Abu Ghraib guard Lynndie England says of Iraqi prisoners she was convicted of abusing: ‘They got the better end of the deal’

Laura Rozen
The Envoy

Lynndie England, the 29-year-old former U.S. Army Reserve prison guard who was convicted of abusing detainees in the 2004 Abu Ghraib scandal, said in an interview Monday that she doesn't feel sorry for the Iraqi prisoners she was accused of abusing. But England, who served almost two years in a military prison, said she has lost sleep over whether the uproar concerning the released Abu Ghraib abuse photos cost the lives of fellow American troops.

"I think about it all the time—indirect deaths that were my fault," England told the Daily's M.L. Nestel in an interview Monday from her hometown of Fort Ashby, W.Va. "Losing people on our side because of me coming out on a picture."

England makes no apologies, however, to the Iraqis she and 10 other U.S. soldiers were accused of abusing at the prison.

Photographs of England smiling with a "thumbs up" gesture in front of a pyramid of naked Iraqi detainees and pulling an Iraqi man by a leash caused international outrage and came to symbolize the ill-fated 2003 U.S. invasion as Iraq plunged into bloody insurgency in 2004. "They weren't innocent," England told Nestel of the Iraqi prisoners. "They're trying to kill us, and you want me to apologize to them? It's like saying sorry to the enemy."

"They got the better end of the deal," she said.

Three years ago, in an interview with the Guardian, England stressed how well she related to the Iraqis when she was first overseas. "We'd go to the ice-cream shop, we'd hang out there with the locals, learn about their customs, and they were interested in ours," she said to Emma Brockes of the Guardian. "A lot of the stuff was really cool."

At Abu Gharaib, she wasn't supposed to be hanging around the cell blocks, given the administrative nature of her job, but once she started palling around with Charles Graner, the accused Abu Ghraib ringleader, she did just that. "When we first got there, we were like, what's going on?" she said, according to the Guardian. "Then you see staff sergeants walking around not saying anything [about the abuse]. You think, OK, obviously it's normal."

Convicted in 2005 of "conspiracy, maltreating detainees and committing an indecent act," England served 521 days in a military prison, the Daily reported.  She was dishonorably discharged from the military last year.

Now 29, England is "virtually unemployable" and living in her parents' rural West Virginia home, where she is raising her 7-year-old son on her own, the Daily report said. The child's father, Graner, "didn't want anything to do with the baby," England told Nestel, despite, she said, a 2009 paternity test proving the child is his.

Noting that her applications to McDonald's and Burger King have been rejected, England surmised: "It's the felony they can't get past."

She also, unsurprisingly, is finding it hard to date, telling Nestel: "It's gone on eight years now since I left Iraq, since I've really been out with a guy."

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