Ivan “Chip” Frederick, the 40 year-old son of a coalminer and a homemaker from Oakland, Maryland, describes his mother as supportive and caring, and his father as very good to him. All of his life he has attended Baptist church services, and to this day considers himself a spiritual and moral person. But in 2003, Frederick attached electrodes to the left hand of Satar Jabar, the Iraqi prisoner whose hooded spectral image was to become the iconic representation of Abu Ghraib’s atrocious descent into hell. Under Frederick’s watch, prison guards observed or directly participated in the torture or humiliation of numerous prisoners. What drove him into barbarism?
President Bush, lamenting the Virginia Tech dead, encouraged his citizens, mindful of further atrocities, to report "abnormal behavior." But what should count as sufficiently "abnormal," in America now, to warrant the attention of either doctors or the police? Can the children of struggling minorities in America's celebrity-obsessed cultic capitalism not be forgiven (or understood, at least) for following the call of Milton's Satan and imagining that it's "better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven"?