This reporter has learned through Reuters New service that Private First Class Lynndie England, whose face was splashed world wide when the prison abuse scandals broke the news, is heading to a military hearing.
This is a preliminary step towards a Court Martial.
PFC England says she was following orders when she was pictured holding a rope tied around a prisoner s neck, and then there was the picture where she has a cigarette dangling from her mouth pointing at a prisoner s genitals.
Her defense claim is severely weakened by the US Uniform Code of Military Justice which states it is legal to refuse an unlawful order. The Geneva Conventions forbids hostile interrogations, or the use of excessive force against prisoners of war. All soldiers are taught this in basic training. All officers are taught the Geneva Conventions.
Now, enters the rules of engagement that were written for the Iraq war in the rules of engagement, all POWs were to be classified as illegal combatants, thusly side stepping the Geneva Conventions.
PFC. England is being charged with conspiracy to mistreat Iraqi prisoners, assaulting prisoners, committing acts prejudicial to good order, committing indecent acts, disobeying an order and creating and possessing sexually explicit photographs. Punishment is a Dishonorable Discharge and up to 38 years of confinement in a military correctional facility.
The article 32, of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, hearing is expected to start soon after being delayed twice. It should be also noted that each of the defendants being arraigned for prisoner abuse are telling the same story they were ordered to soften up the prisoners by military intelligence prior to questioning.
Soften up is an acronym describing one side plays the hard core nasty side of prisoner confinement, then the other side that does the questioning uses this to their advantage telling the prisoner that they can get the abuse to stop, if the prisoner cooperates. The effectiveness of this method depends upon how terrified the prisoner is of the bad cop side.
The question now becomes, if the rules of engagement were written to bypass the Geneva Conventions is PFC England and her fellow soldiers really guilty? Or was their crime simply that they took pictures, and showed them off?
There is the question of morality when this writer was in the US military, regardless of the rules of engagement, regardless of orders , regardless of personal feelings and prejudices, a soldier is expected, and demanded, to protect their wards. If an officer or NCO gave an unlawful order, the soldier was expected to refuse that order and report the incident to the higher chain of command.
PFC England and her co-accused also had access to the Judge Advocate General s office at the time they could have reported the orders given to them and requested an investigation, with complete anonymity. The co-accused could have reported the "orders" to the Inspector General's office with complete anonymity - that is what the IG's office is for, and they would have investigated on behalf of the complaintants.
With this in mind, what happened during the prisoner abuse scandal was unlawful. If the supportive evidence shows a systematic abuse pattern and no written orders to abuse the prisoners can be found, or if an officer does not step forward and admits issuing the orders, then PFC England and her fellow soldiers will be found guilty.
Even if an officer does step forward admitting issuing the abuse orders PFC England and her follow soldiers will be found guilty of obeying an unlawful order.
The precedence set at the Nuremburg trials state clearly that following orders is not a plausible defense in a court of law when dealing with the abuse of POWs and civilians. When the order violates civil law, the order is illegal.
The US Army is acting correctly towards PFC England and those who are accused with her. Regardless of the actions of the enemy, regardless of the stress of a combat situation, PFC England failed in her duties.
I also know that the US Army will not bring all parties involved to justice and to that end; I am empathetic to PFC England s cause and for no other reason. I have seen guilty parties walk away unscathed while minor bit players were fed to the piranha like jaws of the inquisition called military justice. Justice will bring about injustice, and that is wrong.
The author who wrote the rules of engagement that bypassed the Geneva Conventions will never be called forward to answer. The Secretary of Defense, whose job it is to oversee the writings of the rules of engagement, will evade justice. Those who passed down the rules of engagement and those who brought the rules of engagement into action will never be called upon to answer for their actions.
The military investigation will start and it will stop at PFC England and her enlisted co-accused.
And, that is wrong.