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Lynch `N England: Figuring Females as the U.S. at War

Anna Froula

University of Kentucky

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Abstract

This essay examines politicized depictions of Pfc. Jessica Lynch and Pvt. Lynndie England in U.S. news outlets. I analyze dominant narratives about Lynch, arguing that the Pentagon framed her capture and “rescue” as a traditional U.S. captivity narrative, which is a racialized, sexist assertion of national identity. Second, I explain how Lynch’s story was used as political, economic, and emotional capital to market the invasion of Iraq to the U.S. Finally, I argue that the inversion of the captivity narrative’s conventional logic that occurs in England’s story reveals the sexual violence wrought by “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

Keywords

Lynch, England, women and war, torture, Iraq

Introduction

Pfc. Jessica Lynch and Pvt. Lynndie England became media spectacles in 2003 and 2004 respectively. Each personified seemingly distinct phases of “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” But the initial deployment of their stories revealed cultural and political anxieties suppressed in the official narrative of the U.S.’s “conquest” of Iraq. In this essay I argue that the versions of these women’s stories that circulated most widely in the U.S. reflect popular assumptions that the country’s role in the world is “significant, precious, and exemplary” (Eliade, 1963, p. 19). The original Lynch story validated the official rationale for invading Iraq and in so doing formed a narrative that, as Tracy asserts, “distill[ed] and depoliticize[d] the unresolved questions and issues” about preemptive war (2005, p. 94). Featuring brave U.S. troops rescuing Lynch from her barbaric Iraqi captives, this sensationalized story retroactively explained why the U.S. had invaded Iraq.1 But a year later the picture of Lynndie England gazing at a naked, leashed Iraqi in Abu Ghraib Prison sparked discourse about how the U.S. fights.

Specifically I argue that the media celebration of Lynch’s “rescue” borrowed generic conventions from early U.S. captivity narratives that historically have operated to coalesce a sense of national moral supremacy in U.S. dominant culture. This sensibility rests in part on the sexism and racism that operate in the captivity narrative and these oppressions play a large role in rendering Lynch’s story a justification of the Iraq War. A year after Lynch’s capture and rescue made her a popular icon in the U.S. media, England, as a captor, emerged as a villain in a different chapter of the war and the conventions of the captivity narrative are inverted to form a tale of imperial conquest and torture rather than national moral principles. Whereas Lynch’s story initially endorsed the myth of an innocent, victimized U.S., England’s narrative revealed the violence that this myth suppresses.

The corporate-owned media played a pivotal role in shaping and deploying the women’s narratives in service of the hegemonic political and economic forces in the U.S. As Hardt argues,

“The media have become part of the corporate domain of American society which converts economic domination into political power. Thus, the media shape consciousness and help reinforce the dominant corporate ideology, which becomes the reigning political ideology” (2004, p. 48).
2 U.S. journalists’ initial reports about Lynch repeated an inaccurate Pentagon-generated account of Lynch’s experience that was designed to promote patriotic sentiment. Later the U.S. media sensationalized England’s story and castigated her lower class, provincial culture in order to distance her perversity from the U.S. mission in Iraq. Such coverage ossified inaccurate or incomplete reports about Lynch and England that became what Landsberg (2004) calls a “prosthetic memory.”

A prosthetic memory is a form of cultural amnesia. The memory, based on flawed or false information, becomes so durable in the audience’s mind that it resists correction. A prosthetic memory, Landsberg explains, is produced technologically and “challenge[s] more traditional forms of memory that are premised on claims of authenticity” (2004, p. 3). For example, the media’s after-the-fact corrections to and apologies for the Lynch coverage, which did not garner the same “24/7” attention as her rescue, failed to override or revise the audience’s first, inaccurate impressions of Lynch’s “liberation.”3 Hence, in the U.S. Lynch came to symbolize the country’s innocent face and its exemplarity even though the facts of her experience do not support Lynch’s image as a hero. Prosthetic memory is produced again the next year when the corporate-owned media cover England, rendering her, in contrast to Lynch, the “Ugly Un-American.”

Manufacturing the Face of the U.S. at War

On March 23, 2003 Lynch’s army unit, the 507th Maintenance Company, lost contact with her convoy and inadvertently drove into Nasiriya. A firefight ensued, resulting in the deaths of eleven U.S. soldiers, the wounding of nine, and the capture of seven, including Lynch (Hersh, 2004). Lynch’s captors brought her to Iraqi medical personnel, who donated blood for her transfusions and saved her life. Three days after her capture Lynch was recuperating in Nasiriya General Hospital. However, the Pentagon’s official version of this episode depicted Lynch’s captors as barbaric, abusive Iraqis and emphasized that it was Lynch’s heroism, bravery, and patriotism that sustained her. Reports in The Guardian (2003) show that the Pentagon also cast the troops who extricated Lynch from Nasiriya as exemplary warriors:

The Pentagon claimed that Lynch had stab and bullet wounds, and that she had been slapped about on her hospital bed and interrogated. . . . Just after midnight, Army Rangers and Navy Seals stormed the Nasiriya hospital. Their "daring" assault on enemy territory was captured by the military's night-vision camera. They were said to have come under fire, but they made it to Lynch and whisked her away by helicopter [swathed in a U.S. flag].

Gen. Vincent Brooks praised these troops effusively. He characterized the “rescue” as “a classic joint operation, done by some of our nation’s finest warriors who are dedicated to never leaving a comrade behind” (cited in Bleifuss, 2003).

But according to the BBC Iraqi forces had abandoned the hospital before Lynch’s extraction and Dr. Harith al-Houssonna, the physician who was on duty when Iraqi soldiers first brought Lynch to Nasiriyah General Hospital, had alerted the U.S. command to her presence and attempted to return Lynch to U.S. troops, an effort that ended when U.S. soldiers fired on the ambulance transporting her (2003). Furthermore, Dr. Anmar Uday, who was present during the “siege” of Nasiriyah General, told the BBC that when U.S. soldiers entered the hospital it was “[l]ike a film of Hollywood, they cry, ‘Go, go, go,’ with guns and blanks . . . the sound of explosions. They make a show for the American attack on the hospital–[like] action movies [starring] Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan” (Bleifuss, 2003; Kampfner, 2003).

Despite the fact that the BBC’s report was more accurate, the Pentagon’s version of Lynch’s capture and “rescue” dominated U.S. coverage. Significantly, it employs a strategy of using POWs to redeem the war that the Pentagon had developed in Vietnam. Accordingly the corporate-owned media emphasized Lynch’s innocence by depicting the blue-eyed blonde as an inspiring damsel-in-distress. This characterization of Lynch was reinforced by coverage of her recuperation when, for example, People and Newsweek ran cover stories that featured Lynch smiling bravely from her hospital bed. These depictions of Lynch’s courageous suffering retroactively legitimized the invasion of Iraq, which, because President Bush cynically misrepresented it as an essential step in the so-called war on terrorism, had divided U.S. popular opinion to a nearly unprecedented degree. Furthermore, these carefully staged images of a courageous, dignified Lynch surviving adversity and abuse embodied the U.S. dominant culture’s view of itself during wartime, which is that the country has a moral imperative to civilize the rest of the world.

The fact that U.S. citizens participated in Lynch’s extraction virtually by viewing U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM)-edited video coverage of this event lent a strong sense of authenticity to the official version of her “rescue.” Indeed, the CENTCOM video was so persuasive that many U.S. audience members sent gifts and money to help rebuild Lynch’s family home to fit her rehabilitation needs. The state of West Virginia even provided Lynch and her two siblings full scholarships for their college or university education. U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller announced, “We take care of our people,” as if every soldier from the state could claim the same celebrity treatment and complimentary college funds (Klein, 2003). In short the patriotic version of Lynch’s experience became the U.S. public’s vision of the war.

Although the Pentagon’s misrepresentations of Lynch’s experience eventually were revealed by the U.S. media, a prosthetic memory already had been cultivated in the audience. As a result, Lynch’s “rescue” by U.S. Special Forces and her subsequent celebrity overshadowed the 1) plight of Iraqis and 2) increasing evidence of an inauthentic causus belli.

The Captivity Narrative Unraveled

Over a century ago Frederick Jackson Turner (1893) observed that the captivity narrative is crucial to the production of the dominant U.S. culture. Its primary topos is the confrontation between “savage” Native Americans, and white non-Natives, who are depicted as enlightened and morally superior. In early U.S. literature, for example, captivity narratives textualized the Puritan mission to become the shining “city on the hill,” a beacon of God’s goodness in a wilderness of corruption. Furthermore, the genre’s metaphorical contest between good, embodied in white, European, and often female captives, and evil, manifest as savage Native American captors, was used by ministers such as Cotton Mather to warn colonists about the temptations of “Indian” life. The captivity narrative also reinforces patriarchal gender roles. White male colonizers are depicted as selfless heroes battling evil for on behalf of civilization while white women display their femininity by performing vulnerability.

The rhetorical effectiveness of these myths of white superiority and Native barbarity depends on suppressing disquieting anomalies such as evidence of white brutality and feminine militancy. Indeed, despite their patriarchalism, captivity narratives are replete with performances of extreme violence and savagery by white women. For example, one seventeenth-century female captive, Hannah Dustan, steals hatchets from her Abenaki captors and kills four adults and six children in order to escape (Slotkin, 1973). Later she trades their scalps for bounty (McAlister, 2003). Significantly, Mather recounts this episode in a manner that celebrates Dustan’s brutality, suggesting that it is inspired by divinely endowed, righteous motherly love. Dunstan, Mather says, was moved to maternal rage because her kidnappers had bashed her newborn’s head against a tree before they carried Dunstan away. Such manipulation of the narrative suppresses its anomalous representation of female violence and realigns it with white, Eurocentric cultural values.

Putting Lynch in the Captivity Narrative

The Pentagon’s initial story about Lynch exhibits many of the elements of the traditional U.S. captivity narrative. It associates barbarism with dark skinned characters—Iraqi captors—and pits them against Lynch, a white, female U.S. soldier who represents goodness and civilization. It also cultivates patriotic sentiment and in so doing reinforces the dominant U.S. society’s view of itself as a redeemer and liberator of inferior others.

Lynch, in her role as captive, is an analogue for the U.S. Terrorized by Iraqis, she figures the U.S., which purportedly had been terrorized by a non-existent anti-U.S. alliance between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. As Kumar argues, “Lynch represents the nation” and simultaneously “highlights all that is ‘good’ about American society” (2004, p. 302).

But just as Dunstan’s brutality is anomalous to the captivity narrative’s valorizing of whiteness and European culture, the Pentagon’s representations of Lynch as a damsel-in-distress is contradicted by its simultaneous depiction of her as a female Rambo: “Official and unofficial Pentagon statements say Private Jessica Lynch fought until the last bullet after her 507th Maintenance Company drove into an ambush in the Iraqi town of Nasiriyah on March 23” (Sun-Herald, 2004).

This, of course, was not accurate, but the Pentagon long refused to correct its misrepresentation of Rambo Lynch; hence, government and media mythmakers were challenged to reconcile this image of Lynch with patriarchal ideals of womanhood. One strategy they used was to soften Rambo Lynch in numerous depictions of her vulnerability, as noted previously in this paper. Another maneuver was the Pentagon’s staging of the Hollywood-like rescue described by Uday. This sleight-of-hand theatricality suggests that female violence embodied in the subversive image of the woman warrior, when employed in self-defense against “savages,” doesn’t threaten patriarchal institutions when an authoritative male rescues the woman and restores traditional distinctions between women and men.

This pattern of suppressing anomalies parallels Mather’s sanitization of Dunstan’s savagery toward Native Americans and it is amplified in Rick Bragg’s biography of Lynch, I Am a Soldier, Too, which was released on Veterans’ Day in 2003, months after media critics had debunked the Pentagon story. In this book Bragg depicts Lynch as the metaphorical successor of the U.S. frontiersman and associates her with the imperialist ideology of Manifest Destiny, which is the notion that the U.S. has an obligation to expand in order to spread its form of democracy and freedom. The term “Manifest Destiny” was coined in the nineteenth century when this doctrine was invoked to justify the U.S.’s westward expansion and, of course, it is grounded in the same set of beliefs articulated in captivity narratives—that white and European peoples are superior to Native Americans and that white non-Natives have a moral obligation to impose their values on others, especially uncivilized, dark skinned others.

Bragg associates Lynch with Manifest Destiny by relying heavily on her Appalachian roots. For example, Bragg records that Elizabeth, West Virginia, which claims to be Lynch’s hometown, was named for a pioneer woman and that the town is the site that one early colonizer, Christopher Gist, would have “settled” if he had not been stopped by the French and Indian War (2003, p. 17). Here Bragg links Lynch to the white, European heroes of the Manifest Destiny movement and heightens the “rhetoric of nationalism”4 already present in the Pentagon version of her extraction from Nasiriyah. This in turn reinforces the audience’s prosthetic memory of Iraqis as uncivilized and barbaric.

Selling Public Lynch

Lynch’s captivity narrative benefited multiple U.S. institutions. The Pentagon got a winning story capable of consolidating public support for the war. The Lynch story also profited U.S.stockholders, the economy at large, and the corporate-owned media, whose revenues were at stake in their Iraq War coverage. In effect Lynch’s alleged heroism echoed through U.S. financial culture and reduced uncertainty about the war. For instance, the day after U.S. Special Forces returned Lynch to authorities three major stock indices (the Dow Jones, S&P 500, and NASDAQ) soared and crude oil prices declined (Deneer, 2003). Commenting on U.S. forces’ proximity to Baghdad at that point, a fund manager cheered, “We had a great day in the war, and the market celebrated” (Deneer, 2003). Al Goldman of A.G. Edwards & Sons noted that Lynch’s return “sent a piercing psychological message that the United States controls this affair” (Deneer, 2003).

The mass media played a critical role in conveying this message. NBC produced a made-for-TV movie, Saving Private Lynch (2003). ABC and NBC vied for the first live interviews with Lynch while CBS Entertainment reportedly enticed Lynch with an offer to co-host an MTV special. For a while Viacom subsidiaries CBS and Simon & Schuster seemed to have won big in the battle to tell her story (Sussman, 2003, p. 22) although CBS later backed out of the television movie it had proposed and Random House’s Vintage Books division published Bragg’s biography of Lynch.

The transformation of Lynch’s narrative into a consumable, politicized spectacle exemplifies a new genre—“militainment”—which merges war coverage, patriotic visuals, and impressive “product-marketing campaign[s]” (Anderson, 2003) to produce for-profit propaganda. Lynch’s story and other Iraq War reporting were co-opted and transformed into militainment in part because, as Hardt contends, freedom of the press and expression fails “in a society of captive audiences, where mass communication turns into an ideologically predetermined performance for the purpose of commercial gain rather than public enlightenment” (2005, p. 51).

Significantly, militainment has dominated the U.S. media largely because Bush administration information-dissemination practices have blurred the lines between government and media. For example, Bush’s $254 million public relations budget funded pundits, such as Karen Ryan and Armstrong Williams, and “prepackaged TV news” broadcast on U.S. stations “without any acknowledgement of the government’s role in their production.” All this testifies to a high level of complicity between corporate-owned journalism and government misinformation projects (Barstow & Stein, 2005). Such synthesis of Bush administration public relations and national news indicates an encompassing strategy of controlling the narrative of the U.S. at war so that “certain patriotic truths can also be firmly established for the majority by constant repetition” (qtd. in Tracy, 2005, p. 90). Indeed, Lynch’s story testifies that militainment is a highly effective form of propaganda: the most accurate version of her capture and escape, which was circulated after the Pentagon’s fabricated captivity narrative had ossified in the public imagination, was not sufficiently persuasive to overwrite the audience’s prosthetic memory of Lynch’s heroism. That’s why, Kumar explains, “When military officials provide information to journalists that they later correct, it is not the product of an innocent mistake but rather part of a conscious strategy of misinformation” (2004, p. 305).

The Sexual Economy of War

The “patriotic truths” about the Iraq War that this strategy of misinformation circulated were challenged when photos of U.S. prison guards torturing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib exploded on the Internet a year after Lynch’s extraction. Indeed, the photographs featuring England, which show her simulating the type of violence that Pentagon sources claim Lynch experienced at the hands of Iraqi guards, invert the terms of the Lynch captivity narrative and counter its assertions of U.S. innocence and moral superiority.

Hayder Sabbar Abd, the prisoner whose genitals England points to with her right forefinger while flashing a “thumbs up” with her left hand, told the New York Times that his interrogators had “ordered him to masturbate while looking at Private England” or he would be beaten (Fisher, 2004). In this interaction England is both an agent of torture and an object of Abd’smasturbatory nightmare.
6 Hence, England occupies a space that is coded both hypermasculine and feminine: this space is rendered hypermasculine by England’s emasculation of male prisoners; it is inflected feminine by England’s perverse parody of a pornographic centerfold pose. England, by occupying the feminine position, possesses the phallus; at the same time she is the phallus as she performs hypermasculinity.

The “thumbs up” and other Abu Ghraib photos of England invalidate representations of the U.S. that were perpetuated by Pentagon-generated depictions of Lynch as a POW, depictions that celebrated and confirmed “the idea of American innocence, the notion that the U.S. government’s exercise of national power abroad is free from greed or desire to dominate others, benign at its worst and generously constructive at its best” (Lawrence, 2005, p. 38). In fact, the Abu Ghraib photos expose the sado-masochist ideology of conquest and occupation and “the fantasy of savage violence [that] defines the imperial imagination” (Rogin, 1990, p. 107).

Later, when England was formally charged her family announced that she was four months pregnant, various online pundits accused her of exploiting the social currency of maternity to manipulate the military justice system and public opinion. England’s lawyers announced that her sexual partner and alleged co-conspirator at Abu Ghraib, Specialist Charles Graner, Jr., was the baby’s father. Nevertheless, the subtexts of the sadistic, pornographic photographs of England sexually abusing Iraqi prisoners—especially her impish gazing at their genitals—imply that one of them could have fathered her son.

This is significant because it projects an inverted representation of female sexuality that the public saw in Pentagon-fashioned images of Lynch. Whereas the suggestion that Lynch was abused by Iraqis rendered her a symbol of the U.S.’s victimization and implied that its way of life, vitality and future are threatened in Iraq, images of England’s pregnant body grant woman a dangerous agency. England and, by association, other female troops is sexually unruly, beyond patriarchal control, and a (potentially) willful source of enemy combatants. The photos and images of England’s pregnant body also undermine the racist ideology encased in historical captivity narratives that suggest rape is the only circumstance in which white, European women will have sexual contact/intercourse with dark skinned men. As Shohat, invoking “the sexual politics of colonialist discourse,” explains, the dominant paradigm, “the sexual interaction of Black/Arab men and White women can only involve rape” (2000, p. 682). In as much as this belief saturates U.S. cultural production it predisposes us to envision a lascivious dark man overpowering a protesting, terrified white woman rather than accept the disconcerting reality of a smirking white woman leering over frightened, Iraqi male prisoners.

Not surprisingly, the U.S. government, the media and the public disavowed England. Whereas the Pentagon had embraced Lynch as the embodiment of the U.S.’s superior virtue, Bush administrators, claiming they were unaware of torture policies that had been authorized in 2002, distanced the White House from England and other Abu Ghraib guards.8 On May 5, 2004 President Bush declared, “What took place in that prison does not represent [the] America that I know. The America I know is a compassionate country that believes in freedom. . . . The actions of these few people do not reflect the hearts of the American people.”

The U.S. media and its audiences also represented England as “Un-American.” In particular, they placed emphasis on England’s class and regional affiliations, which, although almost identical to Lynch’s, were characterized as deviating from the values—enlightenment and moral superiority—that the captivity narrative attributes to the dominant U.S. culture. For instance, the media initially sensationalized the story and focused excessively on England’s appearance and small town, working-class origins in West Virginia. Whereas Lynch’s West Virginia roots were marketed as the source of her traditional values and resilience, the very same elements in England’s background were stereotyped as crude, ignorant, and “redneck.” Lynch’s self-proclaimed moniker, “just a country girl,” associated her with old-fashioned U.S. values and feminine grit, yet England’s provincialism caused media outlets to label her the “trailer park girl” in order to demean her lower class, rural origins (Mirror, 2003). Likewise Internet sites, whose accessibility render them gauges of public sentiment, ranted against the “white trash” “ugly hillbilly” and displayed images of the England’s family trailer as evidence of her debasement (Harwood, 2004).

This scapegoat strategy has been wildly successful. Despite criticism from both the mainstream U.S. press and the international media, many of the high-level administrators involved in Abu Ghraib violations have received promotions while Staff Specialist is the highest rank held by the military police convicted for Abu Ghraib crimes.9 Furthermore, the Pentagon has “refused to cooperate with a federal judge’s order to release dozens of unseen photographs and videos from Abu Ghraib” that depict “rape and murder” (Mitchell, 2005). Most importantly, media representations of England successfully divorced the U.S. public from her crimes by depicting England as a “trailer trash” sideshow anomaly rather than a “real American.” England became the face of the “Ugly Un-American” in Iraq, which enabled the U.S. public to absolve itself of responsibility for the carnage and abuse that continue to occur in Iraq as the result of the U.S. invasion.

Conclusion

Both Lynch and England hail from rural Appalachia and garnered international publicity as female troops serving in Iraq. These women are not so much opposites as incarnations of the bifurcated nature of the Iraq War that the U.S., a nation divided over its role there, cannot easily reconcile. On one hand, Lynch embodies views that the U.S. needs to be protected from dark skinned, uncivilized Iraqis who, according to President Bush, threaten the U.S. way of life, vitality and future. And, although we have in effect lynched England in the popular imagination, we cannot escape the irony that she personifies the very sort of rogue nation that President Bush claimed the U.S. had to invade in order to ensure “homeland security.”

[1] The photo captures a frightened Lynch on a stretcher nestled in an U.S. flags that the Special Forces brought to the mission. A Capitol Hill source “privy to intelligence briefings about [Jessica Lynch’s] condition” alleged her captors’ “barbaric” nature (Patrick Rogers et al. 2003, p. 56). In the April 6 New York Times, U.S. Studies professor Melani McAlister (2003) first noted the historical relationship of the Lynch story to “the classic American war fantasy” of the captivity narrative.

[2] Six media conglomerates own the majority of the U.S. media outlets of print, television news, and periodicals; thus, they control ninety percent of the means by which U.S. residents receive their news. Disney owns ABC, Disney Channel, ESPN, 10 TV and 72 radio stations; ViaCom owns CBS, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, Simon & Schuster and 183 U.S. radio stations; Time Warner owns AOL, CNN, Warner Bros., Time and over 130 magazines; Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. owns FOX, HarperCollins, New York Post, Weekly Standard, TV Guide, DirecTV and 35 TV stations; General Electric owns NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, Telemundo, Bravo, Universal Pictures and 28 TV stations; Bertelsmann owns Random House and its international imprints, and Gruner + Jahr and its 110 magazines in various countries (Goodman & Goodman, 2005). Many early accounts questioned the official story, though the U.S. mainstream media spent several weeks developing the Pentagon’s version for an audience largely willing to believe. McAlister (2005) cites one media study from September 2002 to February 2003 that reveals only 34 of 414 news stories by ABC, NBC, and CBS leading to the Iraq invasion were not “issued from the White House, the Pentagon, or the State Department” (295). She notes another study by the Pew Research Center that in July 2003 “found that 70% of respondents thought that news outlets should be strongly pro-American” (296).

[3] Landsberg explains that prosthetic memories can supplant actual memories. Furthermore, she writes, “Mass culture makes particular memories more widely available, so that people who have no ‘natural’ claim to them might nevertheless incorporate them into their own archive of experience” (2004, p. 9). In addition to the myriad of international and alternative news sources that debunked the Pentagon’s version of Lynch’s rescue, Michael Getler, omsbud for the Washington Post, apologized for how his paper handled the story. His editorial apology appeared on p. B6. See Anderson (2003), Bleifuss (2003), Hanson (2003), Kampfner 2003, Klein 2003, Pilger (2003), Stauber (2003), and Sussman (2003) for a sample of earlier criticisms.

[4] Kumar (2004) draws from Anna Makolkin’s (1992) work on biography and the “rhetoric of nationalism” (p. 203). In particular, Kumar’s study extensively analyzes how the media construction of Lynch exemplifies how women “are strategically used to win support for war” (2004, p. 297).

[5] U.S. authorities brought Mohammed Odeh Al-Rehaief, an Iraqi lawyer, and his family to the U.S. and accorded them political asylum after he allegedly assisted them in locating Lynch. His book, Because Every Life is Precious: Why an Iraqi Man Risked Everything for Private Jessica Lynch details the official story of how he reported her whereabouts and the alleged slap, which Lynch denies, to the military. The Livingston Group, a defense industry lobbying firm run by former Republican Rep. Bob Livingston, provided him with a job while Rupert Murdoch’s HarperCollins publishing company awarded him a $500,000 contract for his story, later optioned into NBC’s Saving Jessica Lynch. Al-Rehaief’s Livingston Group colleague Laurie Fitz-Pegado who “ . . . is infamous for her work at Hill & Knowlton PR in 1990 coaching the Kuwaiti girl called ‘Nayirah’ in her shocking but phony testimony on Congressional Hill that she'd seen Iraqi soldiers murdering Kuwaiti babies,” marketed his story (Stauber 2003).

[6] Of course, we now know that England’s mental faculties made her unusually prone to following inappropriate orders, for she had been deprived of oxygen at birth resulting in “severe learning problems and social-developmental problems” that likely made distinguishing right from wrong difficult (Ifll & Shapiro 2005).

[7] On January 16, 2005, Graner was found guilty of charges ranging from detainee abuse to adultery. He was sentenced to ten years in federal prison. He subsequently has married Megan Ambuhl, who pled guilty to two misdemeanor charges for her behavior as an MP at Abu Ghraib.

[8] The January 2005 confirmation hearings for Alberto Gonzales, Jr. for U.S. Attorney General resuscitated coverage of the memos that authorized the interrogation policies at Guantánamo Bay that “migrated” to Abu Ghraib with General Geoffery D. Miller (see Danner 2005; Hersh 2004, pp. 32-67). Gonzales had urged President Bush in 2002 to opt out of Geneva Convention restrictions when interrogating prisoners of the Global War on Terror (See Danner 2005, Hersh 2005). As of July 2005 no top-level administrator has been held accountable for the revelations of torture at Guantánamo Bay or Abu Ghraib.

[9] Lynndie England’s defense team’s witness roster listed “high ranking officials such as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Defense Undersecretary for Intelligence Stephen Cambone; Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, and other high-ranking Army officers; White House General Counsel Alberto Gonzales and Justice Department officials” (Cindi Lash & Michael A. Fuoco, 2004). None were required to attend England’s trial. Of the higher-level administrators involved in the Abu Ghraib scandal, Army Maj. Gen. Geoffery Miller was promoted to an assistant chief of staff; Maj. Gen Barbara Fast, head of Iraq military intelligence, was promoted to “commander at the Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., where U.S. and foreign troops are taught interrogation techniques;” ranking officer in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who approved many of the abusive techniques, “returned to his command in Germany of the prestigious Army V Corps;” Col. Thomas Pappas, overseer of Abu Ghraib interrogations, received “a light administrative punishment” (Turley 2005). Donald Rumsfeld remains the Secretary of Defense despite claiming accountability for the scandal; Paul Wolfowitz heads the World Bank; Stephen Cambone remains the Defense Undersecretary for Intelligence; Alberto Gonzales was confirmed as U.S. Secretary General; George W. Bush was re-elected for a second presidential term. As of July 2005 six military police have been convicted. On May 4, 2005 Col. James Pohl tossed out England’s case on grounds that she did not understand her rights. She will likely face an Article 32 hearing.

About the Author

Anna Froula is a doctoral candidate in U.S. literature and film studies at the University of Kentucky. Her essay on Jessica Lynch is forthcoming in American Icons: People, Places and Things That Have Shaped Our Culture. Froula’s dissertation examines historical patterns of popular representations of female soldiers. Her e-mail is anna@uky.edu and froula@gmail.com.

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