The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.
Abu Ghraib, Administrative Evil, and Moral Inversion: The Value of “Putting Cruelty First”
Article first published online: 7 SEP 2006
Public Administration Review
Volume 66, Issue 5, pages 680–693, September|October 2006
How to Cite
Adams, G. B., Balfour, D. L. and Reed, G. E. (2006), Abu Ghraib, Administrative Evil, and Moral Inversion: The Value of “Putting Cruelty First”. Public Administration Review, 66: 680–693. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6210.2006.00633.x
- Issue published online: 7 SEP 2006
- Article first published online: 7 SEP 2006
The torture and abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and at other sites in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Cuba raise disturbing questions that have few, if any, easy answers. Were these intentionally evil acts committed by a few bad apples who took advantage of the power they wielded over the detainees? Or were they cases of administrative evil in which the obvious evil of torture and abuse was masked from the perpetrators, including those who performed subsidiary and supportive functions? The more fundamental question is, are torture and abuse always wrong? How close did the United States come to moral inversion in this case? Judith Shklar’s concept of “putting cruelty first” aids our understanding of this case and points toward a trajectory that could help prevent future moral inversions and administrative evil.