Thursday, December 20, 2007

Jamie Leigh Jones and other realities ignored

Republicans and Democrats lambasted the Justice Department Wednesday, charging it with failing to promptly investigate accusations that several Halliburton/KBR workers gang-raped a fellow employee in Iraq.
Jamie Leigh Jones of Texas told a House Judiciary Committee panel she was drugged, raped and held against her will at Camp Hope, a KBR camp in Baghdad during the summer of 2005.
Glaring at the empty seat assigned to an absent Justice Department official, Rep. Louie Gohmert, Republican of Texas, vowed to "move Justice in the right direction." Gohmert told Jones she is giving a voice to other victims of rape.

The above is from Rebecca Carr's "Lawmakers rip Justice officials over rape case" (Cox News via The Plain Dealer). Jamie Leigh Jones? Maybe she's in your paper this morning, maybe she isn't? The committee, House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, called out the Justice Department. That's one aspect, there are others. Before we get to that, this is from Barbara H. Peterson's "Women's Rights: A Step Backwards" (OpEdNews):

Is the United States taking a step backwards in the area of women’s rights? It would seem so. Violence against American women goes un-prosecuted, and women who have suffered remain traumatized with no justice in sight.
"Millions of women throughout the world live in conditions of abject deprivation of, and attacks against, their fundamental human rights for no other reason than that they are women." Shall we count America among the oppressive governments that violate an entire segment of their population's basic human rights?
Stephen Fox posted an article on OpEdNews regarding Jamie Leigh Jones: "Waiting for Justice for two years, and nothing.... Jamie Leigh Jones, gang raped by Halliburton employees in Iraq." When questioned regarding laws that govern American military contractors in Iraq, President Bush expressed that had no clue, and dodged the question. The video documenting this callous behavior can be seen here. Notice how everyone at the Johns Hopkins school, including the President, thought the fact that he professed to not know the answer was hilarious. An American woman working for an American contractor, allegedly raped by her fellow employees and held against her will for 24 hours, now faces an extended battle to get a court, any court, to hear her case. When questioned regarding accountability for the contractors who are accused of committing the atrocity, the President of America and everyone at the conference has a good laugh. Where is the outrage? Where is the demand for accountability?
Our U.S. government is actually condoning this type of violence against women by its failure to provide an adequate system for dealing with the problem. I doubt seriously that this is an isolated case. When women know that they will be subject to an abusive legal system that only serves to compound the trauma, they will naturally be afraid to complain. Of the women who do complain in the U.S., those who make it to court get little satisfaction from the justice system. The 1994 conviction statistics for the crime of rape are 188 convictions out of 1000 cases.

The Justice Department is an important issue. They have not prosecuted the men who drugged and gang raped Jamie Leigh Jones. But it's true that Tracy Barker has also come forward and it's true that since Jamie Leigh Jones started her own foundation (link in her name goes to that), other women have come forward to her about their experiences. It's also true that it goes beyond that. In "TV: ABC's Cesspool," Ava and I tie it into Suzanne Swift and the climate that has led to harassment, assault and rape of others serving. It goes to the very top (Bully Boy) no question and the Bully Culture he's created, it goes to the illegal war (nothing good comes of an illegal war), so there are many aspects to this.

And the Justice Department is one aspect. Their job is to prosecute crimes. But is the issue really just that Jones got gang-raped? Is it just that Jones got gang-raped and Barker was sexually assaulted? What I'm getting at is these crimes are committed in a climate that telegraphs they will be tolerated, they will be overlooked. Prosecution can address individual criminals, no question. And possibly some have so much faith in what will be done in terms of length of sentencing that the Justice Department is the starting and ending point. But looking at the realities of 'justice' with regards crimes in Iraq and seeing people get away with murder and more (or be convicted of the crime and have a judge say that the time you were in jail before your trial counts as time served so, conviction or not, you're not going to prison) -- as well as looking at the record of the Justice Dept. thus far, I'm less hopeful.

Alberto Gonzales was the Attorney General when Jones was gang-raped. There is a new Attorney General now. (That's not excusing inaction.) However, Condi Rice replaced Colin Powell as Secretary of State. She's held that post since January 26, 2005. The State Department was over the contractors. Tracy Barker was assaulted by an employee of the State Department. The employee admitted to the assault. The employee still works for the State Department.

Criminal punishment is needed for those who gang-raped Jones and other women. But there is also the issue of climate and the issue of addressing that. The State Department's not just supposed to fork over tax payer monies to these contractors, they are supposed to provide supervision and clearly that hasn't happened. We know it hasn't happened with regards to Blackwater. We know with those mercenaries, the State Department provided cover and covered-up.

Though it may be forgotten now, in 2005, there was talk that Hillary Clinton would run for president and Condi Rice would be the perfect match up from the Republican side. That spin that she was a 'strong woman' and a role model didn't get as much attention as "Fashion Plate," but it did exist. A strong woman doesn't neglect her job and allow a climate to be created where women are abused, assaulted, etc.

The State Department needs to be brought into this discussion, they need to be called to testify to Congress and asked about their supervision. They need to be specifically asked what gets a State Department employee fired? If Barker can be sexually assaulted, if her statements and the attackers match up, how does the State Dept justify the continued employment of Ali Mokhtare? What exactly does it take to get you fired? And at what point does the State Department take responsibility for offering the supervision they are supposed to offer?

This is from Maddy Sauer's "DOJ Shuns Hearing on Halliburton/KBR Rape Cases" (ABC News) and it provides one reason for the focus on DoJ:

The Department of Justice refused to send a representative to answer questions from Congress today on the investigations into allegations of rape and sexual assault on female American contractors.
"I'm embarrassed that the Department of Justice can't even come forward," said the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee John Conyers, D-Mich.
"This is an absolute disgrace," said Conyers. "The least we could do is have people from the Department of Justice and the Defense over here talking about how we're going to straighten out the system right away."

But it doesn't end with DoJ. And it's not just an issue of the criminals must be punished (which they should be), it's also an issue of how the climate was created, nurtured and encouraged -- when the State Department isn't offering supervision and isn't saying, "US tax payer monies don't go to ___ and to ___" (basic workplace guidelines), then they are encouraging it.

Kat's "Jamie Leigh Jones," Rebecca's "the strong women (and thank god we have them!)" and Mike's "Torture, Dave Lindorff, Dave Zirin" cover this issue so please check that out -- though most have already. But look through your morning paper and find news of Jamie Leigh Jones. If your paper is the New York Times, look in vain. Who is covering this?

Elaine's "Only women & countries get 'discovered'." Everyone's e-mailing about it. It's a wonderful piece. So a journalist wants to get bent out of shape that Ava and I wrote "Ike Turner (Ava and C.I. feature)" because he feels Ike Turner is a musician of tremendous ability?

It is connected. The New York Times doesn't think Jamie Leigh Jones' Congressional testimony is worth noting. It doesn't make today's paper. And a journalist thinks Ike Turner's abuse needs to be set aside because "Up In Heah" speaks to him?

It is related. I selected that song title at random. I haven't read the e-mail. I have no interest in reading that e-mail.

As a general rule, don't write someone about an article you haven't read. I mean that's the most basic. Would you write a letter to Vanity Fair saying, "I understand that there was an article on ___ in your issue and I want to object. I haven't read it . . ."

You want to comment on something? Try reading it first.

That a professional journalist can't grasp that goes a long, long way towards explaining the sad realities of today's press.

Who is it?

The e-mails this morning ask that. I don't know. Reading Elaine, I can narrow it down to three men. Since she's worded in a certain way, I can tell it's no reporter I've slept with. (If it was a reporter I'd slept with, she would be even more enraged.) So I can narrow it down to three men from her description.

It really doesn't matter who it is. The fact is that a journalist thinks it's important to 'defend' Ike Turner. Now he doesn't know the first thing he's writing about (he doesn't, for instance, know that Ike Turner beat MANY women). I know from Jim that the journalist wants to dispute Ava and my description of how Tina Turner announced herself to the world. Want to do that?

Prove us wrong.

You can't.

Those are factual, the timeline is correct. And you don't know anything about Tina Turner if you don't know those facts. You can kid yourself otherwise, you can lie to yourself, and it probably helps not to read us when claiming we're wrong. That probably helps a great deal, in fact.

What would we know? We're just two women writing a piece about a man who repeatedly beat Tina Turner, who repeatedly beat other women. What would we know? We certainly wouldn't know how wonderful Ike was, right?

Because we're woman and we matter so much damn less, right?

That's what the attitude says, intentionally or not.

What Ike Turner did to Tina Turner and the children in the Turner household was torture. (And Jim told me the guy wanted to dispute whether or not Tina's first son is fathered by Ike. Tina has spoken publicly about that. It's not Ike's son. I know Tina and we wouldn't have raised that point if it wasn't something she'd spoken of publicly.) It was torture.

It wasn't just the physical beating of Tina. It was living in an environment of fear.

You want to defend Ike Turner, defend Pinochet next. Maybe he had nice finger nails? I don't know, I don't care. Ike Turner was human slime, he was a criminal, he was a thug and there's no justifying or minimizing what he did to Tina and other women.

Only a man with a questionable grip on the realities of torture would make that claim.

It was torture.

Now there was one man we responded to (Ava and I, via Ty) and this isn't aimed at him. He's not a journalist. Due to his field, he has to toss around various things and create a schema and we fully grasp that. But for a journalist to offer that it is not fair that Ike is remembered as a "wife beater"? No, it's not fair. It's not fair to ALL the other women Ike beat that he's remembered as a "wife beater" because that implies Tina was the only woman he battered. That is not true.

I have no idea why it's so difficult to grasp that defending Ike Turner is defending torture. But instead of writing The Third Estate Sunday Review to whine about an article Ava and I write (which you apparently didn't read), why don't use that time to volunteer in an emergency room? If that's too hard, just go to one and sit there for a few days. Look at the women who still
come in -- domestic abuse hasn't gone away. And grasp that for every woman who does get medical attention, there are many more who don't. As we noted in that article: "The American Bar Association's Commission on Domestic Violence notes that 1.3 million women "are physically assaulted by an intimate partner" each year in the US."

That piece came about because a woman who was a victim of domestic abuse e-mailed The Third Estate Sunday Review and revealed how shocked she was that Ike Turner, a criminal, an abuser, was having his crimes minimized. We go over that in the article.

I could care less that a journalist is so in love with Ike that he can't even be bothered with checking his facts first (or reading an article before 'commenting' on it). I didn't want to co-write that article, I didn't plan to co-write that article. That woman's e-mail is why Ava and I wrote that piece and I'm offended that some man -- who doesn't know his facts -- wants to disrespect her very real pain and very real experiences to rush in and boo-hoo that Ike was 'more' than a "wife beater".

I do wonder about all the men last week (exception for those who are attempting to address schema) who rushed in with their "Ike had his 'good' sides." If you were foolish enough to write about it in the first place, you should have come back with, "You know, I've thought about it and . . ." Don't put it off on women that your world-view allows for torture. That's what it is, that's what it was.

And you have to wonder, what would be the breaking point for those men? Exactly what does an Ike or whomever have to do to cross the line for them. He tortured Tina, he tortured many women, he tortured the children. Everyone in that orbit lived in a climate of fear and everyone knew his violence could (and would) erupt at any time. That's torture.

And it's really strange (or telling) that the sympathies go with a dead man who tortured and not the victims of the torture. But look at the New York Times this morning -- where is the story on Jamie Leigh Jones? This is a cultural issue, it is a willful blindness and it's sad.

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