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May 07, 2004

Stupid Kid Things

Every time I see that picture of the young woman with the cigarette in her mouth giving the thumbs up, the same question comes to mind: Who is she? Where did she come from?

Stories are starting to surface. She's got a name. She's 21 year old Lynndie England of Fort Ashby, West Virginia. Here's a quote from one article:

Newspaper reports claim in Fort Ashby, Lynndie England is a being toasted as a hero, with one local quoted as saying that tormenting Iraqis would be no different to shooting a turkey.

Speaking from her trailer, Lynndie England's mother Terrie is quoted as saying her daughter was just doing stupid kid things, and that she was just following orders.

Google Lynndie and you can learn more about her and her home town. But you won't learn the answers to other questions. Like, why are we so surprised? Have we totally forgotten everything we know about history? We fought a war overseas in a place called Vietnam. We sent a bunch of young, undertrained solders to kill, watch their comrades die, and be destroyed themselves. History has shown us how they behaved. Rwanda. Somalia. Kosova. What happened in those places? War destroyed all the rules about human behavior.

When you Google Lynndie, you can find stories that almost - but not quite - defend her actions. Writers will tell you that it's not as bad as what happened to prisoners under Saddam. They'll say it's no My Lai. Yeah, they're probably right. But.

I've been thinking about myself at 21. And I've been thinking about what could have happened in my life to make me turn out to be like Lynndie. You know what? I feel sorry for Lynndie England. Not for what she appears to have done, but for whatever circumstances made her who she is.

Posted by pam at May 7, 2004 06:42 AM | TrackBack
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Yeah, the excuse that we've heard from some of the accused that they had no direction from above seemed a defense so flimsy as to only reveal that they had no other defense available.

Subsequently, I've heard more about them saying that Army intelligence encouraged this behavior, and that doesn't surprise me at all. When there were reports weeks and weeks ago about Iraqis being detained and them providing information, I thought it was likely that the American public wouldn't want to know the details around the cooperation of the prisons.

I'm watching Rumsfeld's testimony to the Senate. McCain is questioning; he's got his teeth into Rumsfeld, and he's not letting go.

I also find the events in the Iraqi prisons to be unsurprising due to the Stanford Prison Experiment, a role-playing experiment in which no one was actually a prisoner or prison guard. Things got so out of hand that the experiment had to be shut down. The entry in Wikipedia is fairly succinct.

So, take human nature and add circumstance. Add real guns, a real invasion, and a prevailing belief that the detained really are probably guilty of something and...

Add encouragement from those with power over the guards, probably with confirmation that the prisoners deserve what they're getting, and...

What I don't understand is the role the photographs play in softening up the prisoners. Does the simple fact of photographs signficantly add to the power of the experience? That seems unlikely, but I don't really know. It makes me think that the photographs were either for someone else's enjoyment or to make it easier to pin responsibility on the triumphant underlings in the photos.

I wish McCain had more time. He seemed more focused than Kennedy and Byrd on getting to significant—and damning—facts than making true but off-topic statements about the current administration. He's also commanded far more control over the slippery Secretary of Defense.

Lieberman and McCain need to switch parties.

Posted by: Gary on May 7, 2004 09:13 AM

The 'foreign office' (as I call the husband from time to time) tells me that the German language press says that the photos were like those joke emails that get sent around your group at work - "Hey, here's a photo of our group manager after being hauled out of the drink on our team boating trip!" Maybe photos play some role in interrogation in some cases - "Here's what we're going to do to you if you don't tell us where the weapons are..." - but that doesn't appear to be the case here. "Check out the wackiness in Cell Block C after hours!" is more like it.

It's almost like someone hit reply all and Seymour Hirsch was on the To line.

Posted by: pam on May 7, 2004 09:40 AM

Gary's comment about the Stanford Experiment is spot-on. After seeing Das Experiment a couple of months ago, which was based loosely on the Stanford Experiment, what happened recently is less surprising (but no less shocking) than it might otherwise have been.

Posted by: david on May 7, 2004 11:32 AM

What she have did is not good. But war is always not good and dont forget in war happend lots bad things and not Lynndie England is the only person that was bad..forget not the man that was dead and the iraq people hang him on the bridge and the italian man he was shot when he was a hostage.Whe dont know what all happend in Iraq.i think on both sites happend bad things,and not only from usa militair

Posted by: on May 9, 2004 10:42 AM
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