14 August 2009

Lynndie England needs to STFU

The other day, SWJ posted an op-ed from Morris Davis, an employee at the Library of Congress, who expressed outrage at the fact that Lynndie England, the most infamous of the Abu Ghraib bunch, would be lecturing at the LOC. Her lecture was apparently a part of a series of lectures from Iraq War veterans. Wow, of all the Iraq War veterans, we pick Lynnie England to speak on our behalf! Wonders never cease.

Says Morris Davis (who also served as a prosecuter in the case against torture at Guantanamo Bay):

She is a convicted criminal who was dishonorably discharged, but she’s out of prison and on stage at the Library of Congress. You may recall many of the memorable pictures of the glowing Private England during her tour in Iraq, including the one of her standing next to an Iraqi prisoner, a cigarette dangling from her lip, as she points at the Iraqi prisoner’s genitals as he stands there naked with a sack over his head as he’s forced to masturbate in the presence of GI England and several other nude men. It sure looked like she was enjoying some good times in the picture, so maybe she’ll give more behind the scenes details during her lecture on Friday as she expounds on how she’s a victim who is deprived of veteran’s benefits because of her dishonorable discharge. As she said in an interview published in the West Virginia Metro News on Monday: “Yeah, I was in some pictures, but that’s all it was … I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.” That has to be comforting to those who died because of the wave of anger her snapshots ignited in the Middle East, like the family of Nick Berg who was slaughtered in front of a video camera in retaliation for Abu Ghraib, according to his murderers. America as a whole still pays the price for Private England’s “wrong place – wrong time” misadventure, but that won’t stop the Library of Congress from opening its doors and handing her the mike.

Think of what a huge public relations victory this is...for our enemies. Giving Lynndie England any more attention than she deserves will only play directly into the hands of anti-American groups. It also sends the wrong message to our troops--there are thousands of milbloggers out there who serve their country with distinction, and do their best to tell the story of the US military the best they can. Few of them ever get any hits on their blogs. However, torture a few prisoners, and suddenly, you're a celebrity with credibility--lecturing at the Library of Congress, no less!

The other day, I paid the article scant attention. After all, I care as much about Ms. England as I do for Paris Hilton (which is to say, not at all, except Paris has sex tapes which I kind of care about). I missed the outlash against Ms. England's appearance in the comments, most of which seemed to express the same dismay that I felt.

However, a few people took notice and threw a fit. Dave reports at SWJ:

Courtesy of the Associated Press:

A lecture by the woman who became the public face of the Abu Ghraib scandal was canceled Friday at the Library of Congress after threats led to concerns about staff safety.

Former Army reservist Lynndie England had been scheduled to discuss her biography as part of a veterans forum on Capitol Hill. The book by author Gary S. Winkler is called "Tortured: Lynndie England, Abu Ghraib and the Photographs That Shocked the World."...

Members of the Library of Congress Professional Association, the employee group holding the talk, received an e-mail from president Angela Kinney saying the event was canceled due to staff safety concerns. A spokeswoman for the library said Kinney would not comment further.

The group had received "numerous expressions of protest" about the lecture from its members, the e-mail said.

David Moore, a Vietnam War veteran and German acquisitions specialist at the library who organized the event, said he received several e-mails threatening violence and shared them with police and the library's inspector general...

...He blamed an essay decrying the event on the Small Wars Journal blog for stirring up much of the opposition. The site focuses on war politics and strategy.

"It's a disgrace that the dishonorable profit and that we use government property and resources to glorify the gutless. If you attend the lecture on Friday, don't save me a seat," reads the posting by Morris Davis, another Library of Congress employee.

Davis, who retired from the Air Force after serving as chief prosecutor for military trials at Guantanamo Bay, resigned from his Army legal post in protest because he believed waterboarding was torture.

Davis said he was bothered by England because he said she portrays herself as a victim, while other soldiers who lost arms and legs at war don't get book deals and don't complain.

Other efforts to promote the book on England have been disrupted, its author said in an e-mail, though he didn't elaborate. Winkler defended the biography as balanced, saying it includes voices besides England's to tell the full story of the events and people involved at Abu Ghraib.

Moore has organized the library group's veterans forums for eight years, and he said the talks generally draw 40 to 80 people and some have been carried on C-SPAN.

Moore said he won't plan future lectures because of the England problems and that he's canceling three already scheduled, including those with a woman who wrote about sexual harassment in the military and anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq.

Wait, hasn't Cindy Sheehan also had her fifteen minutes of fame already? She was so 2005.

Anyway, from what I can tell, there were no threats in the responses to the article on SWJ. Mr. Moore, on the other hand, seems to claim that the article inspired threats against England. If so, they didn't come from any of the posters at SWJ.

As for Ms. England, I have little sympathy. Certainly, I will not advocate any act of violence committed against her (let me make that clear). However, what does she expect? Does anyone have sympathy for someone who actively took part in torture of prisoners, posed with their naked bodies, pointed at them, and gave a little "thumbs up"? Does anyone have any sympathy for someone who tells stories like this (courtesy of Greyhawk):

The American forces took up residence in an abandoned date-processing factory...

Not long into their stay, two of the soldiers appeared at the base one day with animal carcasses. They'd found a dead goat and a dead cat somewhere and started slicing them up. Someone took a photo of a soldier pretending to have sex with the goat's head. "Then they cut off the cat's head and shoved it on the top of a soda bottle," England says.

For several weeks, the decaying animal heads provided entertainment for the soldiers. "Someone put sunglasses on them, and put the rifle next to the heads and took a picture. Some soldiers put a cigarette in the cat's mouth," she says. The soldiers stashed the severed heads in their rooms.

"It was funny," England says. "So funny."

Wow, I bet that's the new LOLCat craze!

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