Will anyone every forget the pictures of Lynndie England, looking as though she were gleefully enjoying he torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad during the American occupation of Iraq? Or then president George Bush's insistence that England was one of a few "bad apples" in the service who would be weeded out and prosecuted? Well, she was. England, a U.S. Army Reservist, was convicted and served 521 days, the paroled in 2007, after which we received a dishonorable discharge. Charles Graner, a fellow Reservist, and the man by whom England allegedly became pregnant, is serving ten years at Ft. Leavenworth. The other five of the Abu Ghraib Seven were all punished for their actions.
Janis Karpinski, the former head of the Abu Ghraib prison, demoted, and now retired, spoke out about the issue four years ago http://www.democracynow.org/2005/10/26/col_janis_karpinski_the_former_head and has written a book about her experiences entitled One Woman's Army.
And just last night, she gave a moving and emotional interview to an uncharacteristically chastened and quiet Keith Olberman http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyez4uBPC4I
in which she made the convincing point that the soldiers who were convicted and sentenced should not have suffered while those at the top, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, and Bush, among others, not to mention the authors of the so-called "torture memos" go unpunished.
But where is the outrage? While the American public calls for the heads of the memo's authors, who recalls Bush's statements about the bad apples? Who recalls his promise that those few would be weeded out and taken care of? And who really believed at the time that those soldiers were acting of their own accord? How could we, the American public, have let this situation get so out of hand? And how can we now, as so many are calling for, just let it go, let sleeping dogs lie, and assume that nothing like this will happen again.
Not only is it is clear that in the past administration torture was being sanctioned at the highest levels, that torture was being planned long before the "memos" were even written according to reports in yesterday's Washington Post.
If the soldiers who carried out the torture were doing so under direct orders and to disobey those orders meant putting their jobs at peril then we already have a problem. With our system, with morale, with much larger issues.
Should those soldiers have been punished? At this point, that is a moot point. They have been. Now the punishment must reach the top. If the Abu Ghraib Seven had to pay, then so should all the men and women involved in the actions. As Karpinski stressed: There was a direct line from the very top to the very bottom. And all involved must be made responsible for their actions. Why foot soldiers are serving years in prison when the powerful men and women who sent those soldiers to do the dirty work are spouting lies on television are free is a travesty. Until all are made to pay, the torture memos history cannot be put behind us and we cannot move on.
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