April 2008 Ethics Dunces

Lynndie England (Again)

Out of prison and shooting her mouth off, Abu Ghraib cover girl Lynndie England is demonstrating that she has a flat learning curve on the ethics scale. In an interview with the German magazine Stern, England blamed the consequences of her conduct (and the conduct of the other guards photographed humiliating, threatening, terrorizing and abusing Iraqi prisoners) on the international media's publication of the evidence.

"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. I felt bad about it ... no, I felt pissed off. If the media hadn't exposed the pictures to that extent, then thousands of lives would have been saved," she said. "Yeah, I took the photos but I didn't make it worldwide. Yes, I was in five or six pictures and I took some pictures, and those pictures were shameful and degrading to the Iraqis and to our government. And I feel sorry and wrong about what I did. But it would not have escalated to what it did all over the world if it wouldn't have been for someone leaking it to the media."

The fact that U.S. soldiers disgraced their country and the values of their democracy by engaging in illegal and inhuman abuse would have been harmless, in other words, if nobody had known about it, according to England. Who let her out of jail, anyway?

No, Lynndie. If nobody had known about it, the abuse would have likely continued and even escalated. It would have been covered up, and the soldiers involved, all of whom had the ethical and moral instincts of your average street thug, would have continued to have opportunities to corrupt and influence similarly inclined recruits.

It is undoubtedly true that the consequences flowing from the publication of Abu Ghraib photos were far reaching, catastrophic, and in some ways disproportionate to the number of U.S. soldiers involved in the misconduct. But that is not the proper measure. When a country invades another country citing humanitarian and democratic ideals, it has a dauntingly high standard of conduct to maintain---and it must maintain it. The disgrace of Abu Ghraib was something that the country and the American public had to confront squarely and honestly, because it called into question the nation's ability and moral authority to accomplish the stated purposes of the invasion. The harm of the Abu Ghraib photographs was not merely from their widespread exposure, but also from the abject failure of the U.S. military's chain of command to take full responsibility for the negligence that led to the despicable actions of England and her fellow mental and moral defectives. Without the widespread publicity, there is no guarantee that the chain of command flaws that led to the scandal would have been addressed, and it is very likely that the irresponsible and untrustworthy soldiers, including England, would have continued merrily on their warped and abusive paths.

It is not, as England claims, that thousands of lives would have been saved if the media conveniently hid America's disgrace from the world. Thousands of lives might have been saved if the sacred task of caring for a broken nation and trying to nurture a crippled culture back to health hadn't been entrusted to sadistic, weak-minded, criminals like Lynndie England, her boyfriend, and the other guards at Abu Ghraib.

Designating her an Ethics Dunce is a promotion.




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