In honor of the fifth anniversary of The Iraq, we read an interview with Lynndie England conducted by the German magazine Stern. Lynndie is out of jail now, living in a trailer park in West Virginia with her mom — they're having issues — and she's a frustrating if unsurprising combination of repentant, unrepentant and weirdly lovelorn. She's not an idiot, but she's also stunningly incapable of fully processing things like the idea that people who don't speak American are, you know, still people, or the notion of "free will." More than anything, Lynndie England is a testament to why we shouldn't be in Iraq. And yet, as she points out so saliently, "Just look at this place. There aren't very many jobs to be had outside of the army." She is currently unemployed, about to enroll her son in kindergarten, and she has reportedly grown her hair. Lowlights after the jump.
How she met the inimitable Charles Graner
I really didn't even notice him because at the time I was married. He kept following me around, like when I went out for a smoke break. He didn't even smoke but he started smoking just to hang out with me. I started talking about my problems at home and he suggested I leave my husband. I was dumb enough to listen to him and I ended up believing him.
And why were the detainees forced to masturbate in front of you?
Well, that happened right after. They were standing and kneeling in front of the wall. They still had sandbags on their heads and by this time most of the guards had gone. Frederick and me stayed downstairs to watch them. Freddie went up to the guy on the end and tried to get him to start by touching his arm and moving it back and forth. And when he didn't really catch on to what he meant he took his sandbag off and motioned to him what he wanted him to do and then he put the sandbag back on. And so he started doing it.
You can't even say the word "masturbate".
You stood next to him and allowed it to happen. Did you not protest just once?
I did. I asked Frederick, "Why are you doing this?" And he told me, "I just want to see if he'll do it." So I was like, "Whatever."
No. I was like, "Fine, you know, whatever." Then Graner and Frederick tried to convince me to get into the picture with this guy. I didn't want to, but they were really persistent about it. At the time I didn't think that it was something that needed to be documented but I followed Graner. I did everything he wanted me to do. I didn't want to lose him.
"He was one of the 'Ghost Detainees' that officially never existed."
Yeah, I heard about it. Actually, I was there the night the Iceman was killed. I went to Tier One and someone said this guy had been taken to the showers and they had the water running, and you could hear this guy just screaming bloody murder. It got to the point where it was so loud and unbearable that I went back to my room. And the next day when I came back there was this puddle of water outside the shower. And I asked, "What's that from?" And they said, "Oh, its ice from keeping the body till they could transport him." The Iceman was one of the "Ghost Detainees" that officially never existed.
Yup, men fuck up everything.
Looking back on it, if I could change it I would. I would have never met Graner, I never would have gone over there, I would have stayed in my little work area in Abu Ghraib, did what I had to do.... He had said that he was going to marry me. We were going to have kids. I was just so pissed off with him...I feel more like a puppet. First I was played by Graner. Then the media portrayed me as their puppet so they could flash my picture out over and over and over and over again. And then I became the government's puppet because they didn't back me up, or remotely take my side. They just agreed with what the media said...I do take responsibility. I was dumb enough to do all that. And to think that it was okay because of the other officers and the orders that were coming down. But when you're in the military you automatically do what they say. It's always, "Yes Sir, No Sir." You don't question it. And now they're saying, "Well, you should have questioned it."... I actually thought about that before the pictures came out. I thought, "I hope this never comes out because it'll change the way people see the war. And the way people see America." And it did, it changed everything. I felt bad about that. I felt sorry. And I still do.
Prison wasn't so bad, though!
Literally, it was like flies on shit, man. When I got there, they were all like, "Oh my God." They loved me. I was like a celebrity.
Lynndie England: "Rumsfeld Knew" [Stern]