Lynndie England is back in the news. Somehow, the former Private First Class, worst living American, is currently front and center on Yahoo! headlines. You may not recognize her name, but no doubt you’ll recognize the the Abu Ghraib Scandal, in which England was involved, and in which dozens of enemy detainees were dehumanized and abused. You’ll recognize this photo, too: England staring down at a man whose neck she holds in a dog leash, without one hint of empathy or concern.
Do you know who else recognizes that photo? Every single enemy of America. Many of these enemies have rallied to fight against the U.S. because of this scandal and photo. It’s their version of the Uncle Sam “I Want You” poster. And this is why, for her crimes, England is the worst living American, and why her role in our nation’s history, needs to be contemplated and understood.
In the article making the rounds now, England goes on a “woe is me” diatribe, upset that she can’t get a job or a boyfriend; she also complains that she can’t sleep because she is concerned that the photos could “cost the lives of fellow American troops.” Of the men she abused she says, “They got the better end of the deal.”
Let me make some empirical arguments and then some historical analysis, in order to really dial in on why England should feel guilty about the death of my friends; why I hope those deaths weigh heavily on her forever; and why the fact that she wasn’t punished more harshly than she was means that it was she who got the better end of the deal.
In February 2004, I prepared to deploy for my second tour as a Marine. We were told that we would simply be relieving the Army for a time, and that our mission would mostly be one of security, sustainability, and goodwill: we would hand out soccer balls and shake hands. Sorry, gents, this one’s going to be a bore. One lieutenant colonel I met said as clearly as I can remember, “If we’re still here in a year, we’ll really have failed at our job.” And some of the facts supported this mindset. Only 19 U.S. service members were killed in Iraq in February 2004. That April, immediately following the Abu Ghraib scandal, the number killed rose to 140; at the time this was the highest toll of the entire war. The numbers wouldn't drop as low as 19 again until July 2008. There were thousands of deaths during that period.
I would like to ask, what if the Abu Ghraib scandal had never occurred and we had left Iraq peaceably sometime in 2005 or 2006, just as that lieutenant colonel predicted? What if, because troops were not necessary in Iraq, we had maintained or adapted to the Afghanistan situation more efficiently by building up forces there earlier than Obama’s surge in 2010?
I lost five of my very good friends in the combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. And we Americans have lost 6,000 of our most gracious and brave. My impulses as a spiritual man make me want to try and forgive Lynndie England; but because she is so flippant, self-absorbed, and seemingly unremorseful, I want the names of the dead to antagonize her soul.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons