2.04.2006

outrage

Of all the hypocrisy and lies perpetrated by the US government, for me the worst, the absolute lowest, is the shameful treatment of the armed forces. Lie to these people, betray their trust, cut off their options so the military is one of the only ways to get an education, use them for propaganda - then spit them out. Cut funding for the ongoing medical treatment they'll need long after their dues have been paid, give their families only partial benefits because they were reservists, deny them even proper protection in combat - it's a long list.

Within that context, what could be worse than this? Redsock just sent me this.

Rape is very common in war. In all wars, in every era, it's been used as a weapon against "the enemy". But how about against one's fellow soldiers?

I'm too upset to say much more.
Military Hides Cause of Women Soldiers' Deaths
By Marjorie Cohn
Monday 30 January 2006

In a startling revelation, the former commander of Abu Ghraib prison testified that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, former senior U.S. military commander in Iraq, gave orders to cover up the cause of death for some female American soldiers serving in Iraq.

Last week, Col. Janis Karpinski told a panel of judges at the Commission of Inquiry for Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York that several women had died of dehydration because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. They were afraid of being assaulted or even raped by male soldiers if they had to use the women's latrine after dark.

The latrine for female soldiers at Camp Victory wasn't located near their barracks, so they had to go outside if they needed to use the bathroom. "There were no lights near any of their facilities, so women were doubly easy targets in the dark of the night," Karpinski told retired U.S. Army Col. David Hackworth in a September 2004 interview.

It was there that male soldiers assaulted and raped women soldiers. So the women took matters into their own hands. They didn't drink in the late afternoon so they wouldn't have to urinate at night. They didn't get raped. But some died of dehydration in the desert heat, Karpinski said.

Karpinski testified that a surgeon for the coalition's joint task force said in a briefing that "women in fear of getting up in the hours of darkness to go out to the port-a-lets or the latrines were not drinking liquids after 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and in 120 degree heat or warmer, because there was no air-conditioning at most of the facilities, they were dying from dehydration in their sleep."

"And rather than make everybody aware of that -- because that's shocking, and as a leader if that's not shocking to you, then you're not much of a leader -- what they told the surgeon to do is don't brief those details anymore. And don't say specifically that they're women. You can provide that in a written report, but don't brief it in the open anymore."

For example, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, Sanchez's top deputy in Iraq, saw "dehydration" listed as the cause of death on the death certificate of a female master sergeant in September 2003. Under orders from Sanchez, he directed that the cause of death no longer be listed, Karpinski stated. The official explanation for this was to protect the women's privacy rights.

Sanchez's attitude was: "The women asked to be here, so now let them take what comes with the territory," Karpinski quoted him as saying. Karpinski told me that Sanchez, who was her boss, was very sensitive to the political ramifications of everything he did. She thinks it likely that when the information about the cause of these women's deaths was passed to the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld ordered that the details not be released. "That's how Rumsfeld works," she said.

"It was out of control," Karpinski told a group of students at Thomas Jefferson School of Law last October. There was an 800 number women could use to report sexual assaults. But no one had a phone, she added. And no one answered that number, which was based in the United States. Any woman who successfully connected to it would get a recording. Even after more than 83 incidents were reported during a six-month period in Iraq and Kuwait, the 24-hour rape hot line was still answered by a machine that told callers to leave a message.

"There were countless such situations all over the theater of operations -- Iraq and Kuwait -- because female soldiers didn't have a voice, individually or collectively," Karpinski told Hackworth. "Even as a general, I didn't have a voice with Sanchez, so I know what the soldiers were facing. Sanchez did not want to hear about female soldier requirements and/or issues."

Karpinski was the highest officer reprimanded for the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, although the details of interrogations were carefully hidden from her. Demoted from brigadier general to colonel, Karpinski feels she was chosen as a scapegoat because she was a female.

Sexual assault in the U.S. military has become a hot topic in the last few years, "not just because of the high number of rapes and other assaults, but also because of the tendency to cover up assaults and to harass or retaliate against women who report assaults," according to Kathy Gilberd, co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild's Military Law Task Force. This problem has become so acute that the Army has set up its own sexual assault web site.

In February 2004, Rumsfeld directed the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness to undertake a 90-day review of sexual assault policies. "Sexual assault will not be tolerated in the Department of Defense," Rumsfeld declared.

The 99-page report was issued in April 2004. It affirmed, "The chain of command is responsible for ensuring that policies and practices regarding crime prevention and security are in place for the safety of service members." The rates of reported alleged sexual assault were 69.1 and 70.0 per 100,000 uniformed service members in 2002 and 2003. Yet those rates were not directly comparable to rates reported by the Department of Justice, due to substantial differences in the definition of sexual assault.

Notably, the report found that low sociocultural power (i.e., age, education, race/ethnicity, marital status) and low organizational power (i.e., pay grade and years of active duty service) were associated with an increased likelihood of both sexual assault and sexual harassment.

The Department of Defense announced a new policy on sexual assault prevention and response on Jan. 3, 2005. It was a reaction to media reports and public outrage about sexual assaults against women in the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, and ongoing sexual assaults and cover-ups at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, Gilberd said. As a result, Congress demanded that the military review the problem, and the Defense Authorization Act of 2005 required a new policy be put in place by January 1.

The policy is a series of very brief "directive-type memoranda" for the secretaries of the military services from the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness. "Overall, the policy emphasizes that sexual assault harms military readiness, that education about sexual assault policy needs to be increased and repeated, and that improvements in response to sexual assaults are necessary to make victims more willing to report assaults," Gilberd notes. "Unfortunately," she added, "analysis of the issues is shallow, and the plans for addressing them are limited."

Commands can reject the complaints if they decide they aren't credible, and there is limited protection against retaliation against the women who come forward, according to Gilberd. "People who report assaults still face command disbelief, illegal efforts to protect the assaulters, informal harassment from assaulters, their friends or the command itself," she said.

But most shameful is Sanchez's cover-up of the dehydration deaths of women that occurred in Iraq. Sanchez is no stranger to outrageous military orders. He was heavily involved in the torture scandal that surfaced at Abu Ghraib. Sanchez approved the use of unmuzzled dogs and the insertion of prisoners head first into sleeping bags, after which they were tied with an electrical cord, and their mouths were covered. At least one person died as the result of the sleeping bag technique. Karpinski charges that Sanchez attempted to hide the torture after the hideous photographs became public.

Sanchez reportedly plans to retire soon, according to an article in the International Herald Tribune earlier this month. But Rumsfeld recently considered elevating the three-star general to a four-star. The Tribune also reported that Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, the Army's chief spokesman, said in an email message, "The Army leaders do have confidence in LTG Sanchez."

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Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, President-elect of the National Lawyers Guild, and the US representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists. She writes a weekly column for truthout.

19 comments:

doggerelblogger said...

Unspeakably horrible. My favourite part is the quote from Sanchez:
"The women asked to be here, so now let them take what comes with the territory," Karpinski quoted him as saying.

So, thanks for risking your life by enlisting and for your trouble you can expect to be raped?

I'm sure there are a number of male soldiers who would be surprised to learn that rape "comes with the territory".

Unbelieveable.

L-girl said...

Good call on that quote. It illustrates the persistent opposition to women's presence in the military.

On another site where this article was posted, there were some truly disgusting comments, which I won't link to here. More than one commenter said that this proves women don't belong in the military - get rid of the women and you get rid of the problem.

The quote speaks to that attitude.

redsock said...

They asked to go to Iraq?

Huh ... news to me.

(Oh, please, can I, can I, pretty please!!)

M@ said...

It's probably not useful to try to determine what the worst part of all this is. But without trying to dismiss the importance of the women's deaths and assaults, the coverup strikes me especially sinister.

Not only does it show absolute contempt for the women who have been raped and who have died in Iraq, it actually protects those who raped them, and those who allowed them to die.

In fact, if we just blame the rapists, the administration that made this situation possible (and I'm talking all levels of administration, from those who run the base right to the secretary of defecnce) actually have a scapegoat for their unspeakable indifference towards these women.

I hope it doesn't come across as tragically uninformed or insensitive when I say that the rapes are the least of the crimes committed in this horrible, horrible situation.

A good thing to do? Hand a copy of this article to every woman who's walking into a recruiting centre in the USA. They manage that kind of interception in front of abortion clinics, after all. If those people were really worried about saving lives, they could start right there.

L-girl said...

In fact, if we just blame the rapists, the administration that made this situation possible (and I'm talking all levels of administration, from those who run the base right to the secretary of defecnce) actually have a scapegoat for their unspeakable indifference towards these women.

You are right. Dead on. The rapist becomes Lynndie England, and the story ends right there.

I hope it doesn't come across as tragically uninformed or insensitive when I say that the rapes are the least of the crimes committed in this horrible, horrible situation.

It does not, not to me.

We could rephrase it this way. On a personal level, to the individual woman who was raped, the rape may have been the worst crime. On a social and institutional level, the coverup is the more heinous, more hurtful, more damaging crime.

A good thing to do? Hand a copy of this article to every woman who's walking into a recruiting centre in the USA.

Wow. Brilliant.

Granny said...

I posted the truthout article (in a blind fury) a few days ago. Your account is much more comprehensive. Thanks.

James said...

Of all the hypocrisy and lies perpetrated by the US government, for me the worst, the absolute lowest, is the shameful treatment of the armed forces. Lie to these people, betray their trust, cut off their options so the military is one of the only ways to get an education, use them for propaganda - then spit them out.

But if you point that out -- if you mention that soldiers are not being treated well -- then you're a traitor who doesn't "support the troops".

I'm constantly amazed at how effective the most transparent propaganda techniques seem to be.

L-girl said...

I'm constantly amazed at how effective the most transparent propaganda techniques seem to be.

It is amazing. And so much evil depends upon it.

L-girl said...

Granny, I'm sorry I missed your earlier post. I hope many other bloggers pick up the story.

M@ said...

This isn't the first place I heard the story either -- I think it's important that the story goes out wherever and however possible.

Laura, I appreciate your comments and the way you've rephrased what I said to bring it all into its proper focus. Now that you mention Lynndie England, I remember having a very similar conversation with a woman at the time the Abu Ghraib photos came to light. But, of course, that was a matter of a few bad apples. Just ask Shidane Arone*.

It's funny**, how we, as a society, are all too willing to blame "the person who last touched it." It's one's natural impulse, and it absolves the powers that be of any responsibility -- so obviously they aren't going to discourage the practice or anything.

* If you're not Canadian, or a new Canadian, you should look this up to see where Canada blamed its powerless to protect its powerful. If you're Canadian and this name doesn't ring a bell -- shame. You have to look it up, stat.

** In the sense of not funny but tragic and horrifying.

I have a lot more to say on the subject of blame. I really must get that book written...

Andrea said...

totally fucking disgusting, no other way for me to express this.

Granny said...

L., no one can be everywhere. You said it better - I ran the article with just a paragraph or two.

Nicole said...

Jesus.

Why am I surprised?

L-girl said...

M@, thanks for mentioning Shidane Arone. I knew the incident but not the name. (Thank you, Google.)

Lone Primate said...

Oh, God. Maybe it's time we just got off the planet and let the raccoons have a go at stewardship. :(

L-girl said...

To the people who are astroturfing comments here, they will always be deleted.

I have no interest in arguing the veracity of these statements with anonymous people who claim to have inside information.

And insulting me doesn't help your case!

L-girl said...

Hi Armynurseboy! Having fun yet? Thanks for stopping by! :)

Synova said...

arnynurseboy? I don't see a comment from anyone with that name.

Deleted?

In fact, I don't see any dissenting opinions here at all.

What I find horrible is that Karpinski is lying again and people are believing her.

If I don't use bad words will you leave my comment? I am female. I have served in the military. I know just how crude the guys can be. No saints. I won't make that claim. But I would feel safer *naked* in a foxhole full of Soldiers or Marines than fully clothed walking across a campus at night.

I would *be* safer, too.

If you'd like I could explain the group dynamics of why that would be true.

L-girl said...

You don't see Armynurseboy's comments because I deleted them. This blog is not a place for open debate. I make no apologies for that. I am under no obligation to give space to statements and opinions I find offensive.

But I would feel safer *naked* in a foxhole full of Soldiers or Marines than fully clothed walking across a campus at night.

That's nice. But it changes nothing.

When a woman or girl is raped by a neighbour - a teacher, a coach, a family friend - and everyone gathers around to say how nice the man is, how he wouldn't hurt a fly, it doesn't mean the victim is lying.

Your feelings of safety around your fellow soldiers doesn't change the fact that women are raped in the military, both in training and in combat. Not all men are rapists, but some men are, and the military isn't free of them, nor is it free of the anger many men feel about the presence of women in the military.

Thanks for your comments. Please remember I am not interested in debating with you and will not allow a debate to continue here.