“Make up your own mind about what happened at Abu Ghraib” says Roanoke Valley author Gary S. Winkler, who has just released a book about Lynddie England, the young Army soldier caught up in the Iraqi prison scandal. Winkler, a Brooklyn born writer now living in Fincastle, spent part of his childhood in West Virginia, about ten miles from where England’s family grew up.
“Tortured: Lynddie England, Abu Ghraib and the Photographs that Shocked the World” (Bad Apple Books) is the only authorized biography of England, who later had second thoughts after Winkler spent months coaxing a story out of her. The author feels England, then just 20, was “too immature” when she was thrust into the middle of an incident at the now-infamous Iraqi prison, where inmates were photographed in lurid poses and may have been subject to other harsh treatment.
Winkler first met England in a parking lot, with her lawyer present, to discuss a possible book. “It took me three months of working with her one-on-one to get her to open up about her experience. She has been conditioned to protect herself.” Winkler said the guarded England had a tendency to repeat things “without any emotion.” He also portrays the ex-soldier with some depth, outlining the dreams and aspirations she had as a child, even including some of England’s poetry. “Lynddie’s not a monster…she’s misguided and made stupid mistakes.”
Winkler said the alleged abuse was well known at Abu Ghraib and may have only seen the light of day because of personality conflicts. England, who was then married, also had a child with a superior officer while in the Army and had other disciplinary problems, according to Winkler. She spent time in prison and was dishonorably discharged. He has seen more interest to date from the European press than from American news outlets for her story.
Not everyone is happy that her version of events is coming out. An invitation for England to attend a Library of Congress event in Washington recently was rescinded, said Winkler, when authorities said they could not guarantee her safety.
The project was not an easy one for the veteran writer, who went through “trunks full” of material in preparation. “I had to hammer her for eight months … to get the emotion and depth I needed for this book. I wanted to present her in a more human context.” Winkler wants readers to “make up their own mind about her guilt or innocence.”By Gene Marrano [email protected]