Monday, July 19, 2004

Abu Giraffe Comin Atcha ... Again!

Opening night one of my dear, dear friends came up to tell me how much she enjoyed the show.  I, of course, thanked her and then asked her what she really thought.  She told me she really liked it.  I thanked her again and asked her what she really really thought.  She then whispered "am I the only one who feels kinda sorry for that little Lynndie England girl?"
No, she's not.  When I first saw the pictures of the prisoners abused in Abu Ghraib I was devastated.  I'm an army brat.  When I was a teenager I did theatre on military bases with 22-year old enlisted women in the army in Germany.  I remember how much they loved being in the military, the freedom, the challenges, the potential for advancement.  (I'm old... these were the olden days.)  I looked up to those young women and even considered following their path into the military. 
Those sickening pictures hit me hard on so many levels.  Our play is now in the middle of its third installment.  As far as I know there have been at least three ex-soldiers in the cast at various times.  At least one of them was a reservist like this Lynndie England.  And as far as her superiors, the Military Intelligence guys, my dad was in Military Intelligence. 
Senator Joseph Biden said "There's a reason why we sign these treaties: to protect my son in the military.  That's why we have these treaties. So when Americans are captured, they are not tortured. That's the reason, in case anybody forgets it."  When that made such a big splash in the news I was a little surprised.  But then I grew up in the military (and Germany)  and knew that in my bones. 
And growing up in Germany gives you this tangible shining beacon on the hill to look forward to:  The States.  As a teen, I was aware that if I got into mischief and the Polizei picked me up I didn't have the same basic rights as I would in The States.  When my brother was expelled from seventh grade for "Heil Hitlering" his German Science teacher (he was being a dick) I learned about freedom of speech that was only protected in The States.  And I believed that the kind of torture that was depicted in the pictures at Dachau would never happen in The States.  Yes I know, I'm using hyperbole now.  There were no gas chambers at Abu Ghraib.  And Abu Ghraib was not in The States.  However, the SS were better supported than the soldiers at Abu Ghraib, and you can read about that in this excerpt from today's US News and World Report.   

Another classified annex reported that the prison complex was seriously overcrowded, with detainees often held for months without ever being interrogated. Detainees walked around in knee-deep mud, "defecating and urinating all over the compounds," said Capt. James Jones, commander of the 229th MP Company. "I don't know how there's not rioting every day," he testified.

Among the more shocking exchanges revealed in the Taguba classified annexes are a series of E-mails sent by Maj. David Dinenna of the 320th MP Battalion. The E-mails, sent in October and November to Maj. William Green of the 800th MP Brigade and copied to the higher chain of command, show a frantic attempt to simply get the detainees at Abu Ghraib edible food. Dinenna pressed repeatedly for food that wouldn't make prisoners vomit. He criticized the private food contractor for shorting the facility on hundreds of meals a day and for providing food containing bugs, rats, and dirt. "As each day goes by, tension within the prison population increases," Dinenna wrote. " . . . Simple fixes, food, would help tremendously." Instead of getting help, Major Green scolded him. "Who is making the charges that there is dirt, bugs, or whatever in the food?" Major Green replied in an E-mail. "If it is the prisoners, I would take that with a grain of salt." Dinenna shot back: "Our MP s, medics, and field surgeon can easily identify bugs, rats, and dirt, and they did." Ultimately, the food contract was not renewed, an Army spokeswoman says, although the company holds other contracts with the military.

And one final little secret about why this is so personal to me.  One final little sexist reason.  Lynndie is a woman.  And I never thought I'd see a woman do this.  When I was a teen growing up on a military base I remember a couple of young soldiers telling me that when women became soldiers it would truly be the end of the world.  All sorts of lame theories were posited; without women to protect who would men be fighting for, women were more cruel and would fight to the death,  men could not kill women... All I know is I never thought that I'd see a woman in the uniform of the oppressor, the torturer.  And when I saw the glee on her face, it destroyed everything I believed about my gender and my country and my world. 


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