Abu Ghraib Prison Guard Lynndie England: We Followed Orders, “I Don’t Feel Bad About That”

August 14, 2009

(ChattahBox)—Former Army reservist Lynndie England became the face of one of the most shameful chapters under the Bush administration; the abuse of prisoners held at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, Iraq. England was front and center in many of the horrific images of abuse, often with a cigarette dangling from her mouth and an eerie smile on her face.

On Thursday, BBC Two’s Newsnight aired a compelling interview with England in her small and impoverished hometown of Fort Ashby, West Virginia, five years after the Abu Ghraib prison abuse came to light, and she defiantly expressed no regrets for her actions, because she claims she was just following orders.

England was court-martialed and sentenced to three years in prison for her role in abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib and was released on parole after serving 18 months of her sentence. She first arrived in Iraq as a 20-year-old girl straight from her family’s trailer home in West Virginia, where she grew up suffering from learning disabilities.

England entered an amoral place with no moral compass of her own to guide her. She was more than willing to pose for photographs with Iraqi prisoners, stripped naked and placed in degrading positions at the urging of her boyfriend, Specialist Charles Graner.

The BBC reporter met with England at a local bar, asking the now 26-year-old, hard-hitting questions, as she puffed on a cigarette. England, speaking in a West Virginia drawl, explained her actions by insisting she was following orders through the chain of military command.

She also pointed to her former boyfriend Charles Graner, as having undue influence over her. “I didn’t want to disappoint him because he would leave me and I would feel alone in this war zone,” said England.

“When I met him I just turned 20 and I was still young and naive and he knew exactly what to say, exactly what to do to get me to fall for him,” added England.

When asked if she thought there was something wrong going on at Abu Ghraib prison. England defended her actions by claiming she was just following orders and that her superiors witnessed the abuse and did nothing to stop it. She and other soldiers questioned the abuse at the prison, she said, but was told it was OK.

“We did question it and what we got in return was—yah this needs to be done, just do whatever they say,” said England. As the BBC reporter continued to press England on her feelings of shame or understanding of the magnitude of the abuse that occurred and her role in it, England could only come up with words like “weird” and “strange” to describe the abuse.

“I did think it was odd and strange, and out there—yah it was wrong it was weird” She went on to describe the abuse at Abu Grahib as “nothing”, compared to what the Iraqi’s were doing to U.S. soldiers.

“Compared to what they would do to us—that’s like nothing. They at the same time were cutting our guys heads off and burning the bodies and dragging them through the streets of Baghdad, and hanging them off bridges.” England then dismissed the abuse and humiliation that she participated in as similar to what soldiers experience at boot camp, or what students encounter in college dorms.

“This happens at colleges and dorm rooms or whatever, here in the U.S all the time,” claimed England. “Similar humiliation tactics and physical exertion, you know, everybody goes through that stuff in boot camp in the military,” she said.

When asked again if she was ashamed at what was going on at the prison, England responded, “It’s what we were supposed to be doing. We did what we was [sic] told to do. I don’t feel bad about that.”

England released her biography in May entitled, “Tortured: Lynndie England, Abu Ghraib and the Photographs That Shocked the World.” She thinks the book may help explain her actions and improve her image. In light of her BBC interview, that hardly seems possible.


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