Saturday, January 03, 2009

The "Bad Apple" Talks.

There's an interview in today's Guardian with Lynndie England, the 21 year old whose face became the seared in the public's mind as synonymous with Abu Ghraib and the mistreatment of prisoners which occurred there.

I'm presuming that the Guardian rushed a reporter there to hear her reaction to the Senate armed services committee report which stated that what occurred at Abu Ghraib was not the work of "a few bad apples", as the Bush administration had always claimed, but that this was the inevitable result of policies put into place by Donald Rumsfeld and others which "conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees".

The first thing that strikes you when you read the interview is the sense in which this girl's life has been ruined.

Her attempts to find a job have so far been unsuccessful. Most of the fast-food joints in the area won't employ felons, and when she goes for an administrative job, she makes it to the second interview before word gets back that the staff would feel uncomfortable working with her.
Some might think that she deserves her fate but what struck me about the photos when I first saw them was the people standing casually around indicating, to me at least, that what was occurring was not at all out of the ordinary.

And that is the story which England tells, that this was simply what happened at Abu Ghraib:
It would be the testimony of England, Graner and the five other soldiers identified in the photos that when they arrived at the prison, the abusive practices - keeping inmates naked, making them wear female underwear and crawl on the floor - were already established in some form as part of pre-interrogation "softening up" techniques approved by military intelligence officers.

[...]

When she got to Abu Ghraib, she was assigned to administrative duties and had no cause to be in the cellblocks, except that she was hanging out with Graner. She found the scene down there odd. "When we first got there, we were like, what's going on? Then you see staff sergeants walking around not saying anything [about the abuse]. You think, OK, obviously it's normal." Graner, too, was initially disturbed, and is on record as having raised some objections. "When he first started working on that wing, he would tell me about it and say, 'This is wrong.' He even told his sergeant and platoon leader. He said he tried to say something. But everyone is saying it's OK to do it and getting pats on the back."

And that certainly seems to me to be be the story of the pictures that emerged from that place. In any wide shot there were always plenty of uniformed legs standing casually around, there was certainly no sense in anyone's body language that what was occurring was in any way shocking. It appeared to be utterly routine.

Indeed, her lawyer gives a justification of what occurred that could have come out of the mouth of any member of the Bush administration:
"You're in a war, and you're the good guys and they're the bad guys, and that's how most Americans see the world. And those were the bad guys."
It says something about the random way the US rounded up people in Abu Ghraib that 90% of those detained were eventually released without charge. But, whilst in custody, they were "the bad guys", which is not dissimilar to Rumsfeld's claim that the people held at Guantanamo Bay were "the worst of the worst", despite the fact that the majority of them were eventually released without charge.

It is impossible to differentiate between the view expressed by England's lawyer and that given by Donald Rumsfeld.

And the Senate armed services committee report states that this mindset came from above and that it infected everything below.

England did what she did, but she was no rogue "bad apple". What occurred there happened because of a directive from the top which implied that it was time to take the gloves off with "the bad guys" or "the worst of the worst".

And, as always, it's the people at the very bottom of the food chain who are offered up as sacrificial lambs once the inevitable results of Rumsfeld's policies became public.

The people who should actually be in the dock for what occurred over there are those at the top who approved the policy which the grunts implemented. But we all know that this will never happen.

Click title for England's interview.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Finally, someone gets it. You are right on target. I'm so tired of hearing about Lynndie as an evil monster. The woman's life has been ruined while Rumsfeld and Cheney get to retire in luxury and write their memoirs which they will get seven figures advances for. Why isn't she given the chance to tell the entire story of her relationship with Graner and what really happened. I want to see justice, and I want to see this woman at least live out her life with some dignity - at least able to support Graner's child - which he still denies as his (one need only meet and look at Carter and you KNOW it's Graner's).

Kel said...

The second picture in this article shows how commonplace it all was. It's disgraceful that she was prosecuted and that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld won't be.

nunya said...

There are too many people in the US who have served or know someone well who served in the military for the country as a whole to have ever bought that "bad apple" crap.
Everyone knew it was bull.

Kel said...

Well, not "everyone" Nunya. I well remember arguing with right wing nutcases on here at the time who bought it hook, line and sinker.

But I am pleased to hear that the cynicism is wider that previously thought.

Katrina said...

http://afewbadapples.blogspot.com/

I am starting a new blog devoted to Lynndie England and her quest to attain justice from the Obama administration. She and Janis Karpinksi met this past week to do am interview/documentary for Japanese tv.

Kel said...

Thanks for that. As soon as blogroll allow additions to the blogroll again I will make sure that I add this to the roll.

Katrina said...

Thanks Kel,

Can I send you a picture? My husband is writing her official story of what happened and her life since prison. International media outlets are starting to pick up the story about findings of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and the discussion with the new AG about what constitutes torture. I'm so tired of what our government has put on Lynndie. She was NOT an MP, or a guard at Abu Ghraib - just in love with Graner who WAS a guard. Lynndie may have stepped into those stupid pictures, but she touched no one. Since our meeting with Karpinski a lot of the COC cover-up is finally coming to light. I voted for Obama, I sure hope he does the right thing - if he doesn't prosecute the real "bad apples" then these soldiers must be have justice. Lynndie has served her own period of "Torture".

Kel said...

Please do. And send me your husband's article when it is written and I will post it here.

Katrina said...

He is actually writing a book about her - the only one officially sanctioned by her. It is based upon hundreds of hours of interviews with her. The tentative title is "Tortured", and is currently shoppping it. We need all the help we can get letting folks get the FULL STORY of what happened to Lynndie. She was such an easy target, and as you can probably imagine, she is treated like a freakshow mainly because she is from WV, lives in a trailor, etc, etc. I'm tired of the classism at work against her. I hope that the Obama White House will rectify this situation. Yes, she did a dumb thing by stepping into those photos, but she was not involved with touching or torturing anyone at AG. How many 20 year-olds do you know that have done the stupidest things (especially in relation to a relationship), but never got caught - let alone become an icon for an illegal war - and went on to live good lives? She is a decent person, she really is.

Katrina said...

PS - how do I send you a picture? Do you haven an email you can post or am I just missing it on here?

Katrina said...

Kel,

Check out this video about torture - you may want to post it to your site as I have.

Katrina

http://www.mail2web.com/cgi-bin/redir.asp?lid=0&newsite=http://www.boingboing.net/2009/01/23/boing-boing-video-ou.html

Kel said...

Thanks for that Katrina. I have added it to the post regarding Andrew Sullivan's take on war crimes.

Katrina said...

Kel

Sorry to post this, but don't have your email. I am pasting a letter my husband wrote to Chris Matthews. Would you run this on the update on Andrew Sullivan? Is your email address posted on this site?

Thanks,

Katrina

OPEN LETTER TO CHRIS MATTTHEWS

Dear Chris,

I was encouraged to hear you bring up the torture question on your show (Friday, January 23, 2009) You raised the question of accountability and asked whether it would be fair to allow the Bush Administration a free pass, while the convictions of those implicated in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal (you mentioned Lynndie England specifically) are allowed to stand. Surprisingly, one of your guests repeated the old line that the abuses perpetrated at Abu Ghraib were just the work of “a few bad apples” and that “all subsequent reports” show this to be true. Which begs the question: Does the American media read what has been reported in the media? Does it acknowledge the broader international view, or are we so provincial that we only believe what simply sounds like the truth?
It is shocking when one takes into account all that has come to light since the incident at Abu Ghraib first broke in April of 2004, not the least of which is the recent Senate Armed Services Report, which condemns the Bush Administration for its blatant abrogation of the Geneva Conventions. For years we Americans have become familiar with our government’s justification of torture. We’ve been told over and over that guys like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri were really bad and that their rough treatment was warranted. However, the sad fact is that more than “a few bad apples” were water-boarded, tortured and even killed in the interrogation process prescribed by our government.
The lurid photographs taken at the Abu Ghraib prison may be the only photographic evidence we have that such abuse took place in Iraq and Afghanistan; but the photos are merely representative of a far more pervasive program of abuse and humiliation that was carried out by the military as it (we) sought to avenge the events of 9/11. Indeed, as court documents, trial testimony and other evidence show, the Bush Administration’s torture policy and other improvised adaptations of the same was being implemented, not just at Guantanamo, but at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, as well as at other detention facilities throughout Iraq. Yes, water-boarding was used on more than just the few individuals admitted to by former Vice President Dick Cheney. And yes, like the photos taken at Abu Ghraib, these few examples are only representative of a pattern of abuse that was approved by the Bush White House and implemented by intelligence gatherers working in the field.
And yet to this day no one connected with our government and/or its torture policies has been accused of water-boarding, nor has anyone been charged with the deaths of those individuals who were murdered as a result the interrogation process. (Manadel al Jimadi, et al) Instead, a few young reservists (“bad apples”) connected with the 372nd Military Police Company were sacrificially offered up to satisfy our curiosity. Investigations were conducted, military trials convened and sentences handed down; but not one of the individuals implicated in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal were charged with the water-boarding or the death of a prisoner. For her crime (posing in photographs in a place where photography was prohibited) Lynndie England received three years in a military prison.
To address the larger question of torture; the problem is not just a thorny political topic to be tackled by our new president. Indeed, the whole world is watching and wants to know if president Obama is going to make good on his campaign promise to forge better relationships through honesty and transparency. The inconvenient truth is, of course, that we can’t expect the rest of the world to sit back and say, “let’s move on.” Water-boarding is a criminal act outlawed by the Geneva Conventions, a body of international law that we as a nation have upheld and defended since its inception. Throughout our most recent history we have vigorously advocated bringing to justice those individuals accused of crimes against humanity (the Nazis, Slobodan Milosevic, etc.) Indeed, time and time again, we have upheld the honor of all civilized nations, and not just when it was convenient for us to do so.
The closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility is an important first step in the process of disclosure; but if we think that the rest of the world will be appeased by this gesture, were are mistaken. Indeed, if the stories that are only beginning to emerge from those detainees recently released from Guantanamo and elsewhere are any indication, the war crimes committed by the Bush Administration will have to be dealt with judiciously and to the satisfaction of others before the Obama administration can hope to have better relations with the rest of the world. In the meantime, Lynndie England and the others convicted in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal would like their voices to be heard as well. They too would like to see justice served. No, you can’t let the architects of torture elude prosecution and allow the underlings to hang for the crime. That is not justice we can believe in.


Gary Winkler
Lynndie England’s Biographer

Kel said...

Hi Katrina,

Happy to do so. It's up there now. And please thank Gary for the points he makes.

The email address must be accessible somewhere as people do email me, but it's ostermanuk@blueyonder(dot)co(dot)uk

Obviously you use real dots!

Katrina said...

Kel,

Did you get the email I sent to you? I had it bounce back and my husband wants to email you as well. Sorry to be such a freaking pain.

I wanted to let you know that BBC International Radio taped an interview with Lynndie back when she met with Karpinski. As far as we know, it hasn't aired yet, but I wanted you to know so that you might look out for it. Obviously, you are a better technophile than I am!

I just wish we could make more noise about Lynndie. Abu Ghraib is set to re-open in the next week or so under the Iraqis and with a new name. I am beginning to feel as if folks would prefer to see Lynndie as a "cartoon figure" instead of hearing her complete story. As my husband likes to say "It's the American way....".

Kel said...

Hi Katrina,

No, I haven't received any email from you, but I'll look out for the interview.

Katrina said...

Kel,

Lynndie's Interview was on BBC International on Wednesday evening, Feb. 4.

Katrina

PS - I just can't find your email on here and the one you spelled out did not work. Can you please look at it again and see if you put something down wrong? Gary would love to write to you directly.

Katrina

Katrinaq said...

Kel,

Here's the link to the BBC interview.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/outlook/2009/02/090205_lynndie_england.shtml

Katrina

Kel said...

Katrina, Thanks for that. The email is ostermanuk@blueyonder.co.uk

Gary said...

Kel,

Katrina Landon (my husband is writing Lynndie England's story). Here is a story that ran last night on NBC out of Hagerstown, MD. If the link doesn't work,try cutting and pasting. I hope you will add it to your blog.

Thanks,

Katrina



http://your4state.com/content/fulltext/?cid=59661

Kel said...

Hi Katrina,

I've written about this and linked to the story.

Best,

Kel.

Katrina said...

Kel,

Here is a link to a story about Lynndie and Gary's book that will be released in June. The story was on NPR tonight.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103281803

Kel said...

Hi Katrina,

I have written about this today and have included Gary's book cover as the photograph. Hope that's okay.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kel,

We sent you a copy of the book yesterday. Probably take a week to get there. The "Daily Mail" did an article on her yesterday, but it was awful. Can't say that I don't blame what David Jones said because her lawyer does nothing to help Lynndie look better. I liken him to a Graner type in that she trusts him, but he makes her look worse and worse. Gary did his best to provide a balanced view of what happened to Lynndie so that the reader can decide her guilt or innocense (or somewhere in between). The book provides insights into her trial and the words of those implicated. Let us know what you think after you read it.

Kel said...

Thank you very much Katrina, that is really very kind of you.

Of course, I'll let you both know my thoughts as soon as I have read it.

Kel.