Lynndie England NOT U.S. Policy
Ezra Klein applies the headline “Doing Her Job” to this infamous photo of Lyndie England.
It was not a few bad apples. It was not the chaos of war. It was official U.S. government policy. The release of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Report on Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody makes that perfectly clear.
No. No. No. No.
The Report is damning in its causality argument. Basically, the entire nature of interrogation training in the military — which precedes not only George W. Bush’s administration but his father’s as well — is based on abusing our own soldiers to teach them to cope with torture and abusive treatment such as our POWs, especially downed pilots, endured in Vietnam. Further, the administration made a series of decisions that allowed procedures that were arguably torture to be used in isolated cases against accused terrorists and other unprivileged belligerents. These exceptions were hazily carved out and the lines were sufficiently blurry that it wasn’t surprising that abuses occurred. Carveouts at Gitmo naturally migrated to Iraq and Abu Ghraib, even though this wasn’t authorized.
But Lynndie England and her cohorts in the 372d MP company were not interrogators carrying out administration policy. They were simply bullies and criminals. They were demented, poorly trained, prison guards who were abusing the prisoners in their care for personal enjoyment.
UPDATE: To provide some context for new readers, I’ve written dozens of posts on Abu Ghraib over the years that can be found under the Iraq Prison Scandal category archives. I’ve said over and again that the senior officers, up to at least National Guard BG Janis Karpinski, should have been held accountable for dereliction of duty. I’ve been critical of the use of torture (waterboarding) and abusive treatment (sleep deprivation, stress positions, dogs to induce fear, etc.) as an interrogation technique in dozens of posts.
My point here is a narrow one: England and her cohorts, the ones whose photos are the main thing the public knows about Abu Ghraib, were not carrying out official duties or in any way attempting to help break prisoners to extract information. They were merely sadistic criminals.