Monday, September 26, 2005

Lynndie England found guilty

Breaking news:

Lynndie England, one of the figures at the center of the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal, has been found guilty:

Presented with starkly different portrayals of the young soldier notorious for her grinning photos with naked Iraqi detainees, a jury of Army officers convicted Pfc. Lynndie R. England today of mistreating prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison.

The verdict was reached after barely two hours of deliberation in a military court in Fort Hood, Tex., and it resolved the final case against the nine enlisted soldiers involved in the prisoner abuse, which created an international scandal when it came to light last year. Military leaders and officials in the Bush administration have acknowledged that the prisoner mistreatment has undermined America's credibility in the Middle East, exposing grave breakdowns in the unit guarding Abu Ghraib.

Private England, 22, was found guilty of six of the seven counts against her, including four counts of mistreatment, one for conspiracy and one for indecency, and she faces up to 10 years in a military prison. The sentence is to be decided by the jurors on Tuesday. She was acquitted on another conspiracy charge.

Here's what I wrote back in May, after England's first trial was thrown out by a military judge who rejected her guilty plea (read the post for the full analysis):

I have no doubt that what England did was wrong. Those horrendous pictures that for a time were all over the media (before the short-sighted media and their memory-deficient consumers grew tired of the whole sordid affair) are irrefutable evidence of the abuse at Abu Ghraib. And England, like Graner, should be punished. But isn't it obvious what's going on? They're scapegoats. Graner was surely following orders and may or may deserve the severe punishment he's received, but there's no way England should be punished with a long prison term. She did what she was ordered to go in a climate of abuse that was sanctioned by the highest reaches of the military and civilian establishment, including the highest reaches of the Bush Administration. But while Graner and England are brought up on charges, their superiors are doing nicely. Alberto Gonzales, former White House counsel, is now Attorney General. Donald Rumsfeld is still Secretary of Defense. And no general has yet been punished... Oh, wait. There's one. Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, head of the Army Reserve unit that was involved in the Abu Ghraib scandal, has been demoted to Colonel (three other generals have been cleared of wrongdoing). And that's it.

It's a sad story. I have no excuse for what happened at Abu Ghraib and for what surely must be going on at other American facilities around the world (and for what's happening in foreign facilities where the U.S. is shipping some of its prisoners for torture). The abuse of prisoners by the American military is a stain on the United States and a serious roadblock in winning the "soft" war for the hearts and minds of those who would inflict terror on us or who otherwise repudiate our way of life.

Once upon a time, the noble thing to do was to take responsibility at the highest levels, not least in the Oval Office. Now, the ignoble thing to do is to assume no responsibility whatsoever and to blame convenient cogs somewhere down the hierarchy (while being promoted and otherwise rewarded). The buck doesn't stop with Lynndie England, but she, and others like her, will take the fall. That's "justice" for you.

I stand by it. Lynndie England may or may not get what she deserves, but she's the scapegoat, plain and simple.

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  • Court martialled for mistreating prisoners.......Pardon me but dont the other side kill prisoners.Civillian prisoners.Am I missing something here.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:12 PM  

  • Pardon me but are you saying that we should condone such behavior? Are you justifying American soldiers mistreating prisoners on the basis that the “other side” kills prisoners, civilian prisoners?

    -Insert sarcasm- Here’s a thought; why don’t we just line 'em up and take 'em out, really show 'em a lesson, show 'em who’s boss, that’ll do it!

    Am I missing something here?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:35 PM  

  • No, I think you misunderstood me. I'm certainly not condoning such behavior. I'll link to my various anti-torture posts in an upcoming post (so stay tuned), but my point here is that England is a scapegoat. She was a cog, part of a culture that itself condoned such behavior. Why aren't Rumsfeld and Gonzales -- and Bush himself -- being held accountable for what happened? Why aren't higher-ups in the military being held accountable? Because it's easier to blame the regular guys and gals who were there -- who were obeying orders or otherwise doing what they thought they were supposed to be doing.

    Does this mean I'm condoning her behavior? Absolutely not. She deserved to be punished for what she did, which was reprehensible. But, again, was she acting along? Was this just a one-off? No. Surely not.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 11:30 PM  

  • Michael,

    I thought that Anonymous two was responding to Anonymous one. Anonymous one was saying, as I understand it, that why court martial Lyndie England when her actions weren't as bad as the other side. I guess by that reasoning, we should give her a fucking medal. Apparently, anything can be justified by saying the other side is worse. Great--why don't we just go out and blow up Sunni kids--we wouldn't have to kill them, just wound them, because, after all, the other side kills them.

    And I agree with you Michael. She was a scapegoat for a system that put these people in an impossible situation and implicitly condoned their conduct.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:27 PM  

  • I implicitly agree with you Michael.

    As Marc pointed out, I was responding to the likes of anonymous one.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:47 PM  

  • anonymous one back again

    go to,look at some of the execution videos and then tell me the what the poor silly scapegoat did was so bad.God you americans make the rest of the world sick.You are so sanctimonious.
    The tragedy is that the opposition knows it and trades on it.
    i can assure you that the middle east is laughing at your pathetic politically correct bullshit.
    what happened to the real america.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:11 AM  

  • Hey Anonymous One,

    I thought the rest of the world hated America because we were bullies that paid no attention to human rights. You're saying that hate us because we are wimps? I guess those protests in Europe were really about wanting us to be real men, huh? Wow, that's some revelation.

    Regardless, this isn't about what the Middle East thinks about us, it's about what we think about ourselves. And the idea is that there are some things we don't do regardless of what the other side does. We didn't torture Japanese POWs (what few there were) during WW II even though they tortured our prisoners. And it's hardly like the abuse of the prisoners has produced such great intelligence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    It's interesting that someone who is apparently not an American is asking for the "real America." I don't know what you mean by "the real America." You mean kicking ass and taking no prisoners? That sounds more like a John Wayne movie (where, by the way, you never saw the soldiers abusing captives). I am an American and I was always under the impression that the real America didn't mistreat people just for the hell of it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:05 PM  

  • You're right to point out all the contradictions in Anonymous One's "argument," Marc. I guess America can do no right. By the way, Anonymous One, I'm not American, just a good friend of America.

    And a big apology to Anonymous Two. I misread your comment and thought you were suggesting that I condoned the torture at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib.

    I do think that Lynndie England (who, if I'm not mistaken, has been psychologically diagnosed as a child) is being scapegoated by superiors (both military and civilian) who refuse to take any responsibility, but, obviously, the mistreatment of prisoners at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib is a stain on America's reputation and, on its own, simply reprehensible. Does this mean that America is as bad as, say, Saddam's Iraq, which gassed its own people? Or the Zarqawi jihadists, who behead their prisoners and slaughter innocent civilians? Or North Korea, which runs concentration camps? Or... or... or...? No. And I've said as much myself over and over again in post after post after post. But that doesn't mean that America should judge itself (or be judged by others) by those horribly low standards. The fact that Saddam committed genocide and otherwise terrorized his people doesn't excuse America's transgressions and more than the existence of serial killers excuses the murder of a single person. Indeed, what separates America (and much of the rest of the West) from such brutal regimes is precisely its commitment to higher standards of justice. And that's what makes what happened at Gitmo and Abu Ghraid (and elsewhere) all the more disturbing). We expect such behavior from Kim's goons in North Korea. We expect much, much better from America.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 12:22 PM  

  • anon one back

    More bali bombings,25 CHILDREN killed in a bomb in Bagdhad......need I goon

    And your all so fired up over THE PHOTOS.In not one photo is there a dead body,no thumbscrews just poor silly Lyndie with someone on a dog lead.

    Where are the screams about the death of the innocent the maimings of hundreds.
    Just step back for a minute and look at the difference.You all get so fired up when one of your own does something so stupid as to defy description.She should be jailed for being a complete moron.And yet where are the cries to "get the bombing bastards.Nowhere.

    The massage being sent is'Dont worry even if we find you we wont do anything to you we are all so legal;.

    Bollock just shoot them give them the chance they gave others.

    Just for the record I totally support the involvement in Iraq.My country has people there too.My daughter is a serving naval officer.Its just a shame the troops have to fight with one hand tied behind their backs.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:13 PM  

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