Saturday, April 5, 2008


HOUSTON -- It was an early January morning in 2008 when 42-year-old Lisa Smith*, a paramedic for a defense contractor in southern Iraq, woke up to find her entire room shaking.

The shipping container that served as her living quarters was reverberating from nearby rocket attacks, and she was jolted awake to discover an awful reality. "Right then my whole life was turned upside down," she says.

What follows is the story she told me in a lengthy, painful on-the-record interview, conducted in a lawyer's office in Houston, Texas, while she was back from Iraq on a brief leave.

By Karen Houppert, The NationPosted on April 4, 2008, Printed on April 5, 2008

Editor's Note: Lisa Smith is a pseudonym used on request. Additional reporting by Te-Ping Chen. Research support provided by the Investigative Fund of The Nation Institute.

KBR was a subsidiary of Haliburton which Vice President Dick Cheney was once the CEO for Haliburton.

That dawn, naked, covered in blood and feces, bleeding from her anus, she found a U.S. soldier she did not know lying naked in the bed next to her: His gun lay on the floor beside the bed, she could not rouse him and all she could remember of the night before was screaming and screaming as the soldier anally penetrated her while a colleague who worked for defense contractor KBR held her hand -- but instead of helping her, as she had hoped, he jammed his penis in her mouth.

Over the next few weeks, Smith would be told to keep quiet about the incident by a KBR supervisor. The camp's military liaison officer also told her not to speak about what had happened, she says. And she would follow these instructions. "Because then, all of a sudden, if you've done exactly what you've been instructed not to do -- tell somebody -- then you're in danger," Smith says.

As a brand-new arrival at Camp Harper, she had not yet forged many connections and was working in a red zone under regular rocket fire alongside the very men who had participated in the attack. (At one point, as the sole medical provider, she was even forced to treat one of her alleged assailants for a minor injury.) She waited two and a half weeks, until she returned to a much larger facility, to report the incident. "It's very easy for bad things to happen down there and not have it be even slightly suspicious."

Over the next month and a half, she says, she faced a series of hurdles. She would be discouraged from reporting the incident by several KBR employees, she says. She would be confused by the lack of any written medical protocol for sexual assault (as the only medical person on site, she treated herself with doxycycline). She would wander through a tangled maze of interviews with KBR and Army investigators about the incident without any clear explanation of her rights. She would be asked to sign several documents agreeing not to publicly discuss the incident, she says. She describes having her computer -- which she saw as her lifeline, her main access to the outside world -- confiscated by Army investigators as "evidence" within hours of receiving her first email from a stateside lawyer she had reached out to for help.

And eventually she would find herself temporarily assigned to sleeping quarters between two Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) officials, who, she says, assured her that it was for her own safety, since her alleged assailants were at the same camp for questioning; they roamed freely. When she wanted to move about the camp to get meals, etc., she was escorted.
Smith felt very alone. But she was not.

In fact, a growing number of women employees working for U.S. defense contractors in the Middle East are coming forward with complaints of violence directed at them. As the Iraq war drags on, and as stories of U.S. security contractors who seem to operate with impunity continue to emerge (like Blackwater and its deadly attack against Iraqi civilians on Sept. 16, 2007), a rash of new sexual assault and sexual harassment complaints are being lodged against overseas contractors -- by their own employees. Todd Kelly, a lawyer in Houston, says his firm alone has 15 clients with sexual assault, sexual harassment and retaliation complaints (for reporting assault and/or harassment) against Halliburton and its former subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root LLC (KBR), as well as Cayman Island-based Service Employees International Inc., a KBR shell company. (While Smith is technically an SEII employee, she is supervised by KBR staff as a KBR employee.)

Jamie Leigh Jones, whose story made the news in December -- when she alleged that her 2005 gang rape by Halliburton/KBR co-workers in Iraq was being covered up by the company and the U.S. government -- also initially believed hers was an isolated incident. But today, Jones reports that she has formed a nonprofit to support the many other women with similar stories. Currently, she has forty U.S. contractor employees in her database who have contacted her alleging a variety of sexual assault or sexual harassment incidents -- and claim that Halliburton, KBR and SEII have either failed to help them or outright obstructed them.

Most of these complaints never see the light of day, thanks to the fine print in employee contracts that compels employees into binding arbitration instead of allowing their complaints to be tried in a public courtroom. Criminal prosecutions are practically nonexistent, as the U.S. Justice Department has turned a blind eye to these cases.

Jones' case was the subject of a House Judiciary hearing in December. Right now, Jones' lawyers are awaiting a decision on whether she will get her day in court or be forced to submit to binding arbitration, which KBR is insisting on. Likewise, the company is pressuring Lisa Smith into pursuing her claims against the company through its Dispute Resolution Program based on the contract she signed before she went to Iraq. Critics argue that the company's arbitration system allows it to minimize bad publicity and lets assailants off the hook.

Smith, who retained a lawyer only two weeks ago, is weighing her options.
KBR attorney Celia Ballí, responding to a letter from Smith's lawyer, wrote in a letter dated March 17, "The company takes Ms. Smith's allegations very seriously and has and will continue to cooperate with the proper law enforcement authorities in the investigation of her allegations to the extent possible." Ballí noted that the matter has been turned over to the CID and said that Smith has been "afforded with counseling and referral services through the company's employee assistance program." Ballí wrote in the letter that there are "inaccuracies" in the description Smith has put forward regarding her treatment after the alleged sexual assault. "Therefore, the company requests that you fully investigate all the facts alleged by Ms. [Smith] as the company intends to pursue all available remedies should false statements be publicized."

Such "investigation" may prove difficult for her attorney. In the next sentence, the company says it is "not in a position to release any personnel or investigative records regarding Ms. [Smith's] allegations at this time." In response to a request for comment on this story, a company spokesperson wrote in an email that Smith's "allegations are currently under investigation by the appropriate law enforcement authorities. Therefore, KBR cannot comment on the specifics of the allegations or investigation." The spokesperson added, "Any allegation of sexual harassment or assault is taken seriously and investigated thoroughly." It remains unclear, however, what law enforcement investigation is examining the KBR employee's role in the alleged assault, since Army CID is charged with investigating only cases that involve U.S. military personnel.

For her part, Smith can't quite call herself a victim yet. In the course of several conversations over several days, she never once says the word "victim" out loud. Let alone "rape." Let alone "gang rape."

Click on link above to read this full story.


By The Associated Press 1 hour, 25 minutes ago
As of Saturday, April 5, 2008, at least 4,013 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes eight military civilians. At least 3,273 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.
The AP count is one more than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Friday at 10 a.m. EDT.;_ylt=A0WTcW64IvhHpkMAoh5X6GMA

The British military has reported 176 deaths;

Italy, 33;
Ukraine, 18;
Poland, 21;
Bulgaria, 13;
Spain, 11;
Denmark, seven;
El Salvador, five;
Slovakia, four;
Latvia, three; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand, Romania, two each;
and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, South Korea, one death each.


Story Highlights
NEW: Iraqi official: Iraq's investigation found that "Blackwater committed a crime"
Iraqi government displeased contract was renewed, top adviser says
Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqis, including women and children, in September
Thousands of contractors provide security for U.S. diplomats, workers

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The U.S. State Department's renewal of Blackwater's contract to provide security in Iraq "is bad news," an adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said.
Blackwater guards shot and killed 17 people, including women and children, last September, prompting an outcry and protest from Iraqi officials.

"This is bad news," al-Maliki adviser Sami al-Askari said. "I personally am not happy with this, especially because they have committed acts of aggression, killed Iraqis, and this has not been resolved yet positively for families of victims."

About 25,000 private contractors from three companies protect diplomats, reconstruction workers and government officials in Iraq. Under a provision put into place in the early days of the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, security contractors have immunity from Iraqi prosecution.

Watch Iraqis express anger over the announcement »

Al-Askari said he would push for the Iraqi government to contest the contract renewal.
"The U.S. government has the right to choose what contractors it chooses, but Iraq should also have the right to allow or ban certain contractors from operating on its territory," he said.
Al-Askari said there is a general mood of displeasure within the Iraqi government because of the contract renewal.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said a joint Iraqi-U.S. commission was set up after the shootings, and Iraqis told U.S. officials that the rules of engagement and use of force must be changed.

As a result, a State Department security officer accompanies every convoy manned by contractors, Al-Dabbagh said, and every vehicle is outfitted with a security camera. Recordings from the camera are sent to a command center.

Al-Dabbagh said the Iraqi government still wants Blackwater to come under the jurisdiction of Iraqi law and its courts.

Click on link to read full story.


A snapshot of the opening scene in the U.S. invasion of Iraq provides an excellent insight into the immorality and horror of the entire operation, from start to whenever it finally finishes.

According to an article in yesterday's New York Times, at the outset of the invasion the U.S. military dropped bombs on a palatial compound in which Saddam Hussein was hiding. The article states:

"But instead of killing the Iraqi dictator, they had killed Mr. Kharbit's older brother, Malik al-Kharbit - the very man who had led the family's negotiations with the C.I.A. to topple Mr. Hussein. The bombings also killed 21 other people, including children, and the fury it aroused has been widely believed to have helped kick-start the insurgency in western Iraq."

By Jacob G. Hornberger

Now, that episode has at least two important lessons.

First, prior to the invasion the popular mantra among U.S. officials and many private Americans was the need to "get Saddam." But as we often pointed out here at The Future of Freedom Foundation, it was never going to be just a question of "getting Saddam." Instead, it was going to be a question of how many Iraqi people, including children, U.S. forces would have to kill before they "got Saddam."

The article doesn't state whether the U.S. military had actual knowledge that there were innocent people, including children, in the compound that it bombed. But it is a virtual certainty that they did have such knowledge. After all, if their intelligence was sufficiently good to know that Saddam was hiding in the compound, it had to be sufficiently good to know that there were other people living in the compound, including children.

Thus, when the U.S. military dropped those bombs, it had to be with the full knowledge that they would be killing innocent people in the process, including the children. And even if they didn't "know" that there were innocent people in the compound at the time they dropped the bombs, they knew that there were dropping the bombs in reckless disregard of whether there were innocent people there or not.

The fact is that U.S. officials didn't care whether there were innocents, including children, in that compound. Those children and their parents were obviously considered a small price to pay if Saddam Hussein had been killed at the outset of the war.

Of course, this attitude would match the attitude taken by U.S. officials throughout the period of the brutal sanctions that were enforced from 1991 to 2003. As tens of thousands of Iraqi children were dying year after year from the sanctions, the U.S. attitude was that those deaths were a small price to pay for ridding Iraq of Saddam Hussein. That's why UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright, upon being asked whether the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi from the sanctions were worth it, she replied that yes - they were "worth it." She was expressing the sentiment of the U.S. government, a sentiment that manifested itself again in the bombing of the compound in which those Iraqi children and their families were killed.

Second, the killing of those children and their families is just one example of how U.S. foreign policy has engendered anger and hatred for the United States, which produces the threat of terrorist retaliation, which brings about the "war on terrorism," which results in more interventions, more massive military spending, and ever-increasing loss of liberty at home.
Let me repeat what the Times article said: "The bombings also killed 21 other people, including children, and the fury it aroused has been widely believed to have helped kick-start the insurgency in western Iraq."

Now, ask yourself: Why has the U.S. government been occupying Iraq for the past 5 years? Didn't they already "get" Saddam? Hasn't he already been executed?

The answer is that U.S. officials, having "gotten" Saddam must now "get" the "bad guys" in Iraq. And who are the "bad guys?" They're the Iraqis who are angry over the killing of Iraqis, including women and children, who had to be killed in the process of "getting Saddam."
As they continue to bomb all these "bad guys," they continue to kill more innocents, including more Iraqi children and their families, which then incites more fury, which then causes more "bad guys" to join the insurgency. Those additional "bad guys" are then used as the excuse to continue the occupation of Iraq, an occupation that for obvious reasons will go on indefinitely.

To state what I consider self-evident moral truths, it was morally wrong and a grave violation of God's laws to:
(1) attack a country whose government and citizenry had never attacked the United States;
(2) kill Iraqis, including children and their families, in order to achieve regime change in Iraq; and
(3) kill Iraqis, including children and their families, in order to spread "democracy" to Iraq.
One can only wonder whether the American people, in crises of conscience, will ever confront such issues.


U.S. Military Investigates 3 Civilian Deaths

By Sudarsan RaghavanWashington Post Foreign ServiceSaturday, April 5, 2008; A09

BAGHDAD, April 4 -- The U.S. military has launched an investigation into the shooting deaths of three Iraqi civilians, including a 2-year-old girl, after numerous witnesses reported that they were killed by gunfire from American soldiers.

Last Saturday evening, Abbas Ramadan was killed along with his granddaughter Tabarik as they sat outside their house in Baghdad's Zafraniya neighborhood. Witnesses said U.S. troops fired in their direction, apparently targeting a group of young men whom they believed to be Shiite militiamen. A neighbor, Abbas Fadhil, was also killed, while another neighbor was injured, with bullet wounds to the leg and chest.

On Tuesday, after an article about the incident was published in The Washington Post, U.S. soldiers in four Humvees visited relatives of the victims. A U.S. military officer apologized to the relatives and offered compensation, relatives said. U.S. soldiers took photos of the wall of a house, a gate, and a storefront pocked with large bullet holes.

Tabarik's father, Ghadeer Abbas, said he handed the U.S. officer a badly dented and misshapen bullet that he said was proof that the U.S. soldiers had fired in their direction.


How convenient!. Just before the arrival of General David Petraeus in Washington on Tuesday, the Pentagon says they will cut combat tours from 15 monts to 12 months. Petraeus is expected to tell President Bush and members of the Senate Armed Forces committee that conditions in Iraq are improving, but they will need more time to make sure the Iraqi Army is up to handling the job of security. Judging by the fact the New York Times reported on Friday that 1,000 Iraqi Army soldiers "cut and ran" rather than fight in Basra last week waiting for the Iraqi Army to get up to snuff may be an eternity.

Editorial comment by BILL CORCORAN, editor of CORKSPHERE

AP: Soldiers' deployments to go back to 1 year

Story Highlights
Deployments extended to 15 months last year for Bush-ordered military buildup
Top military officials worried about Iraq war's growing strain on troops and families
AP: Restoration to one-year combat tours to begin in summer
Senior official says soldiers to deploy for 12 months, get 12 months rest at home

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Bush administration plans to announce next week that U.S. soldiers' combat tours will be reduced from 15 months to 12 months in Iraq and Afghanistan beginning later this summer, The Associated Press has learned.

The decision, expected to get final, formal approval in the days ahead, comes as Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, prepares to deliver a progress report to Congress next week on the improved security situation there. He is also expected to make recommendations for future troop levels.

A senior administration official said Friday that plans are to deploy soldiers for 12 months, then give them 12 months rest time at home. Exactly which units would be affected is not yet clear. The official spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates made the decision to extend deployments from 12 to 15 months last year, because that was the only way the Army could provide enough troops for the Bush-ordered military buildup aimed at quelling the violence in Baghdad.

Ever since, Gates; Gen. George Casey, Army chief of staff; and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have said they wanted to go back to 12 month tours as soon as possible.


You would never know it by watching or reading any of the mainstream media in the United States but there are still wars going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. The following is what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan on Saturday.

War News for Saturday, April 05, 2008

The DoD is reporting the death of a soldier at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany on Thursday, April 3rd. Sgt. Nicholas A. Robertson was wounded during dismounted combat operations in the Zahn Khan District, Afghanistan on Wednesday, April 2nd.

The Canadian DnD is reporting the death of a soldier in a roadside bombing in the Panjwayi district, Khandahar province, Afghanistan on Friday, April 4th.

A U.S. Air Force B-1 bomber caught fire Friday after a landing at al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, U.S. military officials said. The crew evacuated safely, the officials said. They said the fire began while the plane was taxiing after landing about 9:10 p.m. at al-Udeid, the headquarters of U.S. military air operations for the Middle East. Officials said the fire on the bomber was contained. A military board of inquiry has been appointed to investigate the incident, they said. The officials said initial reports said the plane crashed at the headquarters of the U.S. military's air operations for the Middle East. The B-1B Lancer is widely used by the U.S. military to bomb targets over Iraq and Afghanistan.

Security incidents:Baghdad:#1: A Christian priest was killed in a drive-by shooting in Baghdad. The priest, Youssef Adel, was driving to a church when gunmen in another car sped past him and opened fire in the central district of Karradah, two police officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information.

#2: a bomb exploded on a minibus, killing at least four passengers Saturday in Baghdad, police said. The minibus was bombed shortly before 8 a.m. as people were going to work on busy Palestine Street in eastern Baghdad, a police officer said, declining to be identified for the same reason. The four passengers killed and 15 wounded were primarily workers and vendors from the Sadr City district who were on their way to commercial areas elsewhere in the capital, the officer said.

#3: A police officer in the rank of brigadier was assassinated by unidentified gunmen in eastern Baghdad, a security source in the Iraqi interior ministry said on Saturday.“Unknown gunmen opened a volley of fire at Brig. Saadi Razouqi while he was driving his private vehicle on the Muhammad al-Qassem highway, off the eastern Baghdad district of Zayouna,” the source, who did not want to have his name mentioned, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq.Gunmen assassinated Brigadier General Sadi Rzoqi, an employee in the ministry of interior affairs. The incident took place on Mohammed al Qasim high way in east Baghdad around 3:15 p.m.

#4: Two civilians were injured when two mortar shells hit Rustomiyah district in southeast Baghdad around 12:15 p.m.

Diyala Prv:Khanaqin:#1: Four headless bodies of policemen who had been kidnapped by unidentified gunmen earlier on Saturday were found in Khanaqin district, northeastern Diala, a security official said.“The Iraqi police found on Saturday four headless bodies of policemen belonging to an oil company protection force. The bodies were found on the Khanaqin-Naftkhana main road, (100 km) northeast of Baaquba,” Sarjal Abdul-Kareem, the spokesman for the Border Guard force in Diala province, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq.

#2: Gunmen killed four off-duty oil pipeline guards in their car near Khanaqin, near the Iranian border, police said.Mahmudiya:#1: One policeman was killed by a sniper while on patrol on Friday in Mahmudiya, 30 km (20 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

Hilla:#1: A body of an Interior Ministry special forces soldier was found with gunshot wounds on Friday near Hilla, 100 km (60 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

Basra:#1: Sporadic gunfire could still be heard in Basra, although it was relatively calm as aid workers delivered humanitarian assistance to the beleaguered residents.Samarra:#1: In Samarra, Salah al-Din province, the Multi-National Force (MNF) said that two gunmen were killed in a military operation that targeted members of al-Qaeda organization east of Samarra

Kirkuk:#1: A roadside bomb near a police patrol wounded three policemen on Friday in central Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said

Mosul:#1: In Mosul, unidentified gunmen attacked the headquarters of Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barazani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, a KDP member said.

Afghanistan:#1: Another Canadian soldier was killed Friday in Afghanistan when his armoured vehicle struck an improvised explosive device in a district of the country long acknowledged as the birthplace of the Taliban. Pte. Terry John Street, 24, of Hull, Que., was with the 2nd Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, based in Shilo, Man., said Brig.-Gen. Guy Laroche, the commander of Canadian forces in Afghanistan. Street and his colleagues were redeploying after a long day of activity in the volatile Panjwaii district west of Kandahar city when the explosion occurred.


The Real News Network has produced a video of the demonstrations held in Iraq against the Iraqi government and U.S. military occupation of Iraq. Pepe Escobar, award-winning journalist and Real News middle east expert, lends his expertise to the video.


gUS General David Petraeus America's commander in Iraq General David Petraeus is expected to beat the drum for a war against Iran by making harsh anti-Tehran allegations. According to the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, Petraeus' harsh remarks against Iran in next week's testimonies in Washington will be a repeat of his previous allegations.

He maintains that Tehran is intervening in Iraq. Such accusations can set the stage for 'a US attack on Iranian military facilities.' "Petraeus is going to go very hard on Iran as the source of attacks on the American effort in Iraq," a British official alleged, claiming "Iran is waging a war in Iraq.

The idea that America can't fight a war on two fronts is wrong, there can be airstrikes and other moves." "Petraeus has put emphasis on America having to fight the battle on behalf of Iraq. In his report he can frame it in terms of our soldiers killed and diplomats dead in attacks on the Green Zone."

The British newspaper further stated that there are signs any strike against Iran would unite US politicians who are widely divided on Iraq. Petraeus and the US ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, are to attend four separate committee meetings of the US Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday to answer questions about the war-shattered country. They later travel to London to brief UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.


In a sign of the potential fireworks to come next week when Bush administration officials unveil their plans for the next steps in Iraq, two Senate committee chairman said they believe the so-called surge of U.S. combat forces has failed.

By Rick Maze - Staff writerPosted : Friday Apr 4, 2008 14:48:00 EDT

And they acknowledge that there isn’t much they can do about it.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, said he expects U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Army Gen. David Petraeus, senior U.S> military commander in Iraq, to recommend maintaining current troop levels in Iraq instead of pushing ahead with a planned reduction this summer.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates had talked about a brief pause in troop reductions, but Levin said he expects Crocker and Petraeus to recommend maintaining an open-ended commitment.
Levin and Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, said they disagree that current troops levels should be maintained. But their hands are tied because they cannot muster the 60 votes needed in the Senate to block the certain filibuster that Republicans would launch to prevent any efforts to reduce U.S. troop levels further.In a sign of the potential fireworks to come next week when Bush administration officials unveil their plans for the next steps in Iraq, two Senate committee chairman said they believe the so-called surge of U.S. combat forces has failed.


Bomb blast kills 3, wounds 15 in eastern Baghdad

Baghdad - Voices of Iraq
Saturday , 05 /04 /2008 Time 2:31:14

Baghdad, Apr 5, (VOI)- At least three civilians were killed and 15 others wounded on Saturday when a roadside bomb exploded near a bus in eastern Baghdad, a security source said.

“An explosive charge exploded, this morning, near a bus in Beirut square, killing three civilians and wounding 15,” the source, who requested anonymity, told Aswat al-Iraq- Voices of Iraq- (VOI).The source provided no further details.


A Christian priest was killed in a drive-by shooting and a bomb exploded on a minibus, killing at least four passengers Saturday in separate attacks in Baghdad, police said.


The priest, Youssef Adel, was driving to a church when gunmen in another car sped past him and opened fire in the central district of Karradah, two police officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information.
Adel's religious affiliation was not immediately available. Iraq is a predominantly Islamic country but has a number of religious minorities, including Catholics and Orthodox Christians, who have faced frequent attacks.

The minibus was bombed shortly before 8 a.m. as people were going to work on busy Palestine Street in eastern Baghdad, a police officer said, declining to be identified for the same reason.
The four passengers killed and 15 wounded were primarily workers and vendors from the Sadr City district who were on their way to commercial areas elsewhere in the capital, the officer said.