Dying to Avoid Rape

Female soldiers in Iraq are having to make an impossible choice: Risk being raped , or risk dying of dehydration. Many of them have ended up dead.

In a startling revelation, the former commander of Abu Ghraib prison testified that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, former senior US military commander in Iraq, gave orders to cover up the cause of death for some female American soldiers serving in Iraq.

Last week, Col. Janis Karpinski told a panel of judges at the Commission of Inquiry for Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York that several women had died of dehydration because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. They were afraid of being assaulted or even raped by male soldiers if they had to use the women’s latrine after dark.

The latrine for female soldiers at Camp Victory wasn’t located near their barracks, so they had to go outside if they needed to use the bathroom. “There were no lights near any of their facilities, so women were doubly easy targets in the dark of the night,” Karpinski told retired US Army Col. David Hackworth in a September 2004 interview.

It was there that male soldiers assaulted and raped women soldiers. So the women took matters into their own hands. They didn’t drink in the late afternoon so they wouldn’t have to urinate at night. They didn’t get raped. But some died of dehydration in the desert heat, Karpinski said.

Read the whole article.

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11 comments for “Dying to Avoid Rape

  1. liss
    January 31, 2006 at 2:05 pm

    I would treat this very carefully, given a) where Karpinski’s coming from and b) the panel to whom she makes the revelation.

    It seems to me that there’s a lot of hearsay in that article and that there isn’t necessarily a demonstrable connection between the dehydration death certificate and the reports of sexual assault/inadequate rape hotline.

    I find it disturbing that the possibility of sexual assault by the army seems to have been considered so un-shocking that it’s buried underneath the speculative dying-of-dehydration screamer.

    It also seems to me that the tone of the article plays into a rhetorical trap: that if/when the dehydration story is shown to be false/unprovable, that will be taken to invalidate the rest of the data about sexual assault.

  2. finalrepose
    January 31, 2006 at 2:29 pm

    A little bit off topic…

    I just can not believe why the faces that we associate with the Abu Ghraib torture scandal are the faces of women. I am thinking of Lynndie England and Janice Karpinski.

    I am not implying that those women weren’t involved or even guilty but knowing that about 80% of the US army is male (or 1 in 7 US soldiers in Iraq is female) I wonder how 2 women ended up being the face of this evil.

    It just bugs me…

  3. January 31, 2006 at 9:33 pm

    It’s simple.

    The military is structured around the male pattern of hierarchial authroity.

    As for the rapes, there are a boatload of assault cases, even ones against civilians, at overseas bases that get swept under the rug.

    Look how long it took the AF Academy to actualy start to clean up it’s act.

    Remember how many people who claimed that the Navy’s “Tailhook” parties were Just Boys Will Be Boys?

  4. February 1, 2006 at 9:30 am

    The wording of this article is interesting, particularly “So the women took matters into their own hands.”

    Taking the situation into their own hands=choosing dehydration over rape. Possibly a reasonable choice, but hardly an indication of any kind of power.

  5. ginmar
    February 1, 2006 at 1:38 pm

    When I was at Camp Virginia in Kuwait, waiting to ship to Baghdad, we were informd that there had been rapes of women. Did they add lights, place us in highly-visible areas? No, they put us at the bakc of camp and told us to watch out for ourselves. No efforts were made to do anything else.

    This story doesn’t make sense but I bet that will be laid at Karpinsky’s door, not the reporters. At Camp Victory, the latrines are close to dwellings, and there’s only one classic barracks building—–everyone else lives in trailers or in tents. Also, soldiers always have flashlights. Always. I don’t know what she’s talking about. The only place where there aren’t latrines within close range are…much further south, in Echo. Unless things have changed a lot, this doesn’t ring true, except for the part about male soldiers raping female soldiers.

    I bet five bucks these are the same guys who always talk so desperatelya bout how men have to protect women so women shoudln’t be allowed in combat. What they never mention is that they’re protecting them from other men, not from themselves.

  6. EricP
    February 1, 2006 at 8:04 pm

    I’m not American and I have never been a soldier but aren’t soldiers issued weapons? I don’t doubt that rapes are happening in Iraq. Aside from the reports that have been published, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that with 140 thousand people 18-30, there will be rapes, assaults, etc. Especially given the alpha-male thinking involved with male soldiers in a war zone. It just strikes me, aside from what Ginmar mentioned that if there was one area where these attacks kept happening, that even if the military didn’t take steps, the women themselves would take steps like being armed and/or going in groups.

    Given the fact that Janis Karpinski has a potential conflict of interest (many people feel she was scape goated for Abu Ghraib – maybe herself included) and she was speaking to “Commission of Inquiry for Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York”, I have to take anything she says with a grain of salt.

  7. Bruce from Missouri
    February 1, 2006 at 8:10 pm

    Upon thinking about it for a while, I just don’t buy that story. I’m just as left and feminist as anyone, but it doesn’t make any sense.

    I , as a sometime ultra-marathon cyclist have been dangerously dehydrated before. Trust me, you won’t die in your sleep from dehydration. Not unless you can sleep through full-body cramps, and massive headaches.

  8. EricP
    February 1, 2006 at 8:39 pm

    For anyone wondering about the “commission”, you can find out more at The BUSH CRIMES COMMISSION. I’m not fan of Bush, but this whole thing is a joke.

  9. sam_m
    February 2, 2006 at 5:26 am

    Are American men so bestial and US soldiers so ill disciplined that female soldiers live in constant fear of rape??!! My God what are these people like outside of their barracks???

  10. ginmar
    February 2, 2006 at 9:24 am

    EricP, female soldiers get issues weapons but they might just as well get issued prohibitions against using them against their male soldiers, too.

    Case in point: when a woman’s trailer got broken into in Iraq, a senior NCO said, “If that bitch had just locked her door I wouldn’t be stnading here.”

    Someone else’s NCO would hvae been, though, but why blame the attacker? He assumed that her trailer had been unlocked, right off the bat. How many assumptions are there in that simple statement of his?

    A good CO could stop a rape culture in the military, or at least tehir culture. The fact is, they don’t. It’s the boys or the girls, and the girls don’t count.

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