LaVena Johnson: Raped and Murdered on a Military Base in Iraq
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Forty years later, we find ourselves in another unjust and senseless war. This "home invasion" of Iraq, as Philadelphia veteran journalist Reggie Bryant aptly characterized it. And Johnson is a symbol of this war, as a casualty who risks being swept under the rug.
We may never know how many crimes have been hidden in Iraq. War is good for that sort of thing and little else, concealing the rapes, murders, shooting of children, bombing and pillaging of homes, the money stealing, and other crimes that are committed -- including the crime that is war itself. People are taught to kill like animals, to dehumanize and humiliate others.
But the case of Johnson raises yet another issue: Violence against women is a problem in the U.S. military, and other slayings and suspicious deaths similar to Johnson's are being classified as suicides. And Johnson is not the only woman to die a suspicious death on the Balad military base.
Retired Army Reserve Col. Ann Wright said 1 in 3 women who join the military will be raped or sexually assaulted by servicemen. Of the 94 military women who died in Iraq or during Operation Iraqi Freedom, 36 died from injuries unrelated to combat. While a number of them were ruled as suicides and homicides, 15 deaths remain that smell suspicious. For example, eight women from Fort Hood, Texas, died of "non-combat-related injuries" at Camp Taji, three of whom were raped before their deaths. Camp Taji is an Army base about 10 miles northwest of Baghdad.
Also, a number of female employees of Halliburton/KBR have been sexually harassed, assaulted and gang raped in Iraq. Their employment contract calls for such cases to be decided through arbitration rather than in a court of law. Halliburton and KBR, these war profiteers awash with money, even wanted one alleged rape victim to pay for their costs to defend themselves in arbitration. Lord have mercy ...
It is clear that under President George W. Bush, no friend of justice, the cases of these brutalized and slain women could not see the light of day. But we are living in a new time, so it seems, and perhaps now is the time that the family of LaVena Johnson, and all those other nameless women killed by the military, will find the justice they deserve.