Sunday, December 23, 2007

Editorial: Should we pray to Santa?


Should we pray to Santa?

Is there anyone else that hasn't been prayed too?

The illegal war drags on to be sure. But that's Bully Boy and Congress. What explains the rest of the nonsense?

Something isn't right
I don't know how I know
But baby, it's despite
Your dog-and-pony show
I can hear it coming
You're only going through the motions, baby
-- "Going Through The Motions," by Aimee Mann (available on the CD The Forgotten Arm and the CD & DVD Live at St. Ann's Warehouse).

If you missed it, and you may well have because no Pacifica program explored it and The Nation and The New York Times couldn't even be bothered with mentioning it, there was a Congressional hearing you should know about.

In the US House of Representatives Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security held a hearing on the sexual assaults of Jamie Lee Jones and Tracy Barker while working in Iraq. Barker [PDF format warning] submitted a statement to the committee where she noted that "under the direct supervision of Crystal Daniels and Byron Marcee, I was exposed to physical threats, verbal abuse, and sexually explicit conversations on a daily basis" and "[n]othing was done to resolve the sexually hostile work environment or investigate the complaints".

Despite the promise of confidentiality under the HDRP Kara Hall, a human resources supervisor received several of my complaints and forwarded them to Marcee and Daniels. As a result, Daniels and Marcee retaliated against me by escalating the abusive behavior and screaming at me for filing the formal complaints with human resources. After filing yet another complaint, Wesley Lane, a human resources supervisor, called me in to her office and informed that Daniels and Marcee had filed a report complaining of my job performance. While in Hall's office, I was not permitted to leave or call anyone. Lane followed me into the bathroom and watched me as I urinated. When I asked her why she was doing this she said it was to keep me from calling Houston again, or anyone else, to report the abuse. Hall then instructed me to return to my living container and remain there for three days, I was not permitted to speak with anyone, and if I was seen outside, I would be fired.

Iraq or not, US corporations operate under US laws. And what Barker's describing are serious violations. She was moved to the Basra compound where "I was assigned to a shared office space with Sherman Richardson. Richardson had hung pictures of prostitutes and animals having sex with one other on his office walls and he often talked about how he took his Rest and Relaxation time in Thailand where he would hire prostitutes. Other male employees would visit Richardson in the office to seek information on how to obtain a prostitute while on R&R." Let's be clear that this is paid for with US tax dollars. The work environment that wouldn't be allowed in the US (and shouldn't have been allowed in Iraq) was paid for with US tax dollars. Basra Camp contained no HR personnel and she took her complaints to the camp manager Craig Grabien who 'dealt' with them apparently by sexually harassing Barker "on a daily basis by insisting that I sleep with him because he was camp manager and he could provide benefits in exchange for sexual favors."

Complaining to the hotline did not good and, in fact, only caused Grabien to increase his sexual harassment. Barker explains the physical assault by an employee (still an employee) of the US State Department:

On June 23, 2005, I accompanied U.S. Department of State employee, Ali Mokhtare, to his living quarters to complete a work order for an alleged faulty air conditioner and to discuss employment opportunities within the U.S. State Dept. Once we arrived, Mokhtare said the air conditioner was working fine. I immediately felt uncomfortable expressed that I was going to leave. Mokhtare said he wanted to explain the war to me and a story about a 'Filipino woman.' As Mokhtare began to talk about the war, he poured two drinks of Jack Daniels and Coke and offered me one. I declined but eventually took the drink in my hand anyway. Mokhtare then began to talk about a Filipino woman in Saudi Arabia who was repeatedly raped by a prince, and although she reported it to the police, no one believed her and the prince continued to rape her. Finally, the woman became so distraught she committed suicide by jumping out of a window. In the midst of telling this story, Mokhtare grabbed my breasts and tried to kiss me on the mouth. I screamed "No!" and escaped Mokhtare's hold and began to run toward the door. Mokhtare grabbed hold of me again, put his hands around my throat and tried to force his lips on my mouth and against the back of my hand; I pushed him away, escaped his hold, and ran from the living quarters. Mokhtare followed after me screaming in Arabic as I ran in the direction of my living quarters.

Repeating that pathetic scum who assaulted her works for the State Department. The same State Department that would conduct an 'investigation.' Barker turned over a statement to them and asked for protection but was told by Grabien and the State Dept's Brian Hathaway "to just avoid Mokhtara." Barker explains that when Mokhtare was interviewed, he initially refused to talk but opened up in a second interview with the State Dept's Diplomatic Security: "During the interview, Mokhtare admitted to the agents he inappropriately grabbed my breast and attempted to kiss me. He also admitted to telling me the story of a Filipino woman who was raped by a prince in Saudi Arabia. Mokhtare's story was exactly as I had explained to agent Hathaway, he even goes so far as to admit his actions were 'inappropriate' and he 'made a mistake'."

Who's in charge of the State Department? Oh, yeah, Condi Rice. That explains a great deal.
Especially how it got buried when there was no significant differences between Barker's statements and those of the man who assaulted her: "According to the agents notes, when they confronted him about an inconsistent statement he made regarding his alcohol consumption he became agitated and angry." And he remained (and still remains) employed by the State Department all this time later.

Barker submitted a signed, written statement. Jamie Leigh Jones testified in public about being gang-raped by employees of Halliburton/KRB and then held in a container to keep her from talking. She was greeted in Iraq with cat-calls and harassment. Complaining did nothing to end the verbal harassment. Day four arrived and some other (male) employees offered her a drink.
With one claiming that there was no need to worry because "I saved all my Ruffies for Dubai." Jones took the drink and ended up drugged. The next morning she woke up in pain. A rape kit was taken with the doctor confirming "that I had been penetrated both vaginally and anally and that I was, quote: 'quite torn up down there'. She indicated that based upon the damages to my genitalia, it was apparent that I had been raped."

What happened next, Jones explained, was "The KBR security then took me to a trailer and locked me in a room with two armed guards outside my door. I was imprisoned in the trailer for approximately a day. One of the guards finally had mercy and let me use a phone. I called my dad who contacted Congressman Ted Poe who took actions to get me out of the country. I believe he saved my life. I was later interviewed by Halliburton-KBR supervisors and it was made clear to me that I had essentially two choices: '(1) Stay and get over it or (2) Stay with no guarantee of a job in Iraq or Houston.' Because of the severity of my injuries, I elected to go home despite the obvious threat of being fired."

Jones has attempted to get treatment and is still in need of more physical surgery. Meanwhile, she notes, "there has been no prosecution after two and a half years" of any of the men involved.

US House Rep John Conyers chairs the committee Jones testified before and he wondered, "Does anyone in this room feel it is acceptable for an American citizen like Ms. Jones to be drugged, raped and falsely imprisoned? Does anyone think it is appropriate that almost 2 1/2 years after the incident, there has not been a single prosecution in the case? Does anybody believe it is appropriate that the DOJ victims' rights ombudsman summarily rejected Ms. Jones complaint 6 months ago, and she was not even seen by a federal prosecutor until October? This is no small matter given that there are some 180,00 civilian contractor employees in Iraq, including more than 21,000 Americans, plus additional security contractor employees. And there are other troubling reports of similar sexual assaults against contractor employees."

We wonder it too but, then, we also wonder about the silence so much media offered in place in coverage?

Two of the few who have covered it are Marie Tessier's "Sexual Violence as Occupational Hazard -- In Iraq and at Home in the U.S.A." (TWMC) and Stephanie Mencimer's "Cheney: No Justice for Jaime Jones" (Mother Jones).

Shall we pray to Santa for coverage?

Maybe you recognize this:

Meanwhile IVAW is organizing a March 2008 DC event:

In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.

Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan

March 13th through 16th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation.

That announcement was made weeks ago. (It runs in each "Iraq snapshot" until the event.) So why is it that IVAW has to ask that other groups and organizations respect the fact that they carved out this date sometime ago for the event they've put hours and hours into planning and staging?

Do we need to ask Santa to give out understanding and common sense this year to various allegedly in touch groups and organizations?

How it will play out is anyone's guess but, in joyful news, United for Peace and Justice's report on the steering committee indicates they grasp the need to start bringing in 'young blood.' (Not a surprise, UPFJ usually has a better grasp of the mood around the country than many other peace organizations.)

And since it is the season for giving, we'll note this regarding Sir! No Sir!:

Happy Holidays!
We at Displaced Films would like to invite you to give the gift that educates, entertains, and puts the move in movement.
Sir! No Sir!
We have been able to get this extraordinary film into the hands of over 1000 active duty soldiers. We could not have done this without your financial support. We ask that you continue to donate to our
"Make a Resister out of a Soldier" program so that we can send out another 200 copies before the new year. Or buy bulk copies (10 or more) yourself at drastically reduced rates and get them to those who need them most.
"...I had to stand in ranks and face the beast. Sir! No Sir! gave me the courage to do that and in turn, my courage empowered other resisters..."
Sgt. Darrell Anderson
We are offering free shipping on all domestic U.S. orders from now until January 1, 2008.
Take advantage of the deal for your last minute holiday shopping.
Also, we have been grueling over a redesign of our new site for several months now. We have new home pages on rotation right now and would LOVE your feedback. Please take a moment to go to our site and navigate through. If you click on the refresh button, you will get a new home page each time. Not only that, but we have made the shopping cart much more efficient.

Many war resisters have seen Zieger's amazing documentary, including Agustin Aguayo.

[Illustration by Betty's oldest son.]
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }