April 22, 2008
Article in The Nation on KBR, Rape, and the U.S. Government
The Nation posted an article about the problem of government non-involvement in prosecuting contractor rape, specifically in reference to the KBR rape stories from the last 2 years. (see my recent post on this topic)
Worth a read, although it’s appalling, but a few points stuck out to me:
In fact, there are several laws on the books that would allow these cases to proceed: the problem is not a lack of legal tools but a lack of will. […] But somebody has to want to prosecute the cases.
The article points out the obvious reason why the defense contractors threaten the rape victims with repercussions to keep rapes hush-hush: big $$. Not to mention, the “fine print” of many contracts require the employees to settle through private arbitration rather than through the court system. But as author Huppert points out,
such a financial incentive cannot explain why the Justice Department has failed to act. Although it has the authority to pursue criminal cases involving US military contractor employees, it has hemmed and hawed over even the tiny fraction of cases that have made their way through the maze of obstacles to land in the Justice Department’s offices: […] “we do have active investigations…somewhere about…somewhere upwards of…somewhere between four and six, I believe is the number.”
Wow, nice work, Justice Department! “Between four and six”? When out of the 684 complaints within it’s jurisdiction, they only court marshalled 83? Unbelievable. This is the big question for me: big business is at stake for the contractors and though deplorable and inexcusable, I at least understand why they try to cover this stuff up. But the government has no direct financial incentive to do so, although much political incentive (they need to keep contractors interested in doing the work!). The thing is, the government has the ability to make the “private arbitration” problem a non-issue:
At the hearing, Nelson dryly observed that there was a very quick way to make sure US contractors did not force employees into private arbitration, and an easy way to force contractors to follow established protocols for sexual assault and harassment: “This might be something you want to require and include in your contracts–before you award them,” he said.
Interfere with the market to protect the interests of rape and sexual assault victims? Our government? Nah…