Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The gloom of the world is but a shadow

Sorry. I was on the phone with Rebecca. I'm starting late. She was watching an old Who's the Boss that was a favorite of our's. It's where Alyssa Milano gets a job that she ends up hating and her friends start telling her, "Lose that job, hey, lose that job." She'd Tivoed while she was on vacation and didn't even know it so she'd been going through to see what she'd caught. I think it was actually done by her last boyfriend because he had a thing for Milano but Rebecca thinks she must have done it. We'll agree to disagree.

And sorry if I mispelled Tivoed. I don't have Tivo. I don't usually watch TV because I never have time. I wanted to catch the show with Geena Davis but I didn't realize it was on last night. I know it's on ABC but I don't even know the title of the program. Maybe I'll catch it next week?

Mike's got an interview with Betty tonight. He did it last night but hasn't had time to type it up yet so he'll be working on that tonight. We're grabbing the same two items from Democracy Now! but I told him to just post his and I'll do the discussion so he can focus on the interview.

Lynndie England Sentenced to Three Years For Abu Ghraib Abuses (Democracy Now!)
Lynndie England has been sentenced to three years in prison for her role in abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Her sentence fell well short of the maximum 10-year sentence she faced. The 22-year-old army reservist was photographed holding a naked Iraqi prisoner by a leash and pointing to an inmate's genitals. Meanwhile an Army Captain has accused the Pentagon of being more concerned about tracking down soldiers who report detainee abuse than in investigating the accusations. Army Captain Ian Fishback recently helped provide Human Rights Watch with information on new cases of abuse and torture taking part in U.S. prisons in Iraq. Fishback said the Army is now threatening to file charges against him if he disobeys an order to disclose the names of two Army Sergeants who also spoke to Human Rights Watch. Fishback told the New York Times, "We came forward because of the larger issue that prisoner abuse is systemic in the Army. I'm concerned this will take a new twist, and they'll try to scapegoat some of the younger soldiers. This is a leadership problem."

Obviously, Lynndie England is guilty. But the reason a lot of people are bothered is because she's lower-level. She didn't do, my belief, anything she wasn't ordered to do. I don't mean "ordered to do by her boyfriend." The techniques she used were used in Gitmo and she wasn't there. In fact, C.I. wrote about this, so let me see if I can find that.

Rest easy, America, Lynndie England's going to the big house. The last of the "few bad apples" goes down on six of seven counts and could be looking at nine years of imprisonment, we learn from David S. Cloud's "Private Found Guilty in Abu Ghraib Abuse" in this morning's New York Times. The fact that Lynndie England never reported for duty at Gitmo isn't dealt with (in the popular narrative). A "few bad apples" plotted everything themselves. That's the story. Not what were they told before they left the tree? No questions will take us to the top of the tree. Donald Rumsfeld slept easy, I'm sure. Bully Boy probably dusted off his Karla Faye imitation and tries to pass it off as a Lynndie England one.
The policies that allowed England and her co-horts to do what they did, the approval and encouragement of their actions, isn't going to be addressed. Today England's sentenced and the policies still remain. John McCain, a tiny item in the paper yesterday -- really tiny, a single paragraph -- is concerned with reports of abuse for fun coming out of Iraq. He should be concerned. He should be concerned with where the impression that behavior of that kind was acceptable and okay came from. It didn't come from England or Graner. It came from higher than them. But England's off to serve time so we can all apparently pretend that the "evil doers" have been dealt with and justice served.

I think that really gets to the heart of it. No one's saying she didn't do wrong. But I think it's foolish to pretend that it was her idea and her plan. Or Graner's for that matter. They were given permission to do what they did. What they did was very wrong. I'd go along with kicking them out of the military with no benefits. But in terms of time, unless there's evidence that they killed someone, I'd give them probation. Three months behind bars at most.

That's not because I don't think that they did wrong. Their actions are so wrong that it's hard to comprehend what they did. But there were orders and they came from somewhere. England doesn't seem that stable. Graner or one of the men had a history with abuse before he came over. There's a feeling among some that they group was chosen because of their histories.

They disgraced themselves and the country but I would've preferred that they be offered a deal and that the flip over the people above them. No one did that. So everyone's going to pretend like John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, Bully Boy and Donald Rumsfeld don't have dirty hands.

They do. And what they did was more vile. I'm not excusing the conduct of England and the others. But to encourage it to happen is more disgusting, to me anyway, than the fact that a group of not very bright people, when encouraged, did what they were told.

There was a trust level there. They trusted their superiors and they trusted their government.
I feel like they got spat on. I also feel that what went on in the photos was less obscene than what went on when the cameras weren't snapping. Their actions were directed and I'd rather see the ones who directed it, if only the mid-level ones -- serve time for that. I'd prefer it go straight to the top but I think the "few bad apples" were selected to begin with because of their histories and I think that they were used.

The hope I try to find in this is that others who might take part (I'm sure others already have) will know that they will be turned into the scapegoats. So hopefully, the sentences serve a message and a warning. But I really would have been fine with them just being drummed out of the military and given probation with minimial time behind bars.

If there was any higher accountability, I might feel differently. I might feel then, "Fine, throw them all behind bars." But when one group's scapegoated, it does bother me.

I think it happened because of orders that the administration refuses to turn over to this day. I think it was a policy in place and military intelligence, with permission from the administration, did the dirty work and the kids were led to believe it was okay but when everything exploded, they were left to hang out as if they were the ones orchestrating it and planning it.

To find a positive, I'm hanging on to the fact that even though there's no accountability for the higher ups, the next group of enlisted that's told it's okay, that Bully Boy's given permission, will know that it's not okay.

Should the kids have known that? Yes, they should. But between boot camp (which connected Iraq to 9/11 from all reports that I've heard) and the events of 9/11 (which have no ties to Iraq), I think you get a group of not so smart people and you tell them that they're doing it for their country and you don't have to say much more.

They're gung ho already. They want to serve their country. And I think that was used against them by higher ups.

They aren't innocent. And what they did was vile. But I'd be comfortable with their sentences if I was seeing some higher ups sentenced as well. Instead, it's the kids who weren't all that bright and were told to do what they did for their country and that it was now legal thanks to the orders that we are not allowed to see. That's my opinion.

I also think, and this is going to my field, that since there were doctors there who were overseeing and observing the effects of different techniques (see this) that those doctors should lose their licenses. I don't think that they should be participating in this. I think it goes against every core belief that we're supposed to hold. And I think C.I.'s right, if one of the biggies on the board hadn't been participating, the organization I belong to would have condemned the participation of pscyhologists and psychiatrists.

Soldiers Posted Photographs of Iraqi Corpses on Web (Democracy Now!)
The Army is investigating complaints that soldiers posted photographs of Iraqi corpses on an Internet site in exchange for access to pornographic images on the site. Many of the photos depict dismembered Iraqi corpses and body parts. Some also were submitted by soldiers in Afghanistan.

Yea for Blake and Chris Thompson. Blake's a Common Ills member and last week he found Chris Thompson's article on this. So The Common Ills community knew of this last week, as Charlie pointed out today in an e-mail to C.I.

So what does this mean? It means the "few bad apples" weren't the only ones involved. It means we're looking at systematic behavior and we need to be asking how it is happening and who is ordering it.

I'll close with the following two items.

"'Why Are You Here' and 'What's Changed'" (Third Estate Sunday Review)
60) LeRoi, 21, college student, English major: They're going after high school drop outs now! The whole "few bad apples" defense, which I never bought, was about how they didn't have well trained, well vetted people working in the prison. Now they're lowering the standards instead of raising them and that's because no one wants to sign up. They can't meet their quotas and they're behind for the year. So what's going to change? You think when we hit the fourth year of this quagmire people who've said no way are going to change their minds and say, "Okay, when it was a quagmire at two, I wouldn't sign up but now it's a four year quagmire so I'm all jazzed!" We get out or we get a draft. Maybe a draft would wake a lot more people up but it would probably also mean a lot more going over there because you don't start a draft to meet your minimum requirement. You don't reinstate something that controversial just to do the bare minimum. So a lot more lives will be at stake. And every month we get more deaths so you have to start asking, "Where does this end?" I think it ends here. Not by sunset, but when we all carry back our stories to our friends, when we're all sharing with the people we know who weren't able to be here. The change is this, we've got the seeds in our pockets, we just all need to go home and plant them.

That goes to what we're talking about tonight. The type of person the recruiters want.

"Peace Quotes" (Peace Center)
The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in the darkness, could we but see, and to see, we have only to look. I beseech you to look.

From a letter written by Fra Giovanni, 1513