This story was developing over the weekend; now it's come to a head.
Federal prosecutors said today that an American soldier killed an Iraqi man, two women and a little girl in their home the night of March 12 after the soldier and his comrades plotted to rape one of the women while drinking at a traffic checkpoint a short distance away.

The prosecutors charged the suspect, Steven D. Green, 21, with shooting the four victims to death. They said he and others raped one of the women. If found guilty, the defendant could be sentenced to death.

. . .

Prosecutors said the defendant was discharged from the Army "due to a personality disorder" before the March 12 incident came to light. An affidavit filed in connection with the charges raises the possibility that others will be charged, since the document states that "members" of the 101st Airborne Division killed the Iraqis and that "the same individuals" raped and killed one of the women. The others were not identified by name.

The affidavit, by an F.B.I. special agent, Gregor J. Ahlers, said details of the crime emerged during a "combat stress debriefing" on June 20. Private Green and at least three others planned the rape and told another soldier to monitor the radio while they went to the house near Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad, according to the affidavit. Some of the participants changed out of their uniforms before going to the house and had blood on their clothes when they returned, the affidavit said.

After the murder-and-rape rampage, the affidavit states, the soldiers burned their clothes and told the comrade who had been left to monitor the radio that "this is never to be discussed again."
I feel so sad, I can hardly write.

Throughout history, rape has been used as a weapon during war and invasions, as a way of humiliating, subduing and demoralizing - of torturing - "the enemy". Although mass rapes have been documented in wars throughout history, more often rape has been a hidden cost of war. It was only ten years ago (in connection with Bosnia) that rape was officially recognized as a war crime, and added to the list of what constitutes torture. From Amnesty International:
Rape is not an accident of war, or an incidental adjunct to armed conflict. Its widespread use in times of conflict reflects the unique terror it holds for women, the unique power it gives the rapist over his victim, and the unique contempt is displays for its victims. The use of rape in conflict reflects the inequalities women face in their everyday lives in peacetime. Until governments take responsibility for their obligations to ensure equality, and end discrimination against women, rape will continue to be a favored weapon of the aggressor.
The Iraqi woman who was raped in this case paid the ultimate price: she was murdered, too. Her family was slaughtered to cover up the crime. It's almost too terrible to think about. I keep finding myself mentally looking away.

I rarely think about rapists. As a rape survivor myself, I'm not too inclined to see a rapist as a victim. But today I find myself feeling sorry for the perpetrators, too.

I wonder if these men, in their normal, daily lives, would be rapists and murderers. I wonder if their families can picture the men they knew as rapists and murderers. Forced into brutal, dehumanizing circumstances, some people will become the worst of what is human.

Yet not everyone. Other American soldiers will return home from Iraq (if they're lucky enough to return) without this kind of blood on their hands. I can only wonder what separates one from the other.

* * * *

Last time I blogged about atrocities in Iraq, some wingnuts stopped by to jeer. (And then of course accused me of censorship and something called "intellectual dishonesty"). I'm leaving comments open for now, but I'm asking for sensitivity. Anyone who needs to debate this topic is asked to do it elsewhere.

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