The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The indelible stain of Abu Ghraib washed clean

Nick Flynn offered a fantastic presentation at the Hill Center earlier this week about his life and his poetry, but one disturbing revelation stood out.

Toward the end of the program, we were talking about his 2011 collection, “The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands.” These poems are based on Flynn’s interviews with people who had been tortured at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.

I said that when I first read in The New Yorker about the atrocities committed there, I assumed the national outrage would be so intense that the president would have to resign, and there would be all kinds of changes in this country. “But then . . . nothing really happened,” I said.

“Well, ’24’ won an Emmy,” Flynn joked, referring to the popular TV show that made torture cool again.

He went on to note that when he visits college campuses and reads from “The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands,” the students don’t know what he’s talking about.

“What’s Abu Ghraib?” they ask him.

So much for an indelible stain on the nation’s soul — just 10 years later.