Smell That Freedom

by digby

More pirate privilege:

Congress is asking questions about another ex-employee of government contracting firm KBR who claims she was raped in Iraq.

Letters to the Pentagon and the Justice Department today from Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. underscore congressional concern about a second alleged assault, this time of a woman from Florida who reportedly worked for a KBR subsidiary in Ramadi, Iraq in 2005.

"I am deeply troubled by recent reports that at least two women who worked in Iraq under contractors for the Department of Defense were sexually assaulted by male coworkers," Nelson wrote Defense Secretary Robert Gates Thursday.

In particular, Nelson expressed concern that in the case of Jamie Leigh Jones, the U.S. Army doctor who examined her turned over the rape examination kit, thought to contain useful evidence, to KBR officials. In the letter, Nelson also asked for an investigation to determine how many rape examinations were performed by U.S. military doctors in Iraq, and what was being done to ensure the cases were prosecuted.

In a separate letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Nelson asked why there has been no criminal prosecution in the case of the alleged Florida victim. The woman, reportedly now 41, has alleged she was raped in her living quarters. She has sued KBR and Halliburton in civil court, but the judge ordered the case into private arbitration.

Contacted Thursday, the woman's lawyer said the rules of arbitration prohibit her from discussing the case or making her client available for an interview.

Man, those employment contracts are awesome. You get raped. There's no criminal jurisdiction (because your employer is the former employer of the most powerful man in the world and he's made sure of it.) And you have to go to arbitration and haggle across a table with your former employer over the details and the damages you incurred when you were raped by their employees (who suffered no criminal penalties --- or no penalties at all.) Sweet.

I suppose this isn't quite as bad as punishing the victims for being raped with corporal punishment as they do in Saudi Arabia (and which "disappoints" George W. Bush) but I would imagine the difference feels like one of degree rather than substance.

Meanwhile back in Iraq, where the surge is making Iraq a peaceful paradise:

Wave Of Violence’ Against Women In Iraq Undercuts White House’s Claims Of Success

In recent weeks, the Bush administration has cited declining violence in Iraq as evidence of the success. Earlier this month, President Bush said that Iraqis are slowly “taking back their country.”

But last night, NBC Nightly News aired a segment about a “wave of violence that’s gone largely unreported lately against women in Iraq.” The report noted that Iraqi women, once “the most emancipated in the Arab world,” are increasingly unable to walk around without a hijab, wear cosmetics, or work. (YouTube here.)

The biggest irony here is that the war was marketed as a great advance for women's rights in the middle east. But it was obvious early on that it was a joke, and one of the biggest clues was the complete disregard for the fact that the women of Iraq were actually losing their freedom from the moment we invaded.

I wrote about it three years ago:

Despite what the right wing would have everyone believe, one of the primary reasons liberals supported the invasion of Afghanistan was to end the documented horrors that women suffered under the Taliban. Long before the Bush admnistration was negotiating with the Taliban or Republican congressmen were holding privatre meetings with Mullah Omar's lieutenants trying to make deals for pipelines, Hollywood liberals like Mavis Leno were spearheading the despised Feminist Majority Foundation's Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan. Everything about the Taliban was anathema to people like us who value freedom and equality. When that religious fundamentalist government enabled the direct attack on the United States there was every reason on both moral and national security grounds to support the invasion of that country. Life could not be much worse than it was under the Taliban.

Iraq was always much more complicated. Many of us were extremely suspicious of the evidence that Saddam posed a threat to the United States and as horrible as his regime was, there was always the liklihood that the country would eventually fall into civil war and itself become a fundamentalist theocracy --- thus making daily life for a full fifty percent of the population many degrees worse than it was under Saddam. It was never a pretty calculation but it was realistic. We knew all this going in and it is one of the reasons why it was never easy to simply wave the flag and proclaim ourselves liberators. Unless everything went exactly as envisioned by the starry eyed neocons, there was every chance that we would actually make many people less free by our actions.

It appears that this is happening. Not that anyone cares, mind you. If half of the Iraqi population sees a substantial loss of personal freedom from our liberation, it isn't really a problem. They are, after all, only women.

We on the left are being chastized daily for being terrorist sympathizers. Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are said to be on the other side. Any criticism of the government is Unamerican. And all of this is based upon the idea that liberals are rejecting Western values and putting ourselves in league with Islamic fundamentalists. This is literally nonsensical.

In point of fact, the argument could much more easily be made that it is the other way around. It grows more and more likely that the right, who wholeheartedly supported the war and are currently supporting the political handling of the occupation, deposed a totalitarian dictator to install a repressive fundamentalist theocracy in its place. I fail to see how that advances the cause of our country or western civilization. Indeed, it is a betrayal of everything we stand for.

Who are the real traitors to western enlightenment values --- those of us who find both totalitarianism and religious fundamentalism abominations or those who topple dictators to install theocracy? I'd ask the women of Iraq in about five years what they think. Of course, they won't be allowed to speak freely, so we'll probably never know.

I don't think we have to wait another two years, do you?