The retrial of Pfc. Lynndie England, one of the American soldiers who was photographed in Iraq mistreating detainees, is well under way, and even her lawyer has admitted that England will likely receive several years in prison. She is one of only a few who face such a sentence. This only shows once more that the incidents at Abu Ghraib, an American-run prison in Iraq, have not been investigated as far reaching as one could have hoped for.
The theory of a “few bad apples” being responsible for the mistreatment of prisoners without any wrongdoing or knowledge of their superiors had been questioned from the beginning.
Documents have been grudgingly declassified and have shown that in several instances Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld himself had been informed of the conditions and “techniques” used at the prison. Yet, he did nothing until after the images were released.
Other military personnel, such as Capt. Donald Reese, have claimed that the CIA had been involved, and Abu Ghraib had only been one of many locations where detainees were interrogated with “force.”
The claim was backed up by the fact that several detainees in Abu Ghraib had been “ghosts,” a term used by the CIA to signify a prisoner who was held without any record. At least one of such “ghosts” died after being beaten by guards.
This is quite obviously a direct violation of the Geneva Convention.
At the time the first photos emerged, senators asked where the dog-leashes came from. It’s a valid question as dog-leashes are not exactly the first thing one would grab when sent to Iraq. The many instances of abuse involving prisoners being treated like dogs would rather suggest that they were used to shame Muslims in order to extort information.
England’s lawyer is arguing that England was following orders and only part of the blame should fall on her. This should not be seen as a valid argument to set her free, but rather as an indication that the problem was much larger than a few soldiers “blowing off steam,” as Rush Limbaugh once put it.
What happened, what went wrong and how can we prevent it in the future? Those are questions that will likely never be answered, a fact that is as troubling as the incidents themselves.