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Col. Janis Karpinski: U.S. Covered Up Deaths of Women Soldiers Who Died Trying to Protect Themselves from Rape by Male Soldiers

Col. Janis Karpinski 

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. 




17 thoughts on “Col. Janis Karpinski: U.S. Covered Up Deaths of Women Soldiers Who Died Trying to Protect Themselves from Rape by Male Soldiers

  1. It is obvious that rapists simply do not belong in the military.

    Posted by Branjor | July 1, 2006, 8:21 pm
  2. ”The women asked to be here, so now let them take what comes with the territory.”

    I wasn’t aware that male US soldiers were raping each other on a constant basis.

    Posted by spotted elephant | July 2, 2006, 7:41 pm
  3. I blogged about this in January, and I have to say it makes no sense. There are latrines everywhere at CAmp Victory, and I know this because I served there. There’s a lot wrong with this story, but some things in it ring true. Hearrt, you can email me.

    Posted by ginmar | July 6, 2006, 12:24 am
  4. Hey, thanks, ginmar, I’ll e-mail you. I found your journal entry:

    Here’s the link to Marjorie Cohn’s article in Truthout:


    Posted by womensspace | July 6, 2006, 2:50 am
  5. I corresponded with David Hackworth myself. If this had been a concern for me, do you doubt I would have noted it?

    Posted by ginmar | July 6, 2006, 4:06 am
  6. Hey, ginmar, I don’t doubt that at all– I wish I’d run this by you before I posted it. What do you think? Where is Karpinski coming from? I honestly don’t know what to think, except that I know men rape, soldiers rape, and I know that women soldiers were and are in a really vulnerable situation in Iraq. But I would definitely defer to your thoughts here.


    Posted by womensspace | July 6, 2006, 5:35 am
  7. The story just doesn’t make sense. A dehydration death would result in the CO being subject to discipline, becuase it would be regarded as neglecting his troops. There’s water everywhere, wihch means there’s water bottles, too, in case you really don’t want to go to the latrine at night. Every soldier has at least one flash light, too. Also, the men who actually serve with women often find it a transformative experience. I can’t imagine where she’s getting this, but I have to say I f ind her portrait of female soldiers as helpless victims distasteful in the extreme.

    Posted by ginmar | July 6, 2006, 10:29 pm
  8. I wasn’t aware that being raped by your comrades was part of the contract when you sign up for military service. was that in the fine print or something?

    So if a man wants sex and you happen to be there (as a soldier) and you don’t want to give it to him then he has some unwritten right to just take it by force? So is that what the men mean when they say they made their beds so to speak?

    Where do these men get their ideas from? I think severe punisment is in order if all this is true. The same punishment you would get if you raped as a civilian other civilians.


    Posted by Roberta | July 6, 2006, 10:45 pm
  9. It’s not. Women in the military are strong, and most of the men are decent.

    Posted by ginmar | July 8, 2006, 3:01 am
  10. I spent nearly 5 years in the Navy during the Vietnam War. You have no idea how women were treated back then or even now unless you were in the service. We have to work 3 times as hard as men to get the same respect. we were ignored just like how the General described her superiors did. Read her fabulous book and you will understand how women are still being marginalized in the service. The men don’t change.

    Posted by Jan | September 3, 2006, 8:20 pm
  11. Woman, decided to defend our country. So did men. Men have been over powering woman for centuries. Woman, want to die for their country. They will die defeating their purpose. To die of dehydration, is not dying for your country. Men in the army have no problem killing innocent lives, what makes you think they care about rapping a woman ? These men do what the are told, and do not give it a second thought. I would rather be rapped than die of dehydration. Men, have seen death. Men, are testing woman now more than ever. Woman can be strong. Woman, can be afraid. We are in war. War is to win, not to fight. Surround your enemy and leave them a passage way to escape. Don’t kill the enemy. If you kill this enemy, more enemies will come your way. Woman are mentally stronger than men. We show emotion. They don’t. Men were not meant to love, because they cannont handle such responsibility. This is why woman were meant to bare children. These woman are not afraid of dying. These woman are afraid of living, and wanting to die.

    Posted by Unknown | September 19, 2006, 5:39 pm
  12. As a male survivor of rape and sexual assaults…yes-assaualts/while serving in the USNavy in 1969-70 I want to say that there are further assaults to survivors who apply to the veterans administration for help-the veterans advocates are NOT SUFFIECIENTLY TAUGHT how to hear and deal with the details of being raped during military service. Eare is not a crime locked soley in the military-it is a world wide crime…also a genderless crime-male or female will not change the way shame is felt-intersting,my rape was administered in a urinal in a detention barracks….I was there for no explainable reason-AND I was given an HONRABLE DISCHARGE. How come I don’t feel so honorable?

    Posted by jayherron | November 9, 2006, 11:54 pm
  13. Who ever reads this blog and sees this PLEASE:
    It is a terrible thing to be a volunteer in a military and to be returned damaged by assaults and rape…and to DEAF EARS!!
    Lets work together and change this!!!

    Posted by jayherron | May 11, 2007, 6:01 pm
  14. what bites, is that there is a military

    a friend of mine suggested
    re the iraq dehydration
    why don’t they have a portable pee pot, can, what ever
    pee at night
    or even pee in the sand
    (camels do it)
    rather than dehydrate

    is that a telling story
    on corporate america

    Posted by Waldemar | May 16, 2007, 2:51 am
  15. It troubles me to see so many sites towards feminism and female rights and so limited (or was there any) with nothing to edify and offer support to ‘male’ survivors of sexual assault-and even rape.
    There should be an open mind that sexual assault is not confined to gender-attack happens to men as surely as it happens to woman….ahhh,and even children-and children are’nt yet an age to understand feminism and rights.
    The devience of both men and woman is an issue that is not honestly conveyed to society.
    A woman…her husband…her adult son,and his friend…all together sexually assaulted Christopher Barious (I’m sure I’ve misspelled his last name) Christopher was a six year old abducted by this group…he was raped and dumped in a ditch with a plastic garbage bag for a coffin. This took place in Brunswick GA.

    It is true- a larger number of woman reported rapes to military superiors then men…but does that number relect the truth?
    I am a MALE.
    I have suffered years of torment and shame that I was raped-repeatedly raped-while doing service to my country.
    Men raped me-yes…
    But the reality is….it is NOT feminist isolated crime-it is not!
    It should be looked at closer than feminism gives a window to.

    Posted by jayherron | January 21, 2008, 1:15 pm


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