After reports that U.S. forces have been kidnapping the wives of suspected insurgents to use as "levers,"("U.S. Army detained suspects' daughters, wives as leverage"), and prior reports of rapes in the U.S.-run "detention facilities" (what the real world calls "prisons"), the former head of the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison has spoken of conditions in the field in Iraq where women in the U.S. armed forces are being subjected to conditions and attitudes that promote rape, sexual assault and harassment by male soldiers in the U.S. forces.
She made these statements to a panel comprised of a group of American lawyers, academics, writers and human rights activists, as well as a number of people from other countries, that have established what it calls "The 2005 International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration of the United States."
Although this "commission" has no legal powers, it can help publicize reviews and allegations of abuses either sponsored by, or directly committed by, members of the U.S. armed forces or intelligence communities.
In the case at hand, Col. Janis Karpinski (formerly a brigadier general) has stated that, on at least one U.S. base in Iraq (Camp Victory, about 5 KM from the Baghdad International Airport) women soldiers are being subjected to conditions that are conductive to their being raped by their own fellow soldiers. She further contends that these conditions have been in place for several years and that the command structure, as far up as Rumsfeld, has ordered that the facts be covered up, rather than be addressed openly.
According to Karpinski's statement before the panel, and in a 2004 interview she gave to US Army Col.(ret) David Hackworth,
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," ....Accordingng to Karpinski's statement,
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.
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."To illustrate how lightly she felt the DoD treated the very real problem of sexual assault against women soldiers, Karpinski noted during an interview in October of 2004 that the military established a stateside 1-800 (toll-free) telephone number that could be used to report a sexual assault.
"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" ...
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 [Marjorie Cohn of TruthOut.org] 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.
Unfortunately, many women in the field or at forward bases do not have access to telephones. There was also great difficulty in connecting through to the 1-800 number, and even when connected, the reporting soldier would hear a recording and be told to leave a message. Karpinski said that even after more than 83 assaults against U.S. soldiers were reported during just a 6-month period in Iraq and Kuwait, the dedicated number was still being answered with a recording telling the soldier to leave a message.
Some people will claim, like Karpinski asserts Sanchez's attitude shows, that women should be in neither combat nor combat bases, or they should "tough it out." Rather, what we, as a society, should be saying is that this treatment, especially of our own soldiers, should not be tolerated as all. If the perpetrators of these assaults cannot be rooted out, what does that say about our ability to field forces that can be relied upon not to commit like assaults, or other atrocities, against the people in the countries they are being fielded in.