Thursday, October 08, 2009

Judd Gregg's Family Values

Jamie Leigh Jones went to Iraq in 2005, to work for Halliburton’s then subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown, and Root. When she signed the contract, she was shown pictures of a small trailer where she would live with other women. The reality was quite different. She found herself assigned to a huge barracks full of men. She complained to the company. Nothing happened. Four days after her arrival, she was socializing with some coworkers. One of the male firefighters handed her a drink, while making a comment about “roofies.” Ms. Jones was 21, and believed that she was working with people who were all on the same side. She thought he was joking. She remembers taking a few sips. After that, she has no memory.

Ms. Jones woke up naked and in pain. She’d been gang raped and sodomized. One of the men was still there, passed out. He wasn’t worried about the repercussions, you see. The men had learned that there would be no repercussions. She reported the attack to the company. A doctor examined her, and a rape kit was done. It was turned over to KBR officials, and has never been seen since. Jamie Leigh Jones was locked in a shipping container with no food or water. She was told that she needed to “get over it.” She eventually convinced one of the guards to allow her to use his cell phone. She called her father, who called their Congressman, and she was rescued, and brought back to the US. She had to have reconstructive surgery on her breasts.
Halliburton/KBR took no action against her attackers. The military, and the US Dept. of Justice did not prosecute. The contract she’d signed forced her into mandatory, binding, arbitration with the company. Halliburton would hire the arbitrator, the proceeds would be secret, and Jamie Leigh Jones would have no right to appeal if she lost. Halliburton had only lost 3 arbitration cases.

Ms. Jones realized, 5 months into the arbitration process that she wasn’t going to get anywhere. She went to court to fight the arbitration agreement, saying that the gang rape was not related to her employment, and should not be covered by the agreement. Two years later, the US 5th Circuit of appeals ruled in her favor.

There have been 38 similar claims made by women who were employed by Halliburton/KBR. Sexual assaults, rape, discrimination and groping were all charges made – and ignored by the company. If women complained, they were fired.

These contracting companies, hired by the DoD to work in Iraq and Afghanistan are not bound by military law. They are not subject to the laws of the countries they are working in, and they don’t seem to be subject to US law, either. Instead, these contractors live in some kind of a lawless empire, where women have no legal rights, and the men are free to rape and assault them without fear of prosecution or any repercussions.

These contracting companies are paid by US taxpayer dollars. Next time you’re watching Glenn Beck or Lou Dobbs work himself into a lather about ACORN, think about what else your taxpayer dollars are subsidizing. Next time you listen to some GOP Congresscritter get wound up about the way women are treated by the Taliban – remember, your tax dollars are subsidizing rapists and criminals.

Halliburton and KBR have been unrepentantly bilking the US taxpayers for years now. Halliburton overcharged the Pentagon for fuel delivery. In 2004, the GAO estimated that over $1 billion US taxpayer dollars had been wasted on overcharging by contractors. Nothing happened. KBR’s shoddy construction caused soldiers to be electrocuted in the showers. KBR served contaminated water to troops, and made them sick. Nothing happened. Both Halliburton and KBR are still working for the Pentagon. These contractors make ACORN look like boy scouts – but oddly, they’ve never been on the receiving end of the same operatic media scrutiny that ACORN gets.

Three years after being drugged, gang-raped, mutilated, and locked in a storage container, Jamie Leigh King has finally reached the place where she’ll be able to sue the company that protected the men who assaulted her. It will be years before she ever gets any kind of justice, but finally, she is on her way.

This week, the US Senate is working on the 2010 Defense Appropriations Bill. Senator Al Franken of Minnesota introduced an amendment that would withhold defense contracts from companies “if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery, and discrimination cases to court.” It’s unfortunate that this is even an issue, but surely, we the people don’t want our country to be represented around the world by rapists and criminals.

Apparently, this is not so. Senator Franken’s amendment passed, 68-30. There are thirty members of the US Senate who are just fine with rape. In fact, Senator Jeff Sessions spoke against the bill, calling it a “political attack directed at Halliburton.” All 30 Senators who voted against the amendment are Republicans, all who run on the issue of “family values.” David “likes to be spanked by hookers while wearing a diaper” Vitter voted against the amendment. So did Mitch McConnell, John Kyl, John Cornyn – from the state of Texas, where Jamie Leigh Jones is from – Jim DeMint, and of course our very own NH Senator, Judd Gregg. These men all decided that lawless military contractors are no big deal. The gang rape and mutilation that Jamie Leigh Jones experienced was not even worthy of consideration to them. Think about that, the next time you hear one of them nattering on about family values. What they really mean is that if it affects their family it’s an issue. If your daughter is raped, well, too bad. War profiteering is more important.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen voted in favor of the Franken amendment. Only Judd Gregg voted in favor of protecting these contractors. If it were up to Senator Gregg, the contractors hired by the Pentagon, and paid for by you and me, would be allowed to conceal their crimes, rape women with impunity, and continue to overcharge us. I have never been more ashamed.

h/t to LA Progressive for the "Dollar Soldier"

© sbruce 209 Published as an op-ed in the Conway Daily Sun on October 9, 2009

1 comment:

DissedBelief said...

Just last week I was discussing with a friend why KBR, Blackwater, Halliburton have just "gone away" and why there is no justice for the elite. And here you've addressed just this issue Susan.

We ALL should be ashamed. Those who are not, are personally liable for the horrors that have been perpetrated upon others by these contractors and the scum who participated in the named violations.

Why are individuals such as Judd Gregg immune from being held liable for protecting the perpetrators of violent acts. Imagine what has occurred without us ever knowing about it?

There is no justice unless all injustices and crimes are addressed.

Your outstanding column appears opposite a great letter submitted by Peter Elsemore who addresses McLaughlin's latest incorrect poor written, and extraordinarily biased column. McLaughlin strikes me as a perfect example of a conservative right wingnut happily supporting the rapist, murderous employees representing us overseas. Funny how he's pro-life and embraces "family values".

Hypocrisy vs. Reality right in front of our eyes.

Please have a joyful Columb. Day weekend Susan!