Nine months after the July 2005 drugging and gang rape alleged by ex-Halliburton employee Jamie Leigh Jones, President Bush was asked in a public Q&A at John Hopkins University to explain how he proposes to bring private military contractors in Iraq under a system of law. The President was noticably flummoxed by the question and clumsily stammered out a laughable non-reply before moving awkwardly off the topic.
But the importance of this question has taken on new life in the wake of a civil suit brought forward this week by the victim, as well as new allegations announced by Florida Senator Bill Nelson concerning KBR's former "Morale, Welfare and Recreation Coordinator" in Ramadi, a 41-year old woman who says a drunken KBR employee entered her living quarters and raped her in December 2005.
About the same time, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld himself attended a public Q&A at Johns Hopkins and was questioned on the same topic. Rumsfeld said "There are laws that govern the behavior of Americans in that country. The Department of Justice oversees that...[b]ut if you think about it, Iraq’s a sovereign country. They have their laws and they're going to govern, the UN resolution and the Iraqi laws, as well as U.S. procedures and laws govern behavior in that country...".
The JHU student had been voicing the concerns of many Americans pondering the unchecked free hand afforded private military contractors in Iraq and the region. Rumsfeld's explanation to her question left the student more confused then ever. She and the public at large could see clearly that Iraq was unable to enforce it's laws as an embattled nation under foreign occupation and in the middle of a simultaneous civil war.
Mistrust grew as video showing contactors randomly shooting at innocent civilians for fun had circulated online, but supporters of US Armed Forces had long resented the trend of replacing our troops with unaccountable civilians at obscenely higher salaries. This was made even worse by numerous accusations of favoritism and fraud in awarding no-bid contracts to crony corporations. KBR/Halliburton was found guilty in several separate incidents of double-billing, exposed for overcharging and even endangering US troops.
This led many to believe Dick Cheney was providing cover for the firm - even after Halliburton's disgrace in the rip-off scandals, they stayed on as the largest contractor in Iraq, with profits skyrocketing because of their tidy "cost plus" arrangements.
During his long tenure as CEO of Halliburton, Cheney schmoozed his previous White House and Pentagon connections to help secure defense contracts (perhaps this is why his number appeared on the call records of area escort services). Later as Vice-President he would return the favor, but Halliburton still gave the American people the flip of the bird when they announced they were relocating their headquarters to Dubai, becoming a foreign firm who will skip paying US taxes and use cheap foreign labor to maximize profits.
So the freshman student waited until Bush's visit in April of 2006 to have this vital question answered, looking to Bush as Rumsfeld's boss to personally clarify the matter. Bush, as you can hear in the audio clip, (video here) was not up to the task, deferring back to "the Secretary" who the coed stated in her original question had already left the question unanswered.
As this issue is now unfolding to include House Judiciary Committee investigations and calls for inquiry by Hillary Clinton and others, freshly-appointed Attorney General Michael Mukasey may soon have to answer for the inaction to this point. Some suggest that investigations will lead to right back to his department, however - articles have already been published reporting a DOJ cover-up and stalling on the KBR gang rape.
KBR's employment contract "fine print" left the women in both cases with little legal recourse - their terms of employment dictated mandatory "private" arbitration in cases of employee lawsuits. The track record for the arbitration firm Halliburton chooses historically rules in favor of the corporation over 80% of the time.
This means that Bush's dismissal of public calls for contractor accountability could have contributed to officials feeling the need to hinder this rape investigation. For example, officials who improperly gave KBR over the rape kit collected from the incident could be seen as having complicity in the failure to protect evidence or failure to pursue evidence-tampering charges once it went "missing".
All correspondence related to this case should be subpoenaed and reviewed at once to see how far high up the chain of command went. This clearly ties in to the many-headed hydra representing the corruption of this White House and illicit ties to privatized defense firms. Impeachment investigations would either implicate or exonerate Cheney and the others, so it's only fair to the White House to proceed, because they now stand accused of turning a blind eye to gang rapes - you would think they'd feel the need to clear their names.
April 2008 Update: Another KBR employee has come forward claiming she was raped and intimidated by KBR staff and employee complaint policies