"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
A US soldier convicted of abusing Iraqi prisoners said, in remarks recently made public, she knew of "worse things" happening at Abu Ghraib and insisted military commanders were fully aware of what was going on in Iraq's infamous jail.
The comments, made by Private First Class Lynndie England in her first post-court-martial interview, contradicted assertions by top Pentagon officials that a small group of out-of-control soldiers were responsible for abuse at Abu Ghraib, and that no matter how repulsive that mistreatment was, it did not amount to torture.
England, who became the face of the scandal because of a photograph of her holding a naked prisoner by a leash, was sentenced last Tuesday to three years in prison and ordered to be dishonorably discharged from the Army after a military jury found her guilty of maltreating prisoners and committing an indecent act....
But England, appearing on NBC's "Dateline" program, said the pictures did not convey the full extent of the abuse that took place in the cell block.
"I know worse things were happening over there," admitted the 22-year-old convict.
She said one night she heard blood-curdling screams coming from the block's shower room, where non-military interrogators had taken an Arab detainee.
"They had the shower on to muffle it, but it wasn't helping," she recalled. "They never screamed like that when we were humiliating. But this guy was like screaming bloody murder. I mean it still haunts me I can still hear it just like it happened yesterday...."
A total of nine low-ranking soldiers have now been convicted or voluntarily pleaded guilty in the scandal that has sparked condemnation of the United States around the world.
But a Defense Department probe has cleared all top US commanders of criminal responsibility in the matter.
Taking issue with that finding, England argued stripping prisoners naked and handcuffing them to steel bars was part of an officially-sanctioned strategy designed to soften inmates before interrogation and make them more cooperative.
"It was just humiliation tactics and things that we were told to do." she said....
US human right advocates argue additional light could be shed on the events at Abu Ghraib with the release of 87 more photographs and four videotapes made by guards at the prison but kept by the Pentagon under lock and key.
In one sense, of course, England's comments are utterly self-serving - no one wants to go down in history as "the face of the scandal," after all. On the other hand, it's too late for her speaking out to do her much good. She's already been convicted, and she's already doomed to be "the chick with the leash" for the rest of her life. And in any event, it doesn't really matter - after all, she's not saying anything here that we don't already know to be true. Unless you believe that the same sort of sexual humiliation and physical abuse, employing the very same tactics, spontaneously occurred to "bad apples" all over the world, from Baghram to Guantanamo to Baghdad, you must already recognize that torture is the official, sanctioned policy in our glorious War On Terror. Still, it's important that the American public be reminded of that horrifying fact over and over and over again, that we never be allowed to forget. If Lynndie England's attempts at an extreme makeover on NBC's "Dateline" serves that purpose, well then, so be it.