Here’s an irony that will compete with the best of ironies – a soldier accused of mistreating prisoners to encourage their confessions is claiming that her rights were violated because she was somehow coerced to give a confession.
Pfc. Lynndie England, one of seven soldiers facing charges in connection with the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, says military investigators pressed her to talk after she had asked for an attorney.
You’ll remember the smiling England as she appeared in one photo restraining a naked prisoner with a leash attached to a collar around his neck.
For me personally, the real irony is that the same uniform donned by those who perpetrated such unholy and profane acts can also be worn by women and men of untold valor.
This is the same uniform I am privileged to wear. And like thousands of others next weekend, I’ll be back in the uniform of the United States Air Force for service in the Air National Guard.
However, I confess that the simple task of donning my uniform has become a bit more complicated this month as I wear the same uniform as those who tortured and humiliated prisoners held in their charge.
As I ready for duty, I find myself putting on each piece with a bit more intensity and closing each button with a bit more heaviness.
Like Pfc. England, my uniform contains a number of things. First it contains my rank. The rank tells me that I am not alone. I am responsible for those who serve under me and I am responsible to those whom I serve.
I check my nametag. This is the only piece of individuality allowed on my uniform – Burkes. This is the piece that reminds me of the advice given me by my dad. “No matter where you go, no matter who you’re with, no matter what other people are doing, you are a Burkes.” The nametag tells me that I alone am responsible for my actions and that no one above my rank or below my rank can bear my personal responsibility.
My uniform has a strip identifying the branch of the military in which I serve. But no matter the branch, every strip worn by every service member begins with the same acronym – “US” – United States. This strip serves to remind us that although we are individuals, we represent every individual in the US.
Finally I check the last piece. It’s the symbol I wear which identifies the job I do. I wear the symbol of the chaplain. The symbol is not there to brag that God is the side of the USA. It is there to remind all who see it that we submit ourselves to a much higher authority that does not answer to ranks, armies or governments.
Finally, after I’ve put on each piece and buttoned each button, tied every lace, and affixed every accoutrement – I place my hat on my head and make one final check in the mirror. For if something is out of place, I know someone will let me know that I am “out of uniform.”
And being “out of uniform” isn’t simply an embarrassing faux pas; it may be taken to indicate deeper character flaws that betray a lack of pride, discipline and – above all else – service. And without those things, I am truly “out of uniform.”
Yes, this is the same uniform worn by those soldiers in the photographs, but most who’ve worn the uniform – from the sands to the jungles, from the depths of the oceans to the Alps – have done so with an example I’d gladly follow.
And to all those who’ve shamed the uniform at Abu Ghraib prison, I can only say, “You’re out of uniform.”
Source: CNN Prisoner Abuse article