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February 6, 2006
Death Before DishonorBy Greyhawk
The latest Iraq war urban legend:
Several female service members have died of dehydration because they refused to drink liquids late in the day due to fear of being raped by male soldiers if they had to use the women's latrine after dark.
This is absurd for countless reasons - the most obvious being that death by dehydration takes a little longer than a couple hours without fluids, even in the hottest conditions.
But this fabrication has an interesting source: Col. Janis Karpinski, former commander of the unit responsible for torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. And she's found a sympathetic forum in which to tell the story: The "Commission of Inquiry for Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration" - a mock trial sponsored by "Not in Our Name", a group originally founded by members of the Revolutionary Communist Party to protest the US-led war in Afghanistan.
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.If you're still reading, that's good - you didn't smash your computer screen in anger. Now let's take this apart.
Like any other urban legend, this one has it's basis in truth.
Dark? Few lights? - True. Light tends to help terrorists aim mortars.
Latrines are located away from sleeping quarters - also true. In 120 degree heat you don't want to sleep next to the latrine. And there are health concerns beyond the unpleasant (to all but the flies) smell. But this means that when nature calls, you must walk. And if nature calls in the middle of the night, you get out of your bunk, don all your gear (including Kevlar and armor, depending on the threat level) and take a moonlight stroll.
There are a couple ways to avoid this. One is the (forbidden) empty widemouth Gatorade bottle by the bed (hopefully capped and disposed of daily. This solution doesn't work as well for females. The other is one I used myself - stop drinking after a certain hour, depending on sleep cycle and workload. Having used this method myself I can testify that I never once died of dehydration in my sleep while I was in Iraq.
But Colonel Karpinski testifies that not only did this happen, but that it was covered up by the Army:
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.Note that a plausible cause of death - heat stroke - is not cited here. The very specific "dehydration" is. According to this rather grim article in the Annals of Internal Medicine, it takes "several days to a few weeks for death to occur by this means" - if no liquid is ingested at all. At some point prior to that time, someone would have noticed the individual's deteriorating condition and complete inability to function.
Note also the victim described above. A Master Sergeant is an E8 - one rank short of the highest possible rank an enlisted member can achieve. To reach that requires skill, intelligence, desire, ability, and knowledge of "the system" - plus significant time in service. Further, those grades are limited by law to just 3% of the entire enlisted force - the "top 3 percent". To believe Karpinski's account you must accept that a mature individual who had achieved a place of great significance and responsibility in the US military had foregone all fluids for several days without anyone noticing her failing health before her death - because she was afraid of being raped on her way to the latrine at night.
And oh by the way, she also had either an M16 or a 9mm at her disposal.
Which brings us to allegations of rape. Let's establish this point right now: rape is serious business. But Karpinski's account diminishes this to absurdity and robs legitimate victims of credibility. Fortunately, the Department of Defense has a very determined and aggressive policy against sexual assault, and a zero tolerance policy for predators. No military unit could maintain cohesion and be able to function with a "see no evil" approach to such crime within the ranks. We are talking about people who often must depend on one another completely in order to have any chance to survive. While individual predators can indeed exist within this society - as they can in any - for obvious reasons those discovered are dealt with quickly and severely within the confines of the law.
But therein lies yet another element of truth in this myth. There has been at least one unit where discipline had broken down to the point where stories of such behavior become plausible - and that unit was commanded by then-General Janis Karpinski, the highest ranking individual to be punished for the crimes at Abu Ghraib. Relieved of command and reduced in rank, her own defense in the subsequent months has been that while everyone above her in rank knew what everyone below her in rank was doing, she had been kept in the dark.
She launched her strongest assaults on those above her - and this case is no different:
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.One could almost feel pity for someone who has fallen this low. But her accusations have now sunk to a level of absurdity that bring additional discredit to any previous actions, statements, or accusations she's ever made - not to mention a tremendous discredit to the United States military. And while no one capable of a few minutes of coherent thought could possibly consider such fables as truth, we live in a world where cartoons spark riots and a hit film describes how US soldiers bring prisoners to a Jewish doctor to harvest their organs at Abu Ghraib.
Update Tony B notes another small problem with Karpinski's story: No female master sergeants have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Why it matters: Because the Left believes what they're told to believe. Random Lefty blog response via technorati:
Female soldiers in Iraq are having to make an impossible choice: Risk being raped , or risk dying of dehydration. Many of them have ended up dead.
If I get one comment from ANYONE saying that this proves that women don't belong in the army. . . Grrrrrr.The "American Constitution Society" blog:
Female soldiers' fear of being raped is not a new phenomenon; indeed, the problem has become so severe that the Army has established its own sexual assault website.supercrisp (who lists his Industry as "Education"):
Having said all that, Sanchez has a point. If women want to join the army, let them. But it’s like joining a gang. You’re always going to be someone’s bitch, doubly so if you’re a woman. I mean, what do you expect from an organization of killers? Murder is something society works hard to eliminate in all of us, except in certain sanctioned areas of killing. There, with the loosening of stricture against slaughter, all mores are loosened. And, remember, we’re talking about people who haven not been well acculturated in the first place because they find the army their best alternative. Rape and pillage do not follow armies; they are of the nature of armies, despite America’s fantasies about its greatest generations.Kathy Kattenburg ("a future New York City English teacher"):
So the attitude of the senior military commander for U.S. forces in Iraq about the rape of female American soldiers by men who are supposed to be their comrades, their buddies, their fellow soldiers, on the same side of this ghastly war, is no different from the attitude of the Taliban toward women: They wanted to cast off the burka [go to Iraq]; they wanted to go outside unaccompanied by a man [fight alongside men], go to school, have a job [go where they don't belong] -- now let them take what comes with the territory."L-Girl" is "american by birth, canadian by choice":
Of all the hypocrisy and lies perpetrated by the US government, for me the worst, the absolute lowest, is the shameful treatment of the armed forces. Lie to these people, betray their trust, cut off their options so the military is one of the only ways to get an education, use them for propaganda - then spit them out. Cut funding for the ongoing medical treatment they'll need long after their dues have been paid, give their families only partial benefits because they were reservists, deny them even proper protection in combat - it's a long list.Guess she never used the military "to get an education".
Naturally, the US government is doing everything it can to cover it up.
I guess "General Washington" must be military:
How the hell do you allow the cover-up of something like this? What rationale do you use to cover-up women soldiers not drinking fluids - and dying from dehydration - just so they don't have to risk being raped? Who the hell would allow such a cover-up to go forward?Or maybe not.
Now, considering that (a) most soldiers don't have reliable access to a phone, and that (b) statistics have shown that only one in ten rapes gets reported, one could easily extrapolate that there over 1,500 rapes per year being forced upon our female soldiers.
I propose the following theory: Regardless of the number of individuals in the group, the combined IQ of people who believe this story will never exceed 10.
With that, I'll close by stealing the closing line used on every post from Iraq by fellow milblogger/Iraq vet Phil: "Be safe - drink water"
Posted by Greyhawk / February 6, 2006 8:00 PM | Permalink
Greyhawk over at Mudville Gazette tells us about an interesting story that is no doubt supposed to make us even more upset about the war: The latest Iraq war urban legend: Several female service members have died of dehydration because they refused to... Read More
I never met Janice Karpinski myself, although I formerly granted her the honorific BG, or COL on this blog. Let’s just say I had my reservations about the lady woman since I read about her petty shoplifiting offense. This, though, is out of fu... Read More
....how things could have gone so wrong at Abu Ghraib, the story of former General, now Colonel Janis Karpinski's fall from grace is instructive. Here is a woman who had... Read More
Col. Janis Karpinski, the one-time general whose supervisorial failures were revealed to the world when the infamous Abu Ghraib photos came out, is making the anti-Iraq War rounds peddling a new lie. Several female service members have died of dehydrat... Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
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