton Fein, Crucifiction 1, Torture Series, 2007


Remember Abu Ghraib? Well, that's what it used to be called anyway.

As of now, the infamous prison is to be known as Baghdad Central Prison.

The newly rennovated facility (at least what journalists were allowed to see) includes a sewing room, exercise equipment, computers, a library, outdoor recreational areas, greenhouses and a barber shop.

"We turned it to something like a resort not prison. The first step was to change the name," Mohammed al-Zeidi, the assistant director of the Iraqi Rehabilitation Department told a group of journalists on a tour of the freshly painted infamous prison where torture was the order of the day, under both Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush.

Sound familiar? It was former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, who said of Guantanamo, "Guantanamo Bay's climate is different than Afghanistan. To be in a eight-by-eight cell in beautiful sunny Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is not inhumane treatment." Former Vice Preseident, Dick Cheney, echoed similar sentiments.

A really comprehensive overview of Abu Ghraib, and the abuse it represents is featured in today's New York Times. I spent two years exhibiting my Torture Series, based on images from Abu Ghraib, from San Francisco to Beijing. At the end of the day, the documentation is all we have.

Changing the name and painting the walls cannot whitewash the truth of the horrors that took place there. But it will make it much easier to forget.

I, for one, will continue to call it Abu Ghraib.

The remains of Auschwitz-Birkenau would not have the visceral power they evoke if they were renamed Oświęcim Central Holding Facility.

Sometimes it is just as important to have a reminder as a caution as it is to move on and forgive.

Forget, we must not.