By David Swanson
What does one say to a young woman gang raped by men paid by us to work for a company from which our vice president profits, men who have yet to be charged with any crime, a company yet to make amends in any way, and a presidential administration effectively granted immunity by our representatives in Congress?
I’m going to interview Jamie Leigh Jones on Tuesday evening, January 15th (8 to 9 p.m. ET), and she’ll take questions from the audience. You can listen and participate at http://www.thepeoplespeakradio.net and I certainly hope you will, because I have absolutely no idea myself what I can say to her. What excuse can any of us offer? What words can convey the depth of our shame? What can we commit to doing to help her and others like her?
Jones was hired at age 19 to work for Halliburton in Houston, Texas, and the next year was sent to Iraq to work for Halliburton. She says that she was drugged and raped by numerous coworkers in Baghdad, and was then confined by Halliburton armed guards to a shipping container, denied food, water, or medical help.
Jones used a borrowed cell phone to contact her father, who in turn contacted Representative Ted Poe (R, TX) who contacted the State Department, which freed Jones from Halliburton’s shipping container. U.S. Army doctors performed an examination that discovered evidence of vaginal and anal rape, but the sexual assault kit disappeared after being turned over to Halliburton and was later recovered missing some pieces of evidence, including doctor’s notes and photographs of Jones’ bruises.
Videos about this case are collected here: http://www.thepeoplespeakradio.net/2008/01/09/jamie-leigh-jones This video collection includes Jones’ testimony before the House Judiciary Committee last month, in which she described her experience and said that she knows of at least 11 other victims of similar attacks. Jones has started a foundation aimed at assisting these victims: http://www.JamiesFoundation.org She is also working on a book and a film about the issue. The response from women who are former Halliburton employees has been overwhelming, she says.
The Iraqi puppet government is barred from prosecuting criminals employed by U.S. contractors in Iraq as the result of one of Paul Bremer’s decrees (CPA Order 17). The U.S. Justice Department is understood to be barred from pursuing justice as a result of Bush and Cheney’s appointment of Alberto Gonzales clone Michael Mukasey as Attorney General and Congress’ acquiescence in that disgraceful appointment. Another video available at the above link shows Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers commenting on Jones’ case. Seated behind Conyers’ right shoulder is committee staffer Ted Kalo who worked closely with impeachment advocates in 2005 and played a principal role in drafting Conyers’ book laying out many of Bush and Cheney’s impeachable offenses: http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/constitutionincrisis
Having unilaterally disarmed the Congress by promising never to impeach anyone, Conyers possesses limited tools with which to pursue justice for Jones. In this video, he says that he will ask the Justice Department and the Pentagon to handle the matter. And, indeed, Conyers subpoenaed the Justice Department to testify. But without the threat of impeachment, Conyers cannot compel Bush Administration officials to testify or to indict. As has become a pattern ( http://www.democrats.com/subpoenas ) the Justice Department declined to show up, and we can expect Conyers to henceforth clam up about it. He is unlikely to ask the Justice Department to hold itself in contempt, and the only other option he has is one he has promised Speaker Nancy Pelosi he will not use: impeachment of the real decision makers. (Conyers did not support the movement in Congress to impeach Gonzales that may have contributed to his resignation.)
Other videos at the above link include: Jones speaking on ABC’s “20/20” in a story that also features a second victim of Halliburton and the U.S. State Department; Jones speaking on MSNBC with Dan Abrams; and Keith Olbermann discussing Jones’ case on MSNBC with Air America’s Sam Seder.
Jones has filed a civil suit against Halliburton and its subsidiary KBR, but the defendants have requested private arbitration, which would mean placing the case in the hands of an arbitrator hired by the defendants. Tragically, that avenue appears to offer a better shot at justice than anything we, the American people, are able to offer through our representatives in Congress.