Presented with starkly different portrayals of the young soldier notorious for her grinning photos with naked Iraqi detainees, a jury of Army officers convicted Pfc. Lynndie R. England today of mistreating prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison.
The five jurors reached the verdict after two hours of deliberation in a military court in Fort Hood, Tex., resolving the final case against the nine enlisted soldiers involved in the prisoner abuse. The mistreatment created an international scandal when it came to light last year, and officials in the Bush administration have acknowledged that it has undermined America's credibility in the Middle East, exposing grave breakdowns in the unit guarding Abu Ghraib. Private England, 22, was found guilty of six of the seven counts against her, including four counts of mistreatment, one count of conspiracy and one count of indecency, an Army spokesman said. She was acquitted on another conspiracy charge. Jurors will decide Tuesday on her sentence; she faces a maximum of 10 years in a military prison.
Changing the tone at the military's highest levels, they argue, is crucial to preventing further mistreatment, especially if it has become commonplace. In a report released last week by the group Human Rights Watch, three former members of the Army's elite 82nd Airborne Division asserted that their fellow soldiers in Iraq routinely beat and abused prisoners in 2003 and 2004, not only to help gather intelligence on the insurgency but also to amuse themselves. The allegations are currently the focus of a criminal investigation by the Army.
I'm glad the military is doing something about the torture scandal.
Holding a few low-ranking soldiers responsible is a great start towards regaining the rest of the world's respect and ending this kind of behavior.
However, if the USA is really serious, there is something else that needs to be done.
Instead of "don't ask don't tell", we ought to make an outright ban against gays in the military. That would end the problem.