This morning, via Off Our Backs national, I received a copy of an article published on Truthout last January, written by Marjorie Cohn. Cohn reported that in testimony before a panel of judges at the the Commission of Inquiry for Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York, Col. Janis Karpinski testified that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, former senior US military commander in Iraq, repeatedly covered up the fact that woman soldiers were dying of dehydration because they weren’t drinking water in the evenings. The reason? They didn’t want to have to go to the latrines at night because male soldiers were raping them there. In the 120-degree heat of Iraq and Kuwait, they died of dehydration in their sleep. When the cause of death was found to be dehydration, Sanchez ordered that it be removed for reasons of women’s “privacy rights.” Rumsfeld knew about it and ordered that the details not be released.
Over a six month period, more than 89 rapes were reported to a supposed rape “hotline” set up for women soldiers. Even if raped soldiers had access to phones, which many didn’t, when they called the “hotline” they got a recorded message telling them to leave a message. Knowing they were going to be raped and there would be no recourse for them, the women stopped drinking liquids after 3-4 p.m., and began dying of dehydration.
Karpinski, in her testimony, quoted Sanchez as saying, “The women asked to be here, so now let them take what comes with the territory.” She testified that female soldiers had no voice in Iraq and Kuwait:
There were countless such situations all over the
theater of operations – Iraq and Kuwait – because
female soldiers didn’t have a voice, individually or
collectively,” Karpinski told Hackworth. “Even as a
general I didn’t have a voice with Sanchez, so I know what the soldiers were facing. Sanchez did not want to hear about female soldier requirements and/or issues.”
Karpinski was the highest officer reprimanded for the atrocities at Abu Ghraib, even though details of the interrogations were carefully hidden from her. She was scapegoated. Cohn writes:
But most shameful is Sanchez’s cover-up of the
dehydration deaths of women that occurred in Iraq.
Sanchez is no stranger to outrageous military orders. He was heavily involved in the torture scandal that surfaced at Abu Ghraib. Sanchez approved the use of unmuzzled dogs and the insertion of prisoners head-first into sleeping bags after which they are tied with an electrical cord and their are mouths covered. At least one person died as the result of the sleeping bag technique. Karpinski charges that Sanchez attempted to hide the torture after the hideous photographs became public.
Sanchez reportedly plans to retire soon, according
to an article in the International Herald Tribune
earlier this month. But Rumsfeld recently considered elevating the 3-star general to a 4-star. The Tribune also reported that Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, the Army’s chief spokesman, said in an email message, “The Army leaders do have confidence in LTG Sanchez.”
No wonder women soldiers are refusing to return to Iraq under threat of court martial. Not only might they be sexually harrassed and raped by their comrades, they might die trying to protect themselves and no one will know what happened. And nobody will be told why — even though their commanding officers know why. Their commanding officers will say that they made their bed when they joined the military, now they should lie in it. And die in it.