Punishment? What's that?

Unlike her superior officers, Pfc. Lynndie England was sentenced to prison for abuse at Abu Ghraib prison.

For anyone who knows how the military — and life — works it should be no big surprise to see the only commissioned officer punished in the infamous Abu Ghraib prison scandal received a light tap on the wrist.

Lt. Col. Steven Jordan was acquitted on charges he did not properly train guards at the Iraq prison. He was given a reprimand for a lesser charge of disobeying an order not to talk about the case.

In terms of his career, it’s most likely toast. But had he stood trial on a myriad of other charges of which his subordinates stood and were convicted, his career would not only be toast but he might have jail time as well. But probably not.

It seems that in military justice, the amount of punishment one receives for a crime is in direct proportion to the rank of the individual. As the excellent Robert Sherrill book proclaims: “Military Justice Is To Justice As Military Music Is To Music.” For instance, Lynndie England (above) received three years in prison for conspiracy, maltreatment of subordinates, and indecent acts. Her lover and the purported ring leader of the miscreants at Abu Ghraib, Pvt. Charles Graner, was handed a 10-year sentence in 2005 for conspiracy, dereliction of duty, maltreatment of detainees, assault and committing indecent acts.

I covered Graner’s court martial as a reporter. If the world was fair, everyone from the lowest enlisted person to former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsefeld should have been given prison time for their parts in this disgrace. But who said the Army is fair? And who said life was fair? So there.

Some might see the punishment handed the lower enlisteds in the case such as Graner and England as minimal. I don’t particularly see it that way. I feel like for the circumstances the sentences were just.

But I certainly don’t feel that way about the reprimand given Jordan although the military has always given the enlisted guys the shaft when it came to crime and punishment. Perhaps there have been exceptions such as certain captains of naval vessels being handed more punishment than their subordinates. But then, the hallmark of a ship captain’s responsibility is that he (or she but mostly he)is responsible for all that happens on board.

So have we closed the book on Abu Ghraib? Perhaps so when it comes to meting out punishment for what happened. How badly these cowboys and idiots damaged the reputation of our country by their deeds remains for historical reflection.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *