We Will Not Stand For It: Demanding Accountability For US Contractors Overseas

Note to readers: Feministing is honored to have Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter (NY-28) guest posting today on the KBR rape cover-up and violence against contractors abroad.
lslaughter.jpgYesterday, I, and over 100 of my colleagues, took a serious step to breaking the dangerous “boys will be boys� attitude that has been allowed to fester for far too long among United States government contractors in Iraq and around the world.
Many of you have heard the appalling tale of Jamie Leigh Jones, the past employee of US government contractor KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton.
While working in the Green Zone within Baghdad, Iraq, Jamie Leigh Jones was drugged, assaulted, and viciously gang raped by her coworkers. Upon learning of the attack, KBR had US Army doctors perform a medical examination showing that she had been viciously raped both anally and vaginally. After, the rape kit was turned over to KBR; she would later discover that portions of that kit had magically vanished into thin air.
Jamie Leigh was then placed under armed guard in a shipping container for 24 hours without access to food or water. There, she remained until she was rescued from her American employer by the State Department at the urging of her Member of Congress.
Over two years after these near unspeakable acts of violence and incredulously callous reaction by her employer, not only has the Justice Department not brought any criminal charges, but ABC News recently reported that they could not confirm that any federal agency was investigating the case at all.
Instead, it appears that the Departments of Justice, State, and Defense would prefer that the American public forget what happened to Jamie Leigh Jones.
It appears they do not want to rock the boat.
But this boat must be rocked. Because what happened to Jamie Leigh Jones was not an isolated incident.
It is increasingly apparent that there are many women working for United States government contractors that are regularly subject to sexual harassment, assault, and rape. And what is even more apparent, the perpetrators of these heinous acts are not held to account and justice is almost never served.
With over 20,000 Americans employed by US government contractors in Iraq alone, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates are in need of a big wake-up call.
Well, yesterday morning, I sent two letters that I co-authored with Reps. Jan Schakowsky (IL) and Ted Poe (TX) with the signatures of over 100 Members of the United States House of Representatives to demand answers from Secretaries Rice and Gates. We are demanding that they go on record and answer specific questions detailing the precise steps they are taking to ensure that what happened to Jamie Leigh Jones does not happen to another US contractor again.
We will not rest until these answers meet our satisfaction and there is a guarantee that criminal offenders are punished to the letter of the law and that contractors, getting rich on massive taxpayer funded contracts, are held to account.
It must be the Bush Administration’s unequivocal position that individuals working as United States government contractors, whether at home or abroad, have the same rights to treatment, services, and proper legal recourse when they are victims of a violent crime.
Take Action: Keep pressure on the Department of State and Department of Defense on the Jamie Leigh Jones case and protecting US contractors; let them know that you expect a timely and appropriate response to Rep. Slaughter’s letters.

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13 Comments

  1. mirm
    Posted January 25, 2008 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    We must keep fighting this stuff. It shows that women do not have rights yet. I wrote an actual letter (rather than email) to my representative about it.

  2. Tim
    Posted January 25, 2008 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Wow! This is frightening. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. We need to put an end to this crap.

  3. SarahMC
    Posted January 25, 2008 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Thank you.
    You had not heard about this until today, Tim?

  4. biancamarisa
    Posted January 25, 2008 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Two emails done, and I think I will mail letters to my representatives and try to get a campaign going in my area. If we make enough noise, we cannot be ignored.

  5. Geek
    Posted January 25, 2008 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Congresswoman Slaughter, for putting pressure on the Justice Department and the Department of Defense to address this disturbing problem.

  6. mirm
    Posted January 25, 2008 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Of course, he did not sign the letters, so I just wrote him again. Sigh

  7. TinaH
    Posted January 25, 2008 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    Right on! My congressional representative is included in the list! Woo hoo! Now I have to send him a thank you note.

  8. llevinso
    Posted January 25, 2008 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    I love my representative Jan Schakowsky! I’m am so proud to say that I vote for her and I cannot wait until she runs for the Senate. We need more people like her that are willing to take a stand against these horrible acts of violence against women that for some reason are so glossed over by our government. Wake up!

  9. Posted January 25, 2008 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    I love Louise Slaughter! Her name seems to be coming up a lot lately, which is making me look like a pretty big fangirl, but the fact that she keeps popping up in such positive, progressive and feminist contexts just seems to be contributing to my political crush. I used to live in her district as a kid; now I live in the next district over and have a major asshole as my representative. I hope to move back someday, and one of the added bonuses of doing so would be having a congressional representative who I can be proud of. If you’re reading this, Congresswoman, thank you and keep up the good work.

  10. electronBlue
    Posted January 25, 2008 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for keeping the spotlight on this case. I have written the relevant emails.
    As a side comment, the DoD website is extremely unfriendly.

  11. Posted January 25, 2008 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    As I was reading this post, part way through I had forgotten that I was reading the words of a congressional politician. This read like a regular Feministing post — which I mean as a compliment. It’s always encouraging when a politician speaks directly to the truth and calls for meaningful action. Thank-you.

  12. Jovan1984
    Posted January 26, 2008 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    I would like to thank Rep. Slaughter for keeping the pressure on the Cabinet to do the right thing and porsecute the rapists in KBR.
    I am confident that Rep. Clyburn will also demand action against KBR. Rep. Spratt, I’ll wait and see.
    Sadly, the other people in the South Carolina Congressional delegation (Henry Brown, Bob Inglis, Jim DeMint, Lindsey Graham, and my representative — Addison G. Wilson) are going to support Haliburton.

  13. me
    Posted April 9, 2008 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Sorry if this double posts. I submitted a quesiton on the DOD website yesterday instead of just writing an email b/c it said that all questions are read and responded to. The question was when the DoD would respond to Rep. Slaughter’s letter and start taking rape allegations seriously and prosecuting perpetrators. The form asked for your phone number, so I put mine in. Surprisingly, someone called me this morning to respond to my concerns. He was very courteous, and said that the military takes rape allegations seriously and investigates, and the the Uniform Code of Military justice now applies to military contractors and they can be prosecuted. I said I wanted the DOD to take Rep. Slaughter’s letter seriously and respond to her concerns; he said he was sure that would happen. I’m not really convinced, but I am impressed that someone called me and I hope my questions increase the pressure on DoD to really do something about this problem.

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