Everyone Knows It’s Lynndie

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Who can forget America's sweetheart?

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.

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A-ten...HUT!

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.

stalin_cheney

If a gulag is a gulag, is a despot a despot?

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.

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Another stooge in the vaudeville of war.

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 clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Lyrics found here.

If my audio link fails to work, please try another browser; Firefox is behaving badly.


5 Responses to “Everyone Knows It’s Lynndie”


  • I would disagree with the notion that anyone in the Soviet Union would have been able to oppose Josef Stalin on the Gulag and live to tell about it. The man destroyed the Communist Party and the entire Soviet military hierarchy, and this with Hitler’s dictatorship in the West preaching the virtues of destruction of the USSR. In any case the old Soviet Union didn’t care much about PR or the virtues of same.

    I think the better comparison is with say, the Nazi Empire. When Hitler gave orders for widespread mass murder by military forces in the East lots of German generals and some of the lower ranks protested. Did not one whit of good and Hitler sacked some of them and replaced them with the likes of General Jodl, who unleashed widespread terror after Barbarossa.

    And of course there was never a Rosenstrasse Protest under Stalin……

  • I agree with your comments. In writing about the “we’re all stewards of ethical behavior” argument I was trying to head off the millions of people who condemned Lynndie England to the exclusion of her superiors. They argue that Lynndie should have said “no” and refused what amounted to an “unlawful order”. What these stewards of ethical behavior don’t realize is that standing on ceremony in the US Army during wartime is a very dangerous thing to do. Armchair ethics are easy. Battlefield ethics are much, much harder.

  • Now on that I will fully agree with you. It reminds me of how De-Nazification ended up executing most of the SS hatchetmen but let a lot of army generals who themselves created atrocities die of ripe old age escaping any real consequence.

    You are also right that it’s one thing to speak of that as armchair ethics and another to actually be in the situation itself. I wonder how much of this is simply scapegoating England herself as a woman because theoretically women should be much more….domestic I guess you’d say than this.

  • Underlankers :

    You are also right that it’s one thing to speak of that as armchair ethics and another to actually be in the situation itself. I wonder how much of this is simply scapegoating England herself as a woman because theoretically women should be much more….domestic I guess you’d say than this.

    Nail head? Meet hammer.

    I had a helluva time explaining the Lynndie England “following orders” thing to an extreme feminist on Usenet. As far as she was concerned, Lynndie England had put lie to the contention that men are all barbaric rapists and women are all dove-like angels blessed by Earth Mother. And as a consequence, this feminist decided that Lynndie England must be crucified – even if it meant letting the truly responsible parties off the hook!

    I found this attitude baffling and I warned her that crucifying Lynndie while ignoring the CIA and the administration was a recipe for continual disaster. I was right. She was wrong. And on and on it goes…

  • Absolutely. To scapegoat lower ranks while leaving the higher ranks who issue such orders intact solves not one thing. All that does is intimidate any future would-be whistleblowers who might have the desire to speak in the future and leaves room for more such orders and future catastrophes.

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