slaying the Mailer Dæmon: adventures in bouncebacked e-mail
4 May 2005
COL James L. Pohl, USA
Fort Hood TX
Dear Col. Pohl:
Thank you for rejecting the guilty plea of PFC Lynndie England.
I was a soldier for two years during the Vietnam War. I did not leave with a positive impression of the Army justice system's protection of the rights of accused soldiers.
I have no special knowledge of this matter. But from my own experience as a soldier, I find it extraordinarily difficult to believe that these activities could have been exclusively the doings of low-level enlisted personnel. Either these systemic abuses accurately reflected the wishes of superior officers, or commanders had abandoned their responsibilities to a degree which, in my understanding of command, was clearly criminal.
How US Army soldiers treated prisoners at Abu Ghraib disgusts me. All those responsible have smeared excrement on the uniform I and all the American soldiers before me wore. Once American soldiers liberated concentration camps, and our uniform was a symbol around the world for safety, rescue and humane treatment. As Nazi Germany collapsed sixty years ago, terrified German civilians raced toward the American lines, and their instinct was correct -- a testament not only to the American soldier's character, but to his commanders and chain of command.
But railroading a few low-rank enlisted soldiers -- including one with legitimate questions of intellectual competence -- will not restore the Army's honor.
The trial over which you preside is a chance for Army justice to strive not for a whitewash, scapegoating and damage control, but for the truth and accountability.
Protecting PFC England's rights as an accused soldier is an important and courageous first step, and again, I thank you for insisting on it.
US Army 1969 - 1971