Back in 2004, a young heartbreaker named Lynndie England became world famous for photos of her humiliating and torturing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison.
The Abu Ghraib photos shone a light on American policy regarding “enhanced interrogation techniques”. We have always portrayed ourselves as the Good Guys, the shining light of Liberty in a dark world of oppressive governments and gulag nightmares. These photos made it quite clear that we had joined the ranks of the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and wartime Japan as employers of cruelty and barbarity.
The whole world hated Lynndie England. But I didn’t.
I didn’t see a heartless monster. I saw a stupid girl doing exactly what her superiors demanded. And that Chain of Cruel Command went all the way up to Dick Cheney and George Bush.
Let’s look at some facts:
– Barbaric abuse of prisoners was going on at Abu Ghraib long before Lynndie England got there;
– She was neither a trained guard nor an MI expert – she was a volunteer reservist.
– She was a low-level administrator at Abu Ghraib, not a jailer. It was Graner who convinced her to “join in the fun”;
– The staff all admitted that the inhumane treatment was conducted on orders from above – the CIA and the Army.
The “just following orders” defense is a murky subject. To some degree, it’s valid defense. Should we blame rank-and-file guards at the gulags for Stalin’s homicidal purges? On the other hand is the assertion that if Stalin’s gulag guards had disobeyed orders and made a big public stink, that maybe the pogroms would have ceased earlier.
It may be true that refusing to obey barbaric orders is an admirable stance, but the “we’re all stewards of ethical behavior” maxim is easy to espouse when it isn’t your career, your body and your family that are at risk.
So, is Lynndie England a calculating, diabolical witch or a just a stupid little twat?
My vote is the latter.
If she, Graner and the others are morally culpable, then Cheney etal. should serve life in prison. But he won’t. There’s a saying in the military: “Shit rolls downhill”. Rank-and-file soldiers have been eating the shit from generals and kings since the Sumerian wars 4500 years ago. Leaders were responsible for victories while “poor morale” was responsible for defeats.
That leaves us with little Lynndie England, unwitting wingman for an administration that tossed her onto the scrapheap without one iota of regret.
Many years ago, I visited a parody site from a guy named M. Spaff Sumsion. See it here. I thought ole’ Spaff was pretty funny. One of his songs was “Everyone Knows It’s Lynndie”, sung to the tune of The Association’s Everyone Knows It’s Windy. I thought it was freaking hilarious and I asked Spaff for permission to score it, which he granted.
His link to my music is down (fixed soon, I hope) so I decided to embed it here along with a link to his lyrics page.
And so, without further ado…
[audio:http://citizented.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/lynndie.mp3|titles=Everyone Knows It’s Lynndie]
If my audio link fails to work, please try another browser; Firefox is behaving badly.