Just remember, "The W Stands for Women"

I have simply run out of expressions of outrage. Read this:

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.

Karpinski testified that a surgeon for the coalition’s joint task force said in a briefing that “women in fear of getting up in the hours of darkness to go out to the port-a-lets or the latrines were not drinking liquids after 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and in 120 degree heat or warmer, because there was no air-conditioning at most of the facilities, they were dying from dehydration in their sleep.”

“And rather than make everybody aware of that – because that’s shocking, and as a leader if that’s not shocking to you then you’re not much of a leader – what they told the surgeon to do is don’t brief those details anymore. And don’t say specifically that they’re women. You can provide that in a written report but don’t brief it in the open anymore.”

For example, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, Sanchez’s top deputy in Iraq, saw “dehydration” listed as the cause of death on the death certificate of a female master sergeant in September 2003. Under orders from Sanchez, he directed that the cause of death no longer be listed, Karpinski stated. The official explanation for this was to protect the women’s privacy rights.

Sanchez’s attitude was: “The women asked to be here, so now let them take what comes with the territory,” Karpinski quoted him as saying. Karpinski told me that Sanchez, who was her boss, was very sensitive to the political ramifications of everything he did. She thinks it likely that when the information about the cause of these women’s deaths was passed to the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld ordered that the details not be released. “That’s how Rumsfeld works,” she said.

Read the whole story at Truthout.


2 thoughts on “Just remember, "The W Stands for Women"

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  1. hmm. Shocking, certainly, but I have my doubts about the source. Karpinski was reduced in rank and fired because she failed to supervise the prison. A fall-guy? No doubt. But also a failure as a leader.

    Let’s say, for example, her statements are 100% accurate. Why, as the commander of that prison, didn’t she order the latrine moved, or install lights, or order a protection detail, or order a night watch (called a “fire-watch” in military speak, and VERY common)? Any of those things would be perfectly normal for a military commander to do. And on the first hint of trouble (if not earlier), she should have done so. And there’s no chance her bosses, no matter how politically calculating, would have stopped her from implementing any of these safe-guards.

    If I had to guess, probably some of what Karpinski complains of did occur — and that is both tragic and horrifying. Most likely it occured while she was ignoring her own unit. She is less than a perfect, or particularly trustworthy, messenger as she has been trying to point the finger elsewhere since the day the prison scandal first surfaced.

    That’s not to absolve the Bush administration of its guilt for this whole mess, and it isn’t too say that the prisoner abuse was all Karpinski’s fault (I think only very little of it was), but it is to say that what she says needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

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