Analysis: England: 'Rumsfeld knew'
Munich, Germany (UPI) Mar 18, 2008
Lynndie England, infamous for her role in prisoner abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, has given her first interview since being released from prison in March 2007. It is graphic and bizarre -- it depicts a broken woman haunted by paranoia, yet it also reveals how little England is able to regret her actions.
During the interview, she claims the U.S. leadership knew what was happening inside the Iraqi prison, says she mainly posed in the pictures to please her lover, and shows few signs of remorse.
England told German news magazine Stern that she felt betrayed by U.S. President George W. Bush and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who called England and her colleagues at Abu Ghraib the "rotten apples" of the U.S. military for their abuses of prisoners in the Iraqi prison.
"I thought: How can they say that when it was happening all over Iraq. We knew that our officers knew about it and our sergeants," the former Army specialist told Stern. "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."
"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," she told the latest edition of the Hamburg-based Stern, which is due to hit newsstands Wednesday. "What we did, happens in war."
England said officials from Military Intelligence as well as the FBI had pressed soldiers at Abu Ghraib to "soften up" prisoners for interrogation. She added abuses had been common practice, only her unit became the first to document them by taking photographs -- some of which were later leaked to the press to unearth the terrible practice of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.
"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," England said. "The company that we relieved was doing the exact same stuff. We just took over from them."
Only once during the interview did she manage to grasp the tragic impact the pictures had on America's standing in the world.
"I thought: 'I hope this never comes out because it'll change the way people see the war. And the way people see America.' And it did, it changed everything. I felt bad about that. I felt sorry. And I still do."
"I guess after the picture came out the insurgency picked up and Iraqis attacked the Americans and the British and they attacked in return and they were just killing each other."
Yet England continues to blame the media for exposing the photographs and argues that she only posed in the pictures to please her lover, former Cpl. Charles Graner, who is seen as the driving force behind the abuses at Abu Ghraib. In 2004 England gave birth to Graner's son, but the man left England while still in Iraq.
England describes in horrific detail how the screams of one prisoner who was later found dead could be heard across the prison one night; she also says that the male inmates were forced to masturbate in front of the guards, and that there exist even more graphic pictures than the ones released in the mass media. They depict "dogs biting the prisoners. Or you see bite marks from the dogs," she said. "You can see MPs holding down a prisoner so a medic can give him a shot. If those had been made public at the time, then the whole world would have looked at those and not at mine."
But the world did look at Lynndie England -- as she was holding a prisoner by a dog leash, or standing next to a human pyramid of naked prisoners, sporting a big smile.
Few incidents damaged America's standing in the Muslim world as much as Abu Ghraib. It sparked worldwide protests and only increased the doubts in the U.S.-led fight against terrorism. Today, the U.S. campaign in Iraq is on the verge of failure, also because Washington likely underestimated the backlash that comes from abuse and torture: They are methods that don't eradicate, but rather revive terrorism.
England has been living in West Virginia since she was released on parole in March 2007 after serving 521 days of her three-year prison term. She said she has trouble finding a job because of her past and that she is on antidepressants and medication treating her anxiety.
"If it wasn't for that I'd probably lose my mind," she said. "I'm paranoid as hell at people. It's that one crazy one that you don't know that finds out where you live and comes after you."
The entire interview can be accessed at www.stern.de/england.
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Iraq: The first technology war of the 21st century
Baghdad (AFP) March 19, 2008
The US-led war ended the brutal rule of torture and tyranny under Saddam Hussein, even if Iraq today faces the perils of terrorism and corruption, President Jalal Talabani said on Wednesday, the eve of the conflict's fifth anniversary.
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