The Woman of Abu Ghraib

Lynndie England, the woman in the now infamous pictures of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse case, has been found guilty.

If you recall, she was the woman in the photos showing her holding a naked detainee on a leash and smiling as she pointed to prisoners in humiliating poses. Apparently, she had a relationship with the man who was the ringleader of the entire debacle. England's defense argued that she suffered from depression and that she has an overly compliant personality.

I can understand wanting to find favor with the man she cared for as well as with the other men. I can understand some sense of pressure to do what they were pushing her into. I can even understand the group-think phenomenon that might coerce her to agree with things that she would not even consider outside that facility.

However, I have to ask, what were the core values with which she started? Had she thought them through before the subculture of the Abu Ghraib prison had developed? What gave the guys the idea that she might agree to such degrading, demeaning (to everyone involved) abusive practices?

I believe that there's another story here because of the male/female dynamic. (I wrote on a similar topic recently, "
Ladies and Gentlemen.") I wondered how things got started. How much did the guys push the conversation towards that which is unacceptable or uncomfortable among women? Did they watch to see her reaction to off-color jokes? Did she feel pressured to laugh or to simply smile quietly?

The Abu Ghraib abuse did not exist in a vacuum. And, while there were multiple factors that contributed to the flagrant display of inhumanity and debauchery, I cannot help but think of the insightful quote that "A lady is just a woman who makes a man behave like a gentleman." This is not to remove any blame from the parties involved. However, it is a sad commentary on what many segments and subcultures within our society consider to be appropriate and admirable female behavior.

The more women get the message that there are compromises that need to be made in a "man's world," the worse off we find everybody's world.


At 9/27/2005 12:15:00 PM, Blogger Jaymeister said...

Lores, are such distinctions to be made in the military? It seems to me that, apart from women not being directly involved in combat operations, the military is as egalitarian an institution as there is. Both men and women are trained to act a certain way and, to an extent, suppress their individuality in the name of the cause at hand. I don't condone the actions of anybody involved (the old "I was only following orders" defense), but I'm not convinced that they acted independently. Whether it be a higher command figure in the military or from the intelligence contractors, there is much more to this story.

At 9/27/2005 01:37:00 PM, Blogger Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Lores

I have to wonder -- I consider everyone's job to be the integrity of their own behavior first, and of any people to which we belong. This is why I wonder, should we even go down the road of asking whether she was just complying with the men? Can we afford to hint that it was the men's fault first, and assume the only fault we women have is compliance? That a "non-lady" is just a woman who stoops to the level of men, or that men aren't capable of behaving well without us? I'm expecting none of that is what you meant but it's really easy to take away that message.

The message I'd like to send to other women is this: I don't care if they were pressuring you, you are responsible for yourself and since when did you think that was ok? I think the compliance argument that the defense made, if accepted, calls into question whether women have the integrity to stand their own ground in the world. Of course many men don't either ... but would you say that women are peculiarly susceptible to peer pressure from men?

At 9/27/2005 04:27:00 PM, Blogger Lores Rizkalla said...

jaymeister: you make a couple of good points. i agree that they weren't necessarily acting independently and that the culture of the military had a part to play.

At some point, man and woman alike had a choice to shut to voice of the decent and the moral.

The other issue here--that i may tackle in another post--is the value of women in the military.

WF: You're right about individual responsibility. I place the same blame on the men as I do the woman.

However, while I disagree with the defense's argument, I think her relationship with the ringleader is relevant. This guy is the father of her child. I do think that the physical and emotional attachment a woman has with "her man" absolutely compels her to comply. That doesn't let her off the hook, by any means. In the same way that guys have sex on their minds significantly more than women do does not let them off the hook for indecency and immorality.

The fact that men and women may have different pressures to which they are suseptible removes no responsibility or culpability for the actions they take.

At 9/27/2005 07:34:00 PM, Blogger Jamie Dawn said...

Who were the idiots who took pictures of this stuff? This shows me that this was done for "fun" as opposed to being done in some serious way to get info out of prisoners.
I don't know all that happened there, and what was sanctioned by higher-ups, but it is clear that she and her cohorts should not have done what they did.
I am not against using strong measures to get info out of high level prisoners who know stuff that will help us fight and win wars. I don't think that was the case here.

Lores and others who read this:
I found a new blog that I enjoy called: MY Right Wing Conspiracy. You might enjoy it too.
Its address: bamapachyderm.com

Here's a quote from the blog:
"I’ve been corresponding recently with one of my readers, who’s a Marine serving in Iraq; they’ve been reading my crappy little blog! He’s sent the following–please read it, it’s important!

I think you would be amazed at the morale of the young military people here. I know I am. I’ve been in for over 28 years and I have seen good and bad. These youngsters are getting the job done in a way I would never have imagined. They go on convoys, get shot at or have IEDs go off, then they return still in high spirits. The trick here is to convince the bad guys they have been beat. The idiots at the peace rallies are what’s really hurting since the stated goals of the insurgents is to break down public support for the war in the US. I heard the other day that 52% of the people back home think we are losing. I would be worried if it was 1995 and this was the case, but Bush doesn’t govern via polls like Clinton did. That’s one thing we all appreciate about the president; he sticks to the plan."

At 9/27/2005 09:14:00 PM, Blogger William said...


THAT IS FANTASTIC! Finally, an honest perspective. Truth be told: soldiers know their duty. And we as civilians (even though I hate being called a civilian), have the absolute responsbility of supporting our troops. It looks like these people in support of the peace rallies are the real insurgents!

At 9/28/2005 01:31:00 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Lores, You wanna know more about Lindy England? Check out my post from back in May. It will tell you a little more about her.


By the way, Thanks for the compliment over at my place. I've been trying to get the local newspaper here to publish my stuff, but so far, they've only published one of my submissions, and that was as a letter to the editor. (sigh)

At 9/28/2005 02:44:00 AM, Blogger Poison Pero said...

I know I may get killed by the women here, but women don't belong in the military.

I served for 14 years (active/reserves) and it is no place for a woman!!!

And this isn't a sexist, or woman-hating statement.......I'm all for equality, and have no doubt many women can do the job.

But only a barbaric society should have women doing this ghastly job.....And anyone who thinks war is anything other than ghastly has no clue.
I hate the thought of my daughters even thinking of joining the military, but admit if I had boys I'd push them that way.

Men are what they are, and women are what they are.......WOMEN ARE BETTER!!! And have a much higher responsibility.

My favorite quote on the matter:

"When women decided they wanted to be equal to men, they lost their superiority over men." - Dennis Prager.

I hope you all understood that.

At 9/28/2005 03:28:00 AM, Blogger Lores Rizkalla said...

pero: i didn't want to go there. but, i knew that if we were going to take it there, it would be at your lead. ;)

you haven't made this woman angry at all. i absolutely agree! now, I'M making other women angry...Prager is right.

At 10/03/2005 05:08:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

lores...i really don't think that pvt. linde's boyfriend asked her to smile in that picture where she's holding a prisoner on a dog leash...she took her own pleasure in that...nothing is more obvious...so the "father of my child argument" is weak at best...i know you agree that she should still be punished no matter what she was thinking, but i think she's no less disgusting than her boyfriend...her smiling face says all you need to know about her and her character...
thanks, jeff

At 10/03/2005 05:26:00 PM, Blogger jeff said...

lores, i really don't think pvt. linde's boyfriend forced her to smile in the picture where she has a prisoner on a dog leash...her true character leaps right out at ya when you see the pic....glad she was found guilty...she is guilty....i know you think she should be punished no matter what she was thinking (which is correct)...see the problem is women never want to take responsibility for their actions when they get their shot at equality...they start blaming everyone else and it makes women look extremely foolish...pretty soon it will be the mans fault that women asked for equality...

thanks, jeff

At 10/03/2005 05:45:00 PM, Blogger Lores Rizkalla said...

jeff, i completely agree. her behavior is completely reprehensible regardless of motives or pressure.

i was sickened by that smile in those repulsive pictures.

several years ago, a California State Senator said, "We have made woman God." it is very sad but unfortunately true in too many scenarios.


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