Tuesday, April 21, 2009

CIA Exempt On Torture, But Not Lynndie England.

The photograph to the left is from the cover of a new book on Lynndie England by Gary Winkler, (his wife was kind enough to email this to me in advance of publication).

It couldn't be about to be released at a more apt time.

For as Obama and his administration put forward the argument that they must "look forward and not back" - and as they proclaim that it would be unfair to punish members of the CIA for doing things which they were told was perfectly legal - then we really are left with the dichotomy of how to compensate people like Lynndie England, who it would appear are almost certain to be the only people, from that dreadful period of American history, to have been punished for the fact that the Bush administration brought in a systematic regime of torture.

Is it remotely right that these low ranking soldiers should be the only members of the entire US establishment to have been punished for what was a systemic torture policy?

"Every American should be outraged," says Roy T. Hardy, who represents Pfc. Lynndie England. The 22-year-old Army clerk became the international face of the Abu Ghraib scandal when photos of her in poses with naked Iraqi detainees shocked the world.

"Obama, who I love to death, is not going to punish CIA agents for doing what they were told to do," says Hardy, England's civilian lawyer, "when those torture memos gave them permission to do more than what was ever done at Abu Ghraib?"

Convicted in 2005 of maltreatment and conspiracy for posing in those pictures, including one in which she held a leash around a prisoner's neck, England has already served one and a half years in military prisons, and an equal time on parole.

And, as Lynndie England's lawyer points out, what she was doing in those photographs - which caused such revulsion around the world - was simply nothing compared with what the Red Cross have described the CIA as doing away from any prying cameras.

Don't get me wrong, I have always said that what I object to here is the fact that the low level grunts who carried out these policies were punished rather than the people at the top of the food chain who enabled and ordered torture to take place. So, this is not a plea for the CIA to face prosecution.

Eugene Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale University, says that "there is a bind between the fact that England did time, and the people who many Americans believe have done far worse are not going to be criminally punished."

"I wouldn't fault her for making the argument," he says. "But there's not much that can be done at this point besides changing the character of her discharge."

I disagree. The way to ensure that Lynndie England and the others aren't the only Americans convicted for what was official US policy is to prosecute Yoo, Bybee and those who set this policy in place. And I include Cheney and Bush amongst that number.

England has already done her time and that can't be given back to her. But it would surely offer them some consolation to see the people who gave out those orders face at least the equivalent of she and the rest went through.

Click title for full article.

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