Abu Ghraib and Lynndie England - Guardian Interview

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Abu Ghraib and Lynndie England - Guardian Interview

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England's first job out of school was as a cashier, and then for nine months she worked at the local chicken factory. She worked in "spray down" and evisceration - "when the blood is let out and they go through the steamer, get the feathers out and clean 'em, all by hand" - and then in marination. "Regular seasoning, garlic and onion. Every time I smell that now..." She makes a face. "Can you imagine a 200-gallon tank?" It paid $9 an hour, with an extra 50 cents for marination, and after three months she was promoted to the role of trainer. "I liked the work, because I could do it well," she says.

Roy interrupts: "They have such a turnover there, that if you can stick it out, you rise quickly."

England looks annoyed. "What are you saying?"

"I'm just saying that if you stick it out..."

"I was good at my job," says England.

[...]

When she got to Abu Ghraib, she was assigned to administrative duties and had no cause to be in the cellblocks, except that she was hanging out with Graner. She found the scene down there odd. "When we first got there, we were like, what's going on? Then you see staff sergeants walking around not saying anything [about the abuse]. You think, OK, obviously it's normal." Graner, too, was initially disturbed, and is on record as having raised some objections. "When he first started working on that wing, he would tell me about it and say, 'This is wrong.' He even told his sergeant and platoon leader. He said he tried to say something. But everyone is saying it's OK to do it and getting pats on the back."

There have been suggestions that they wouldn't have treated the prisoners that way if they had been white. England looks extravagantly outraged. Roy says, "That's the first time I've heard that. One of the guys convicted was African-American. I don't remember any overt racism. You're in a war, and you're the good guys and they're the bad guys, and that's how most Americans see the world. And those were the bad guys."

Most of the people in Abu Ghraib were released without charge. Karpinski estimated that 90% of detainees in the prison were innocent. Before England can comment, Roy says, "In the pyramid, all the guys had been rounded up after rioting and shooting an American guard. There were some others who were released, but these guys were bad guys. They may not have been the insurgents, but they'd done some things they shouldn't have done."

England says, "They were screaming, we fucking hate you, we're gonna kill you, blah blah."

Did she see any women prisoners? "At one point we had four. Oh my God, this one, she was crazy. They had to take her to the loony bin. We called her the wolf lady coz she had all this hair." She starts laughing. "She was screaming and whatever."

Did she see any photos with women prisoners in them?

Roy says, "The only thing I know is that someone got in trouble because he had had some contact with one of them."

England snorts and says, "His dick had some contact."

[...]

I mean, I don't even know how to describe it. They were the enemy. I don't want to say they deserved what they got, but they ... um." There is a long pause. "They ... This is my problem. I can't think of words."

 

'What Happens in War Happens'