Last year, an unprovoked shooting by Blackwater Worldwide left 17 Iraqi civilians dead and 20 injured in a square in Baghdad. Blackwater is a privatized military firm that provides support for U.S. troops in Iraq, and a law known as Order 17, enacted by the Coalition Provisional Authority, grants all U.S.-employed private contractors blanket immunity from criminal sanctions. Really? They thought that was a good idea? Thanks to this law, Blackwater has been marauding around Iraq and making dozens of fatally retarded decisions, such as driving against traffic and shooting at civilians to make them get out of the way, because they know that there will be no consequences.
Jamie Leigh Jones, a woman working in the Green Zone in Iraq, alleged that she was drugged and violently gang-raped by her co-workers before being thrown into a shipping container. She was then held without food or drink for an undetermined amount of time. Jones’s employer, an engineering and construction company called Kellogg, Brown and Root employed by the United States in Iraq, told the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that the poor woman was “taken to a secure unlisted living container where she could rest.” Wait, there’s more. The rape kit used by a military doctor to examine the victim was reportedly shipped to Halliburton and KBR, and now the doctor’s notes and photos of her bruises have mysteriously gone missing.
So not only will it be next to impossible for Jones to build a case in court, she apparently cannot even pursue a civil lawsuit. Why? Her employment contract stipulates that all “disputes would be resolved through a binding arbitration process, which lacks (among other things) a jury, rules of evidence, an appeals process … media access and a transcript.” The rapists themselves could technically be tried in a U.S. federal court for the offense, but it would be very difficult to get around Order 17, and the Justice Department has made it very clear it has no interest in Jones’s case. This means those bastards won’t get so much as a smack on the bottom.
Surprisingly, this isn’t Halliburton’s first sexual assault case. Former Halliburton/KBR employees have described it as an “atmosphere of rampant sexual harassment.” Many other women have also complained of being sexually assaulted while working for the company. Clearly, the company needs a major management overhaul or simply needs to be shut down. “Rampant” sexual assault? Good God. How has this been tolerated for so long?
I know the United States isn’t perfect. Every country has its problems, but this is sickening and makes me ashamed to be a U.S. citizen. What kind of country condones rape and assault? It’s bad enough that we have U.S.-employed mercenaries mowing down Iraqi civilians for no good reason, but for the government to allow a couple of electricians to rape a woman and stuff her in a box is blasphemous. Where are we living, Saudi Arabia? When did the United States enact Sharia law? Any idiot can see that these jerk-offs deserve to be thrown in jail, and the government’s reluctance to act tells me one thing: it knows that if it prosecutes these lowlifes like it damn well should, there will be a public outcry to sever business relations with Halliburton/KBR.
Granted, there should be an outcry, especially since the company has an apparent reputation for not just sexual harassment, but sexual assault. However, a trial would require media coverage, and media coverage would expose the problem to the public. As a result, people would want this sorry excuse of a construction company out of Iraq.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Just ask anyone on campus. Persila Mohammadnia, a second-year biological sciences major, has a very indignant opinion on the matter, “I am disgusted with the lack of power given to women in Iraq. The U.S. says they want to reform [Iraq] to make it a better place, yet they ignore situations like [this] regarding women’s rights, portraying them as trivial. Someone needs to stand up for these suffering women and give them justice.”
Mary Chan, a second-year biological sciences major, shares similar sentiments: “I think that this woman deserves a fair trial and that the men who did this to her need to be brought to justice. It would be inhumane to sweep this issue under the rug, and it’s not fair to the woman who really needs to be seen as a victim of an awful crime here.” “Inhumane” and “not fair” don’t even begin to describe the scenario. This woman’s right to a fair trial was torn away from her so that the Bush administration could save some money, and that binding arbitration clause serves as the killing blow to her chances of seeking justice for this crime.
This means we have a posse of rapists representing and working for us in Iraq. Blackwater isn’t helping matters either; they’re rapists and murderers. Modern warfare sure has changed. It’s almost as despicable as suicide bombing. An unnamed second woman, a mother of five and also a KBR employee, suffered the same crime and judicial experience as Jones. What did the judge say when he denied her case and sent it to binding arbitration so KBR could squash the case? “Sadly, sexual harassment, up to and including sexual assault, is a reality in today’s workplace.”
There you have it. Our judicial system now accepts rape. But no, sexual harassment and assault are not and should not be a “reality” in the United States. It’s a reality in war-torn countries run by religious and murderous extremists where death and rape is accepted as a daily occurrence. My heart goes out to Jones and any woman affected by rape. However, the question remains: what do we do about Halliburton and KBR?
AE Anteater is a second-year English major. He can be reached at email@example.com.