In America, torturers go free while pacifists serve time

by on May 10, 2004

In March, Stephen Funk completed six months in jail for refusing to serve in Iraq. Meanwhile, those whose service included torturing Iraqi prisoners faced no criminal prosecution until the media storm last week forced the US military to pursue such action.

There’s something very, very wrong here.

Last week, the US military filed criminal charges against Lynndie England, the West Virginia woman shown holding a leash around a naked Iraqi prisoner’s neck Yesterday, similar charges were filed against SPC. Jeremy Sivits, whose court- martial trial beings in Iraq on May 19.

While military leaders and the Bush Administration are talking tough about bringing torturers to justice, such criminal prosecution occurred months after the horrific incidents became known. The pre-media punishment for these torturers was a dishonorable discharge without prison time, the same sanction the military felt was too lenient to grant to conscientious objector Stephen Funk.

The Americans who believed against all evidence that Sadaam Hussein was behind 9/11 now seem to think that the Bush Administration only learned of the military wrongdoing last week from 60 Minutes and the New Yorker. But the truth, of course, is that America’s political and military leaders knew of the atrocities for months and took no action against the torturers for fear that would expose the story.

If Private Jessica Lynch became the unwilling media symbol for American heroism in overthrowing Sadaam, then her fellow West Virginian LynddieEngland now represents all that has gone wrong.

Its significant how many Republican politicians have expressed outrage at the Bush Administration over the photos of prisoner abuse. And unlike the phony anger they often display to show the voters back home they care, this anger is real.

As one Republican Congress member from Arizona put it, this is “the equivalent of Pearl Harbor.” No amount of staged press conferences on US ships can erase this worldwide image of American colonialism. Those Republicans most excited by the prospect of a new era of US imperialism have seen their dream killed for at least as long as it takes people to forget about what transpired at Abu Ghraib prison.

Perhaps the most chilling news of the week was Secretary Rumsfeld’s testimony that there were even worse photos and even an horrific video yet to come. The New Yorker released one of these new photos last night, which showed a naked prisoner about to be set upon by snarling dogs. The still hidden videos are rumored to show rape, torture and even murder.

When Stephen Funk first requested conscientious objector status, he said that his life was adrift when he met a Marine recruiter. He enjoyed a Marine event at Camp Parks in Dublin, California and felt the Marines would give him the sense of belonging and discipline his life needed.

But when forced to shout “Kill! Kill” during training exercises in Camp Pendleton, Funk realized the Marines were not for him. But there was no turning back. Funk served six months in a military prison in North Carolina for refusing to allow himself to potentially become the type of person who would engage in horrific acts against helpless Iraqis.

Ms. England is five months pregnant, and her family remains clueless how their daughter could have been transformed into the person shown in the prison photos. As much as the Bush Administration wants to show the world it is cracking down on torture, the President’s image makers are not going to put a young mother in a military brig prior to the November election.

The military sought to “send a message” with its harsh treatment of Stephen Funk. Its attempt to make low-level privates the fall guys for brutal US policies sends a more disturbing message, one that raises questions about how much the world really learned from Nuremberg.

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