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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Investigating Torture 

If there was doubt about the culpability of higher-ups in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, an Army judge’s ruling today should help erase them.

The judge, Col. James L. Pohl, found that PFC. Lynndie R. England, the hapless soul who was caught by photographs taken by her superiors with naked Iraqi prisoners at the end of a leash, was as much in the dark about the rights of the prisoners as she was about standing up for herself.

England, who’s high school guidance counselor testified that she was a "compliant personality" who would generally "listen to authority figures," was found not to have been aware that her actions were criminal at the time she committed them. The finding probably won’t get her off in the end (things might actually go worse for her as a result of the ruling), but it might help ensure that evidence of higher ranking officers participation in the torture scheme can be admitted in court martial proceedings.

If there is a silver lining in all this sordidness, it might be that some greater part of the truth comes to light. When Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, and top military brass have made statements implying that the Geneva Convention might be out of date, it could finally be time to follow the resulting prisoner abuse investigation up the chain of command. Let’s hope Judge Pohl means to actually investigate the crimes committed at Abu Ghraib, wherever they lead.

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