March 19, 2008

The Bland Face of Murder in "Whatever, USA"

I see these people every day in the streets, on the buses & subways, trying to ignore my peace buttons, or refusing the flyers I want them to take. After WWII, Americans self-righteously condemmed the German people for being “Good Germans." How ironic that future generations will read this report from Germany’s Stern and wonder how a nation that was born from the blood of patriots fighting for self-determination could sink so low without massive outrage. But they are only ragheads, and we are only silently complicite in murder.
"Rumsfeld knew"
She is one of the faces symbolizing the Iraq war. Pictures showing her abusing Iraqi detainees in Abu Graib prison brought her notorious fame throughout the world. In her first interview in three years Lynndie England talks about Abu Ghraib, about Charles Graner, about guilt, her current life - and the role of the Bush administration.
Mrs. England, a year ago you were released from jail after serving 521 days of a three-year sentence. How are you feeling now?
Not great but good.
What does that mean?
(She sighs) Oh, it's just little things going wrong. I'm just trying to get by. Trying to find a job, trying to find a house. It's been harder than I expected. I went to a couple of interviews, and I thought they went great. I wrote dozens of applications. Nothing came of it. I put in at Wal-Mart, at Staples. I'd do any job. But I never heard from them.
Do you think your name has anything to do with it?
I am starting to wonder if they realize who I am and they don't want the publicity. I don't want to lie. On my resume I have a brief little paragraph about what I did in the army and about being in prison and that I'm still on parole. I want to be totally honest. I have to find a job by September, that's part of the parole regulations. If you break the rules, then they can bring you back. That would be a big deal because I don't want to leave my son.
[...] You live in Ashby, a small town with a population of 1300. How do people treat you now?
They don't treat me any different. I haven't met a person yet that's been negative to me. Not since I got home. Most of them back me up one hundred percent. They say, "What happened to you was wrong." And some even say they would have done the same thing.
What do they mean by "They would have done the same thing"?
That they would have followed orders, just as I did in Abu Ghraib.
[...] When did you realize that something wasn't quite right in this block?
Graner told me about some of the stuff they were doing. When we first got there in September the prisoners were already naked, they had them wear women's underwear, and they had them in stress positions. The company that we relieved was doing the exact same stuff. We just took over from them.
[...] Why did they choose Graner? After all he had a past history of violence.
Graner had a very commanding voice and they wanted him in that tier specifically.
Who do you mean by "they"?
The people from Military Intelligence.
How did you react when Graner told you how the detainees were being treated?
Of course it was wrong. I know that now. But when you show the people from the CIA, the FBI and the MI the pictures and they say, "Hey, this is a great job. Keep it up", you think it must be right. They were all there and they didn't say a word. They didn't wear uniforms, and if they did they had their nametags covered.
[...] Can you understand that people who look at this photo are offended?
Well, they weren't there. And they don't know what went on and they don't know how we felt at the time, in that environment and what we were told to do.
[...] Did you feel sorry for Gus?
At the time, I didn't. No.
He was mentally ill.
Well, now they said that he was. But at the time it was never mentioned. The only English he ever spoke was, "I hate you. I want to kill you." So I never really felt sorry for him.
Do you feel sorry looking back now?
To be honest, the whole time I never really felt guilty because I was following orders and I was doing what I was supposed to do. So I've never felt guilty about doing anything that I did there.
Guilt is one thing but feeling sorry is something else.
(Long silence) Like I said, what he was saying to us, and when he was thrashing out at us, I didn't even feel sorry for him at the time. And he's probably out there killing Americans now.
Have you never felt regret about smiling at a stack of naked Iraqis next to you?
I never really thought about it.
Do you feel ashamed looking back now?
(Long silence).
Can you understand that it's demeaning for Muslim men to be naked in front of a female American soldier?
That wasn't part of the reason of why it was done. It was done to search them and to get them into a jumpsuit.
And why were the detainees forced to masturbate in front of you?
Well, that happened right after. They were standing and kneeling in front of the wall. They still had sandbags on their heads and by this time most of the guards had gone. Frederick and me stayed downstairs to watch them. Freddie went up to the guy on the end and tried to get him to start by touching his arm and moving it back and forth. And when he didn't really catch on to what he meant he took his sandbag off and motioned to him what he wanted him to do and then he put the sandbag back on. And so he started doing it.
You can't even say the word "masturbate".
(remains silent)
You stood next to him and allowed it to happen. Did you not protest just once?
I did. I asked Frederick, "Why are you doing this?" And he told me, "I just want to see if he'll do it." So I was like, "Whatever."
[...] At the time, were you aware of people being killed while at Abu Ghraib? One of them was the guy they called "The Iceman".
Yeah, I heard about it. Actually, I was there the night the Iceman was killed. I went to Tier One and someone said this guy had been taken to the showers and they had the water running, and you could hear this guy just screaming bloody murder. It got to the point where it was so loud and unbearable that I went back to my room. And the next day when I came back there was this puddle of water outside the shower. And I asked, "What's that from?" And they said, "Oh, its ice from keeping the body till they could transport him." The Iceman was one of the "Ghost Detainees" that officially never existed.
And who took care of him?
The Other Government Agencies.
CIA and FBI. Did they kill the Iceman?
I won't respond to that.
The torturers and the politicians who are responsible for their actions are getting away with it. Does that make you angry?
Yeah, I think they used us because the unit that was there before us, the 72nd MP Company, was pretty much doing the same things we were. Only they weren't documenting it. I'm pretty sure that it was the same at other prisons. Only there are no pictures.
[...] The former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, called you and your colleagues the "rotten apples" of the military. Bush claimed to be ashamed of what you did.
Well, back then I thought: How can they say that when it was happening all over Iraq. The same thing is happening in Guantanamo now and other places. We knew that our officers knew about it and our sergeants. We thought if they know then somebody else knows. And I really do still think that Rumsfeld knew what was going on. I mean he had been there while I was there at that prison. And if he was there I know he knew what was going on. How could he have not known? And Bush? He's the headman.
Do you feel more like a victim or an offender?

I feel more like a puppet. First I was played by Graner. Then the media portrayed me as their puppet so they could flash my picture out over and over and over and over again. And then I became the government's puppet because they didn't back me up, or remotely take my side. They just agreed with what the media said.
Saying you were a puppet again makes you sound like a victim.
Okay, I do take responsibility. I was dumb enough to do all that. And to think that it was okay because of the other officers and the orders that were coming down. But when you're in the military you automatically do what they say. It's always, "Yes Sir, No Sir." You don't question it. And now they're saying, "Well, you should have questioned it."

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