Bush Administration Gives Free Pass To Rapists In Iraq

The Nation has a detailed article. A woman working for KBR, a private contractor the US hires to operate in Iraq, claims to have been drugged and gang raped by her co-workers, possibly including her boss. The rape was then covered up.

This part enraged me (well, lots of it did, but this part too):

[Rape victims face] two major roadblocks in the fight for justice. The first is the battle to have the perpetrators prosecuted in criminal court — which, because of Order 17, may be nearly impossible. According to the order, imposed by Paul Bremer, U.S. defense contractors in Iraq cannot be prosecuted in the Iraqi criminal justice system. While they can technically be tried in U.S. federal court, the Justice Department has shown no interest in prosecuting her case. In fact, for more than two years now, the DOJ has brought no criminal charges in the matter. Rep. Ted Poe, a Texas Republican who has taken up Jones’ cause, reports that federal agencies refuse to discuss the status of the investigation; meanwhile, in December, the DOJ refused to send a representative to the related congressional hearing on the matter.

Even more appalling, the Justice Department, which can and should prosecute most of these cases, has declined to do so. “There is no rational explanation for this,” says Scott Horton, a lecturer at Columbia Law School who specializes in the law of armed conflict. Prosecutorial jurisdiction for crimes like Jones’ alleged rape is easily established under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act and the Patriot Act’s special maritime and territorial jurisdiction provisions. But somebody has to want to prosecute the cases.

Horton wonders what the 200 Justice Department employees and contractors stationed in Iraq do all day, noting that there has not been a single completed criminal conviction against a U.S. contractor implicated in a violent crime anywhere in Iraq since the invasion.

[...] “You have 180,000 people over there, you’re going to have a few crimes. [...] And if you eliminate law enforcement, the crimes are going to get worse because people will quickly learn they can get away with it.”

This is an important point. Rapists exist no matter what the US government does, and that’s not the Republican Party’s fault. But it’s reasonable to expect the government to work to reduce rape and to punish rapists; instead, Republican leaders have chosen to be accessory to rape, by refusing to investigate or prosecute the crime.

Do I really think that Bush and his managers want Americans raped and the rapists to get off scott-free? No. But they consider that better than the alternative. In Bush’s eyes, for American contractors to be arrested and tried for rape would be unbearable; letting them get away with rape is, in the administration’s view, the lesser evil.

I can’t wait until these cancers in suits are out of office.

That said, even if we had a competent administration staffed by people instead of soulless monsters, there would still be too many rapes committed by Americans in Iraq. 1 There would be fewer such crimes, but they’d still happen, because the vastly uneven power relations and dehumanization brought about by war and occupation make rape of soldiers and of civilians inevitable.

This is one reason the Bush doctrine, which makes wars of choice inevitable, is evil. The cost of war is always hideous, and the rapes are just a small part of that. War should always be a last resort. It wasn’t in Iraq. The shame of it is that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens, and thousands of Americans, have paid the price for the fecklessness and warlust of US leaders. It would have been far better — both objectively and morally — if Bush, and Cheney, and McCain, and the rest of the pro-war leadership class had died instead.

  1. I’m ignoring for a moment the obvious point that if the current administration was staffed by competent, decent people, there never would have been an invasion of Iraq at all. []
This entry posted in Iraq, Rape, intimate violence, & related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

10 Responses to Bush Administration Gives Free Pass To Rapists In Iraq

  1. 1
    RonF says:

    It is a pretty standard practice to keep U.S. military personnel out of the local legal systems in foreign countries; this far predates the current administration. However, it is remarkable that this case has not been prosecuted by the Justice Department. Has this story had any play in the MSM other than in the Nation?

  2. 2
    Myca says:

    It is a pretty standard practice to keep U.S. military personnel out of the local legal systems in foreign countries; this far predates the current administration.

    Well sure, but are private contractors ‘military personnel’?

    And if so, shouldn’t they be subject to court-martial?

    —Myca

  3. 3
    RonF says:

    Hm. Good point. I missed that. Maybe they’re covered as civilian employees of the DoD, but that’s just a guess on my part. If they were military personnel they’d be covered under the UCMJ, but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t cover civilians. Sounds like someone needs to turn up the heat on the DoJ and get this dealt with.

    I wonder if they’re going to try to say that this is covered under OPSEC – a.k.a. operational security – such that disclosing details of what happened when would jeopardize the security of operations (e.g., “so we met at point ‘x’ at time ‘y’ like we always do”)? But more likely someone’s trying to cover up, or keep a headline out of the news.

    In Bush’s eyes, for American contractors to be arrested and tried for rape would be unbearable; letting them get away with rape is, in the administration’s view, the lesser evil.

    Oh, come on. Bush probably has no clue about this at all. A better guess would be that someone at a particular level in DoJ has decided that this would make bad publicity (along the lines of Abu Ghraib) and is sitting on an investigation. Or someone in DoJ owes someone in KBR a favor.

  4. 4
    bean says:

    Has this story had any play in the MSM other than in the Nation?

    It’s gotten so much press, I’m actually a little surprised to hear that people are only just know hearing about it. It’s been on CNN, CSPAN, 20/20 and ABC News more times than I can count. It’s been in Harpers, and the National Ledger, and many, many more. To see all of th press, including the press releases from US Congress urging the State Dept. and the Dept. of Justice to do something about this AND her own presentation at the Congressional Hearing on this subject, you can go to the Jamie Leigh Foundation’s press page.

    And, since Jamie Leigh started her foundation and started speaking out in the media, a number of women in similar situations have come forward and reached out for help and shared their (very similar) stories. I’ve also taken calls from a number of women who have experienced this (although our organization doesn’t really help in these situations, which is why I’m glad that Jamie Leigh’s org is out there). I’ve spoken to Jamie Leigh myself, and she is an amazingly strong and awe-inspriring woman. I’m so glad that she has found the strength, and has the support (esp. of her family and friends and her Congressman in TX who really started the ball rolling in getting her safe and getting this into the public media) to speak out for all the women who have been where she was.

  5. 5
    bean says:

    There is honestly no way that Bush can claim to not know anything about this — unless he really wants to admit to being THIS unaware of what’s going on around him. Jamie Leigh testified in front of Congress. Congress members have addressed this directly to Robert Gates and Condoleeza Rice.

    Another thing that wasn’t mentioned in this post — that makes this situation all that much more appalling — is that not only will she not be able to have her day in criminal court, but she won’t be able to do so in civil court, either. That’s because KBR is claiming that her employment contract states all “grievances” must be settled in arbitration (conditions under which KBR/Halliburton wins 80% of its cases). Since when is rape a “grievance,” that’s what I want to know.

    Oh, also, this post didn’t point out that she did have a rape kit done, one which showed extensive injuries and indicated vaginal and anal rape. That rape kit was handed over to KBR/Halliburton — who “misplaced” it. They have since found it — but now it’s no longer admissible in court (because of the problems with “chain of command.”

  6. 6
    Joe says:

    This case is horrible and a clear example of government failing to fulfill one of it’s prime duties.

    Since when is rape a “grievance,” that’s what I want to know. conditions under which KBR/Halliburton wins 80% of its cases

    I like arbitration but don’t want to derail the discussion. She’s free to sue the people that raped her. But she did agree to take claims relating to her employee contract through arbitration. An unsafe work enviornment seems to fit that bill.

    Per KBR (fwiw) 96% of claims are settled prior to arbitration. They’re clearly implying that they settle when they’re at fault but I’d like to see some sort of independent verification.

    I don’t see how it’s the fault of KBR that the DOJ isn’t doing it’s job.

  7. 7
    Eliza says:

    She’s free to sue the people that raped her.

    No, she’s not. That’s the problem.

    Besides that, arbitration is NEVER a good idea for anyone who has been victimized. It benefits large corporations and abusers, and the victims usually walk away even more battered and with less (of everything) than they walked in with.

    An unsafe work enviornment seems to fit that bill.

    You’re seriously going to call rape, being locked in a shipping container after trying to report said rape, and having the company lose her rape kit an “unsafe work enviornment?!”

  8. 8
    dlurk says:

    “if the current administration was staffed by competent, decent people, there never would have been an invasion of Iraq at all”

    Not necessarily. More than a few of us out here believe that Iraq was Bush’s plan even before he was elected, and that he would have invaded Iraq sooner if 9/11 had not occurred.

  9. Pingback: In Contempt » Archive » The Cycle of Rape Against Women in Iraq

  10. Pingback: Objectify This » Jane Doe: Why I Want YOU to Join the Fight Against Rape Culture