Code of conduct broken. Under different circumstances, Army Pfc. Lynndie England couldn’t have asked for a better publicist than Spec. Joseph Darby. Thanks to him, photos of her flashed around the world. Thanks to Darby, the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal was uncovered. Thanks to Darby, England has been court-martialed, found guilty of prisoner abuse and sentenced to prison.
It was Darby who turned the incriminating photos over to Army investigators on Jan. 13, 2004. That was weeks after Lt. Col. Steve Jordan, the highest-ranking intelligence officer at the prison near Baghdad, had seen the pictures without taking disciplinary action.
It’s been an embarrassing episode for America, but one would like to think that it’s caused U.S. military officials to reinforce American standards of conduct. Yet even as England was being sentenced this week, Army Capt. Ian Fishback, who has complained of command failures involving prisoner treatment, said Defense officials who have interviewed him seem more interested in identifying whistle-blowers than in correcting policies.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other Pentagon officials insist that all allegations of misconduct are being taken seriously and that wrongdoers will be punished. Then new claims arise that some soldiers have swapped pictures of Iraqi war dead for free access to online pornography.
It’s going to be hard to believe significant corrections are being made until lieutenant colonels and defense secretaries start reacting to outrageous conduct with the same indignation as captains and specialists.
Overexposure. Leave it to our friends with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) to lay bare the possible abuse of circus animals just as the circus is coming to town. But in taking a crack at street theater in Spokane this week, the organization exposed its major weakness, an emphasis on show over substance.
The mostly nude protester sprawled on a city street corner became the butt of jokes by passers-by and made her colleagues look like boobs. We can’t expect circus folk to make a clean breast of animal rights violations.
PETA has a right to challenge any big-top cover up. But putting on a downtown strip show is no way to get at the truth, naked or otherwise.
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