Really, from the beginning didn’t we all know that the poor seemingly lame-brained little girl from I think it was West Virginia, former Army Specialist Lynndie England, seen in those photos molesting (torturing) prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq was just being used as a convenient scapegoat?
(Actually, of course, I don’t know what her mental capacity is. I just think she was a small-town girl trying to make her way in a cruel world in which even when you do what you’re told it often works against you.)
It seemed plain to me. Even if you’ve never been in the military you have to have seen that what she was doing was surely sanctioned by higher ups and you had to see by the silly expression on her face that she was probably not the brightest bulb in the lamp.
I was in the Army once upon a time. The first thing you learn is that you are often told to do things in which superiors let you know that while they expect you to do it, if the you-know-what hits the fan they will deny they ever told you to do it. But that does not let you off the hook, you still are expected to do as you are told. Fortunately for me those orders were for minor non-controversial things, such as stealing cleaning supplies from other platoons or companies, but the mind-set is formed early on in basic training.
And while I think more higher ups should have been punished over Abu Ghraib, one of the saddest chapters in the tragedy that is the Iraq War, I was suspicious when they tried to pin it all on former Army Reserve Brigadier Gen. Janis Karpinski, demoting her to colonel before her retirement.
She feels somewhat vindicated now that a U.S. Senate report has been released that reportedly says orders for harsh treatment of prisoners came down from the Bush administration. She claims she knew nothing about what was going on at Abu Ghraib. I don’t know if that is so good for her. Maybe she should have known. But she says that when she found out she asked to be able to assure the Iraqi people that the matter was being investigated and that such would not happen again. She said she was told by a superior to keep her mouth shut.
But here’s my question: Where were the officers when all the reported and photo-documented abuse was taking place? And doesn’t anyone realize that it is highly unlikely that any widespread abuse would have taken place without orders from above? And if the higher ups did not know what was going on then they are all guilty of dereliction of duty.
It is a major injustice to only punish the underlings. In fact if they were doing what they were told that might mitigate their crimes, although I believe at Nurnberg it was decided simply “following orders” is not a good defense.
England is no longer in prison, but she was demoted to private and dishonorably discharged from the Army. Her boyfriend, Specialist Charles Graner, was also demoted and is serving a 10-year prison sentence and will be dishonorably discharged. Several enlisted people were dishonorably discharged and various officers did receive disciplinary actions.
But again the highest price was paid by the underlings.
All evidence suggests the orders to maltreat and torture came down from at least as high as former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. And according to the Senate report, then national security advisor Condoleeza Rice gave her verbal okay to water boarding torture back in 2002. Of course we know President George W. Bush apparently had no problem with what was going on, especially while it was still secret.
And judging from a comment I got on a recent blog, and talk radio, I would say a lot of folks don’t seem to care that much, other than the fact it may be somewhat uncomfortable and embarassing for the U.S.
Of course eventually those higher ups will meet a higher authority. Meanwhile they can prepare their answers.
(And if you condone it yourself, good luck when you meet your maker.)
I agree with what I heard Col. Karpinski say on TV about the torture our personnel have inflicted on prisoners (sometimes called detainees):
“…people around the world did hold the United States of America to a higher standard…”
I for one wish we would have kept up that higher standard.