Karen Houppert reports for The Nation about the rape of a paramedic working for defense contractor KBR in Iraq. The details of both the incident and the response are truly nauseating. This is shameful stuff. (Trigger warning — more below the jump.)
That dawn, naked, covered in blood and feces, bleeding from her anus, she found a US soldier she did not know lying naked in the bed next to her: his gun lay on the floor beside the bed, she could not rouse him and all she could remember of the night before was screaming and screaming as the soldier anally penetrated her while a colleague who worked for defense contractor KBR held her hand–but instead of helping her, as she had hoped, he jammed his penis in her mouth.
Over the next few weeks Smith would be told to keep quiet about the incident by a KBR supervisor. The camp’s military liaison officer also told her not to speak about what had happened, she says. And she would follow these instructions. “Because then, all of a sudden, if you’ve done exactly what you’ve been instructed not to do–tell somebody–then you’re in danger,” Smith says.
It’s not like this and the Jamie Leigh Jones case are two isolated incidents.
In fact, a growing number of women employees working for US defense contractors in the Middle East are coming forward with complaints of violence directed at them. As the Iraq War drags on, and as stories of US security contractors who seem to operate with impunity continue to emerge (like Blackwater and its deadly attack against Iraqi civilians on September 16, 2007), a rash of new sexual assault and sexual harassment complaints are being lodged against overseas contractors–by their own employees. Todd Kelly, a lawyer in Houston, says his firm alone has fifteen clients with sexual assault, sexual harassment and retaliation complaints (for reporting assault and/or harassment) against Halliburton and its former subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root LLC (KBR), as well as Cayman Island-based Service Employees International Inc., a KBR shell company. (While Smith is technically an SEII employee, she is supervised by KBR staff as a KBR employee.)
All I can think is that if this is the horrible stuff they can get away with doing to female coworkers, imagine what U.S. military contractors have done to Iraqi women. Frankly, it’s horrifying.
Take Action: Pressure the Department of State and Department of Defense to take steps to protect US contractors; urge them to respond to the concerns raised by Rep. Louise Slaughter.