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January 31, 2006

Military concealed cause of female soldiers' deaths

Several female soldiers at Camp Liberty died of dehydration because they refused to drink liquid in the afternoons, for fear of having to walk to the latrine at night and risk being raped by their male colleagues.

Military Hides Cause of Women Soldiers' Deaths
By Marjorie Cohn
t r u t h o u t | Report
Monday 30 January 2006

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. [...]

How is it possible that American female soldiers are living in fear of rape by their own colleagues? We know that rape is a serious problem in the military, but it's odd that a significant number of soldiers at Camp Liberty would be afraid of getting jumped on the way back from the latrine. These women are armed and presumably trained to ward off attackers.

What is it about this situation that's compelling our troops to risk their health and even their lives to protect themselves from their own colleagues?

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Comments

Goddamnit!!!! This really pisses me off. I am a 22 year vet and this is just beyond words. I also have faith that it will be covered up just like everything else is with this administration. It just makes me sick.

Sorry for the rant, Lindsay but I couldn't help it.

Rant away, Redcane. This story really upset me, too.

Deeply disturbing, if true.

It just sounds a bit strange to me, though. Why didn't they arrange to go to the latrine in groups? Arm themselves (they are soldiers)? Why didn't they set up a bucket or some other arrangement by their barracks? It's not convenient or pleasant, but it's much better than not drinking in the desert. Their thirst must have been pretty unbearable if it led to death by dehydration.

I don't know if I trust Karpinski 100%.

Mike, looks like we cross-posted our questions at the same time. See the addendum to my post above. Looks like we're thinking along the same lines. Something just doesn't add up about that story. Makes me wonder whether there might have been some kind of larger rapist clique that was operating with impunity. I.e. senior officers, or something....

Unfortunately, then, the odds that this will be properly investigated are about zero.

If true, one would hope that the commanding authority would be horsewhipped at least, but I doubt anything will come of this.
I'm an army brat, so though this disgusts me, it hardly surprises me. Hire people to be thugs and guess what? You get thugs. Armies have been the same since the earliest Mesopotamian raiding parties. That things remain the same in Mesopotamia is not exactly news.

Unfortunately, Karpinski has an axe to grind with hierarchy of the US Army. I don't doubt that there have been very serious problems and they have definitely been covered up.

I'd like to hear more about this because if it's true, or even partially true, heads should roll.

If that is what the occupation forces do to their own women one can only imagine what they do to those they have "liberated".
What a hell.

Good to see your BS detector isn't completely malfunctioning. Check out the part where she claims that a September '03 death certificate of a master sergeant was changed to remove the "dehydration" cause of death. Then go to:

http://icasualties.org/oif/female.aspx

Only one female sergeant had died in Iraq as of that point, and according to the site (which apparently has more information than the linked death notices from the military), she died from a non-hostile weapons discharge.

Karpinski has made wild claims before--like the CNN article where she said she met an Israeli interrogator working for the US in Iraq. Not a reliable source.

Senior officers are allergic to high-velocity lead, just like anyone else. I flat-out don't buy this story. As Lindsay and Mike note, we're supposed to believe that professional soldiers wouldn't piss in a bucket in their quarters -- or, far more likely, guard each other to and from the john and turn would-be assailants into dogfood -- just because the soldiers in question are female? Bullshit.

When it looked like a friend of mine was going to be shipped out to Iraq to work as flight crew, she said she would be required have an armed MP escort whenever she went outdoors, to protect her from rape by her fellow soldiers.

Even if the above isn't true about the deaths by dehydration, Karpinski is at least conflating it with a real problem that is for some reason never reported.

After reading the comments, I too, am pretty skeptical about this occurring as reported. I do believe however that there are rapes committed and swept under the rug all the time. So, if this is not true as stated I believe there is some truth there. We just don't know what it is yet. Stay tuned to see, if by some miracle, we get any more info.

I think it is well established that rape is a big problem in the military. And I wouldn't dismiss Karpinski's testimony just because she has an ax to grind. Most whistle blowers have an ax to grind.

OTOH, simply not drinking water in the desert does not seem like a solution a soldier would come up with. I dunno.

Could have been cured by fragging.

why weren't senior officers aware of this? or probably more appropriately why weren't measures taken to ensure this wasn't an issue and the female enlistees were safe? it seems passing the buck has become the modus operandi in the military, after all they're only following their commander-in-chief.

couldn't this be grounds for civil litigation?

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.

I don't find it all that odd that female soldiers would choose not drinking after mid-afternoon over going to the latrines in groups and armed with weapons, given the psychological consequences of rape. It's common for women to have feelings of shame and powerlessness after rape. Isn't that the whole point about rape? That it's the ultimate form of taking away a person's sense of self? If I had been raped, especially in such a scary situation, when you're assaulted while walking back to your bunk in the dark from an unguarded latrine, I would not want to go back there at night under any circumstances. Especially if there is no effective support system, as Karpinski charged.

This would be even more true if, as Lindsay suggested, there is a culture of rape that goes to the level of superior officers.

Whether any women actually died of dehydration is a separate issue, but I have no trouble believing that some women chose to risk dehydration rather than have to pee at night.

Having been stationed at Camp Victory at both ends of my deployment, I want to point out that the first thing that struck me about her story is that it doesn't sound like Victory at all. It sounds like Ad Diwaniyah, where they have fancy latrine/shower combos, but there's only two of them for females in the whole camp, so you have to walk a ways to get there. At Victory, there's portajohns everywhere. I mean, just everywhere.

It's easy for me to believe that the brass wouldn't support a female who either was raped or shot a guy who tried. The guys I served with were amazing, but some were not. This attitude is best summed up by comment a high-ranking NCO made when he discovered that a female's trailer had been invaded while she slept. She woke to the intruder fondling her and screamed. He ran. The response? "If that bitch had just locked her door, I wouldn't have had to be here at 3 AM.' No, someone else's NCO would have had to, though.

I just went to hear Eli PaintedCrow, a 22 yr. retired Army Veteran who served in Iraq in 2004, speak at the University Friends Center, and she mentioned this very event. One of the things she said, that this article didn't mention, was that it was not unusual for there to be only one woman in a group of soldiers (I don't know the military terminology - brigade?) and they could NOT bunch up together and travel in a group.

As for those men who wonder why the women don't pee in a bottle at night - are we sure these women have the privacy to pull down their pants and pee, without a room full of men watching?

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