May 3, 2005

Lynndie Comes up Short


Was Lynndie England framed?

Going by the unusual front page photo in today’s NYT, the impression is that she was. 

This shot practically encourages a bit of visual speculation.  Whereas the typical attorney/defendant photo shows the accused flanked by her defenders (example 1, 2), this image has England boxed in by them, as if facing “uniform” opposition.  Also, whereas the usual image of the culprit with her attorneys humanizes the lawyers, this picture almost feelingly conveys the fact that Ms. England — viewed as if through the crack in a wall — is actually the one being retained.   

The anonymity of England’s defenders also can’t help but convey a sense that the true perpetrators — the senior civilian and military officials that encouraged the abuse culture at Abu Ghraib — are behind this legal box she’s in.  But you can also read this orientation from another angle.  If the higher ups are behind England’s lawyers, aren’t we — as viewers — behind them as well?  Does that make the public complicit in her guilt?  Perhaps.  Maybe though, it also implies the government has turned it’s back on us as we try and understand who really deserves the blame.

Finally, it’s interesting that Ms. England is being led down the path by three fellow women (from back left to right, attorneys Kathleen Johnson, Kristine Didonato and Lori Hernandez). Was the assignment of the female lawyers (and their obvious arrangement in the courthouse photos — compared to inside the court, when England was typically flanked by male defense attorneys) hoping to suggest that — in today’s military –women can also be “The Man?”  Or, was it intended to deflect the fact it was a woman taking the fall?

(Note:  This post revised 3/3/05 3:36 PST.  Sorry, but the previous version didn’t even make sense to me.)

(image: Paul Buck/European Pressphoto Agency – May 3, 2005 in The New York Times, p. A1)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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