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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Rape and Pillage in War? No One Could Have Foreseen It...

Rape and Pillage in War? No One Could Have Foreseen It...
Image © Austin Cline
Original Poster: National Archives
Click for full-sized Image

Without the rule of law, there is only the rule of force — and wherever the rule of force is in effect, you can be sure that it will be used to reinforce and exploit the privileges of those groups which have traditionally held power over all others. It is thus unsurprising, although terribly disturbing, that women in Baghdad's "Green Zone" fear to travel alone. I'm not talking about traveling around Iraq and being afraid of insurgents, but traveling around the Green Zone itself and being afraid of Americans.

The alleged rape Jamie Leigh Jones surely wouldn't have been the first incident of sexual assault on a female contractor, and it also probably won't be the last. Government contractors effectively operate outside the rule of any law and they know it. They are exempt from Iraqi laws and they are exempt from any American laws. The most the American government can do is withdraw their contracts — and perhaps not even that — but it's unlikely to happen with the larger contractors which have good political connections.

Do you really think that the people working for these contractors are unaware of the fact that no laws bind them and that no legal authorities can call them to accountability for their actions? Maybe a few are that dumb, but most surely aren't. The worst they can expect to suffer as a consequence of immoral or otherwise illegal behavior is to be fired and sent home, but even that won't likely happen with the best employees, with those who act as an organized group, or with those who are acting with some form of tacit approval from above.

So taking all of this into consideration, what sort of cultural and social context do we have in America's Green Zone? Well, we have a primarily male workforce that was raised in a generally patriarchal society where the role of women has been improving, but nevertheless women are still often treated as though they exist primarily for menial home labor, raising children, and the sexual whims of men. This male workforce is living 24 hours a day, seven days a week in a dangerous, stressful situation that is far from family or friends — not something known to bring out the best in anyone.

They also know that there are no legal consequences for almost anything they do — perhaps up to and including murder. The punishment of being fired and sent home isn't so bad since they will be out of danger, but even that won't happen if they are organized and plan well. Given all this, even the most optimistic observer of humanity would have to be surprised that there aren't more problems and crimes — though we don't actually know how many there are, do we?

Jamie Leigh Jones alleges that she was shut in a shipping container so she couldn't report what happened and the evidence of the rape was handed over to her employer who promptly "lost" it. If this is true, we should expect that evidence and reports of many more crimes have been and will continue to be covered up. Knowledge of this sort of behavior by management can only serve to embolden those already inclined to commit crimes.

This means that not only will Jamie Leigh Jones not see justice, but others are even more likely to become the victims of crimes — and management will be just as responsible as those who actually commit the crimes. The US government also arguably shares responsibility here for allowing a lawless environment to be created in the first place. Of course, given how President Bush himself doesn't appear to feel that he should be subjected to any laws, perhaps we should have expected him to willfully take us down such a road. It's just that authoritarian leaders prefer to be the only ones above the law.

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We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.