Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Pfc England is guilty

Guilty. Make no mistake about that. That anyone would debate that strikes me as absurd. What she did was wrong, and she deserves whatever sentence she receives.

Pfc England was convicted by a jury of military officers, as is authorized by the UCMJ. At her request and upon approval by the court, she can have a mixed jury of officers and Senior enlisted members. We often hear of a right to a jury by our peers (it doesn't mention peers in the seventh amendment), yet she was convicted by a jury of superior officers. Superior and peer don't seem to go together well. How could she receive an unbiased trial by a jury of her peers when she is subject to all of them and required under penalty of the UCMJ to obey all lawful orders they give?

Lawful orders, that seems to be a bit of a problem in the case, as well. She was convicted because she tortured the prisoners at Abu Ghraib. The story goes that she was following orders, though the prosecution claimed she "humiliated prisoners because she enjoyed it and had a sick sense of humor." Now, I've been out of the Air Force for a couple years now, but from what I remember, lower enlisted members didn't participate in unilateral action. Everything they did was pursuant to some order. In other words, it's unlikely that she would have taken to torturing and humiliating the prisoners out of sheer perverse pleasure, though that's what the military would have us believe. She was acting under orders from her NCO, who received instruction from his Company officer who received his or her orders from a field grade officer, etc. It's possible, and probably likely that the field grade officer (often a rather educated individual) would be vague enough in his or her instructions as to absolve him or herself of any culpability ("When I said prepare them, I didn't mean take pictures of you pointing at their genitalia.") That doesn't make it right. And an uneducated lower enlisted person such as Pfc England, who is trained from the day she gets off the truck at boot camp to not question any orders from anyone of a superior rank, is unequipped to question whether what she's doing is right or wrong, and is in a position where she's unable to refuse to follow the orders.

So let's look at the argument that she was convicted by a jury of her peers. I submitted above that she was incapable of declining any orders she may have received based on her education and training. The military regularly refers to NCOs and officers as superior ranks. Let's add one more piece to the puzzle and say that if she was convicted by a jury of her peers, and one of the charges for which she was convicted was conspiracy, which by definition requires more than one person to commit, then why are there no highly publicized trials of any company or field grade officers? Why aren't any of them up for sentencing? Is it because they are more equal than Pfc England? Are two legs better (borrowing from Animal Farm by way of RedHotMamma)? Do we really believe that it's an equal punishment for an officer to "have his (her) career ruined?" If it's not, then one must concede that she was unfairly convicted and would need a new trial, OR the good ol boy network of the military needs to overhaul and find a few more fish to fry. Since I firmly believe that what she did was wrong and she does have ultimate control over her actions regardless of pressure from other forces (including article 15 punishment for refusing to follow orders), I would hope that the latter would happer vice the former.

And if you don't think this is an episode of scapegoating, ask yourself what would have happened to Pfc England had these pictures not made it onto the evening news.


Bookworm said...

You're right -- unlike the typical scapegoat, she's guilty, but she's still a scapegoat.

Michelle said...