This hair-raising documentary delves into the 2003 Abu Ghraib prison scandal where American corrections officers were charged with the abuse of Iraqi detainees. It’s a chilling look at the offenses that occurred, the mistakes of the U.S. government and the psychology behind the torture that took place.

Rory Kennedy, filmmaker and daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, walks the viewer through a brief history of the Iraq conflict and the circumstances leading up to the use of Abu Ghraib as a detention center.

Kennedy thoroughly documents the multiple memorandum dictating torture and interrogation policy to the soldiers operating in Iraq. She shows how officials narrowly redefined the word torture to make “appropriate” extreme forms of abuse, and how the constant switching of policies in Washington left troops in Iraq confused about the official stance of their home government.

The film provides striking first-hand accounts from the people who were most closely involved with the situation – the soldiers who served jail time in the fall out of Abu Ghraib. Kennedy portrays these soldiers as good people caught up in horrible circumstances.

With no corrections experience whatsoever, they were thrown into service at Abu Ghraib, where 300 personnel cared for thousands of prisoners. Desperate to find information that would assist the U.S. in its efforts and terrified for their own lives, the soldiers did things then that they are not capable of today.

Ghosts of Abu Ghraib gives new meaning to the concept of “just following orders.” These people honestly thought they were doing the right thing, and that it was sanctioned by the U.S. government, which then left them out to dry in the aftermath.

This is not a fun movie. It is, however, an essential watch for anybody who believes that what happened at Abu Ghraib was just the work of a few wayward soldiers.

Extras: Commentary from Rory Kennedy, previously unseen footage.

Grade: A-

Ghosts of Abu Ghraib is currently available.