This Is England: We Can Chain You to the Rail

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An Army judge has halted Lynndie England's court martial, saying her plea is not believable. According to The Washington Post, "the judge's rejection of her guilty plea—together with evidence at the trial that senior Army commanders tolerated chaotic, dangerous, and illegal conditions at the notorious Baghdad prison—could undermine the Pentagon's assertion that the Abu Ghraib scandal was solely the fault of a small clique of enlisted soldiers." Details here.

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  1. Wow, there were some serious drugs taken by the WaPo author to get that conclusion from the facts recited in the rest of the article.

  2. [Cue standard Conservative response:]

    This is an outrage! This obvious, liberal, activist judge’s (Even the Army is not free of them!) decision is designed to undermine the public preception ofour glorious military and our holy effort to bring freedom to the Godless wogs…I mean…to the Middle East. Don’t they know there is a war going on!

    KERRY WOULD HAVE BEEN WORSE!!!

  3. So, what exactly does this mean? Is she still going to stand trial?

  4. why does the army hate america?

  5. I’m told by a friend in the military that the UCMJ differs considerably from what the rest of us are used to on guilty pleas. Once guilty is entered as a plea, the defense is kind of screwed. If they mount any additional defense, they are saying the defendent is not guilty for some reason, and the judge must overturn the plea.

    I heard the judge grilled her yesterday on inconsistencies between her pre trial claims and her testimony. You can’t just claim guilt for the sake of leniency. Ouch.

  6. SR,

    If the judge finds that her belief that she was acting in line with authorized procedure stemmed from the actions, inactions, and orders of her superiors, it could very well undermine the Pentagon’s insistence that their hands are clean.

  7. Jesse Walker=good music references in blog post headings. It’s a pattern I’ve noticed. Or made up. I don’t know. But I seem to remember others…

  8. SR: Not necessarily. The judge isn’t blaming the Pentagon, but Graner’s statement that England’s actions were “approved techniques” (or whatever the phrase was) does undermine the official story.

    Shem: I assume the Army will indict her again, but not on the exact same list of charges.

    All: The AP’s account is here. It’s clearer in some respects than the Post story.

  9. The most common reply I’ve heard by conservatives to this scandal is something along the line of “Well, people are making it sound worse than what those rag-heads are doing over there, killing and bombing and…etc.” They also have likened it to hazing you would see in college. I hope future recruitments continue to drop.

  10. “England, from rural West Virginia, negotiated her plea bargain with Army prosecutors last week in return for a reduced prison sentence.”

    The fact that England is from rural West Virginia apparently matters to someone.

  11. She should still stand trial. But so should those up-command from her who are responsible for all of the barbarity at Abu Ghraib; Regardless of how far up-command these criminals are. A land that’s known as liberty cannot let these crimes go unpunished.

    Also, what about restitution for the Iraqi victims and their families? The restitution should be deducted from the military budget so that the taxpayers are not additional victims of our government’s crimes. I’m sure that enough waste and fraud can be found to cover it. After all, we’re talking about the government here.

    Akira,

    I think you meant:

    “Cue standard *neo* Conservative response:”

  12. I hope future recruitments continue to drop

    Sage, careful whatcha ask for. If you are of draft age, that is.

    Just think how glorious a draft would be. Compulsory service. Now that‘ll beat the liberalism outta those damn kids!

  13. I wasn’t thinking in terms of a draft, but I should be realistic. My hope is that we can have a military of the size that only fights wars we *have* to. I guess, though, that I should be realistic. Not sure if I’m of draft age, but I wouldn’t want my kids forced to go to war, either.

  14. I don’t see the outrage. This is really no different from a college administrator giving a frat boy a rough time after some hazing.

  15. Please excuse the punctuation errors in my last post. Sometimes I get so mad, I can’t type straight!

  16. The way a military guilty plea works is that if there is any evidence presented at trial which contradicts the accused’s guilty plea, the plea is thrown out. The Wal Po makes it sound like the judge has decided that her plea is not true and that he thinks there are more people involved. That is not true. The throwing out of the plea only means that the accused has done or said something, which if believed could cause a reasonable person to find the accused not guilty. It doesn’t mean that it actually is true or that the accused would have a prayer at trial, it just means that its possible that a reasonable person could aquit the accused if they find the testimony to be believeable. For example, if in a theft case, the accused tells the judge that he thought that the victim had given him permission to take the car, the plea is thrown out even if the accused was found driving a stranger’s car at 120 mph on the highway and there is no realistic chance of anyone believing his defense at trial. In short the standard is very low. England getting her plea thown out is bad news for her because that means she won’t get the benifit of her plea bargain and bad news for the government because they now have to try the case rather than do a much easier guilty plea, but likely it does not mean that she is really innocent.

  17. So Hon. John Sirica has NOT been reincarnated as an Army judge?

  18. Oh, Thoreau, that was just TOO perfect!

  19. The judge asked her repeatedly whether she actually believed her plea, and apparently was unconvinced-most likely because it contradicted earlier statements. As Kluge points out, that’s probably bad news for her. Can they do this in a civilian criminal trial? I wish they could. The UCMJ takes a lot of lumps, but I suspect more guilty people are convicted and more innocent people cleared under the UCMJ than in the civilian court system.

  20. I think Pfc. England’s Animal House antics merit academic probation.

    No, wait, I’ve got it: Double Secret Probation!

  21. Can they do this in a civilian criminal trial? I wish they could.

    No, acording to the report on NPR this AM this is a distinguishing feature of the UCMJ. I thought it sounded like a more thorough fact finding effort than the civilian equivalent. One has to consider though that the usual purpose of guilty pleas in civilian courts is to save time and effort, and the facts be damned.

    And, no, this does not mean she has been “cleared” or “freed” by some “lenient, activist” judge. It just means her Guilty pleas become Not Guilty pleas and she’ll have to stand trial. But someone already said that. (see John at 05:28 PM)

  22. Actually, I understand that if the judge in a civilian trial gets the impression that a defendant does not understand the consequences of a plea or is being railroaded or inadequately defended he has the option of rejecting the Guilty plea. Again this is a case of the judge doing his duty not being an “activist bleeding-heart”. It is also not setting the defendent free, just tossing the ball back to the prosecution.

    It rarely happens though, because with docket pressures everybody just wants to move everyone through. And too many judges just act as rubber stamps for prosecutors and the cops.

  23. Jesse,

    And probably we’re getting way more false positives than UCMJ because of rampant prosecutorial misconduct in civilian courts.

    I have a feeling that the prosecutors in the military have less incentive to go after the innocent because of the stong cultural affinity they feel towards their fellow military members.

    Outside of the armed services, the relationship between prosecutors and suspects would seem to be niether as formally constrained, nor as respectful as that enjoyed among the soldiering class.

  24. OK, now that I’ve gotten the joking out of my system, does anybody who knows the military system think that a trial could conceivably lead to evidence coming out that implicates officers?

  25. One thing I’ve never gotten about this: they all brought their own dog leashes to Iraq?

    Isn’t it much more plausible that she did think it was ok, as did Graner, because everyone up their chain said it was? I mean they were having My Little Naked Pyramid parties!

    And they won’t even let us SEE the worst shit.

    This isn’t America anymore.

  26. I never bought the line that a few borderline retarded hillbillies came up with this on their own. Prison guards beating up an inmate here or there on their own initiative? That’s plausible. All these weird sexual stunts out in the open with a lot of witnesses? Nah.

  27. Brian,

    I understand your skepticism, but a few months back, the WSJ had a great story about how Graner got in trouble in boot camp or something, back in the States, for pulling the exact same perverted shit. Unfortunately, I don’t subscribe to the Journal, so I don’t have the link.

  28. Legs legs legs. That’s what I keep praying this story grows, because from everything we know about it, I am dead certain this goes straight to the oval office. Justice demands that Rumsfeld stand trial for war crimes.

    Think I’m off the deep end? Wait till some more photos leak out, and a few more tongues start wagging. Just you wait, you’ll see. The scumbag neo-con fundie fucks running this country are the evilest bastards what ever occupied the White House.

  29. The scumbag neo-con fundie fucks running this country are the evilest bastards what ever occupied the White House.

    What, has everybody forgotten about me already?

  30. Oh come on now Nixon…you were only doing what I told you.

  31. Warren, you’re not off in the deep end, you’re getting sucked down the drain.

  32. I know almost nothing about the UCMJ but if you pay me enough, I’ll pretend that I’m an expert. Seriously.

  33. Whatever happend to Celebrity boxing? ’cause a Jessica Lynch/Lynndie England bout would settle this.

  34. Doug,

    What about feeding tubes? Can you pretend to know something about neurology?

  35. You can’t enter a plea on the basis that you think you are innocent but that you will probably be convicted anyway. If you do this, you have to convince the judge of your sincerity. I am a former JAG so I should know a thing or two (keep in mind, however, that I might not).

    This sucks for the upper ecehelon guys who thought that they had avoided further scrutiny with the plea bargain. If I were the prosecutor and a tool of these guys, I would consider dropping the case and living through the short lived criticism rather than letting this get aired out in court. The press will drop the ball on the story eventually, and the public doesn’t give a crap. In the alternative, some non-judicial punishment could be administered to lessen the impact of the criticism while quieting the whole thing down.

    It would be better for the Army, however, to get this out in the open and get rid of the torturing SOBs at every level.

  36. What Vache Folle said, based on the assumptions that this DOES go higher and that the “prosecutor is a tool” of the higher ups.

    Of course, I find it kind of tough to believe that this is a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top, even though I’m a fan of the X-Files.

    Much like the evidence in the My Lai case indicated, this is probably another example of someone doing something they weren’t sanctioned to do.

    Of course, given my opinion on the subject, it probably wouldn’t bother me much if they’d actually BEEN tortured. (Not a legal combatant? Not a citizen of the US? Probably means you’re SOL in expecting not to get roughed up by your captors.)

    From the photos I’ve seen – and obviously it smells BAD that all the photos aren’t out there to be seen yet – but it really doesn’t look that bad to me.

    But then, I’m not the guy standing on a box with a hood over my head holding unattached wires… But then I’m also not an illegal combatant and I AM a US citizen.

  37. It might not go all the way to the top, but I find it hard to believe that none of the officers had any idea what was going on.

    Come to think of it, if the officers really didn’t have any idea what was going on that might actually be worse. I mean, what are we paying them for?

  38. BTW, what the heck is the origin of the headline?

  39. Mr. Cavanaugh said, “I suspect more guilty people are convicted and more innocent people cleared under the UCMJ than in the civilian court system.” I believe he’s half right; lots of the guilty suffer under the UCMJ (though many reap penalties far out of line with the actual offense), but so do plenty of the innocent.

    I’m not former JAG, but I’m former Army, and as a one-time PAC (Personnel Actions Clerk) I’ve seen my share of UCMJ processes and actions (was even on the wrong side of one, but that’s another story). For those who’ve never seen it, the UCMJ is dissimilar to what we consider civilian justice, and seems terribly slanted toward higher-ups, and against underlings.

    If you want my prediction, Lynndie’ll claim that higher-ups said to do it, they’ll deny it, and she’ll go down hard while they walk, with, if anything, minor hand-slapping. This outcome will be the same regardless of whether higher-ups were actually behind it or not – my experience indicates that the higher ranks generally win unless there’s someone above *them* who wants them to suffer.

    I’m not saying this is Holy Writ or anything; this is just my own experience talking. Your mileage may, of course, vary.

    (As an aside to anyone considering joining up: I recommend against it. It’s not what you see in Band of Brothers or JAG; instead, imagine working for pennies doing pointless tasks at the Department of Motor Vehicles, except you also have to live there, they make you do push-ups all the time, and you might get shot.)

  40. BTW, what the heck is the origin of the headline?

    It’s a line from a Clash song.

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