Dec 5, 2013
U.S. Military Keeping Secrets About Female Soldiers’ ‘Suicides’?
Posted on Aug 26, 2008
The Death of Lavena Johnson
As discussed in my article “Is There an Army Cover Up of Rape and Murder of Women Soldiers?,” 19-year-old Army Pvt. Lavena Johnson was found dead on the military base in Balad, Iraq, in July 2005, and her death was characterized by the Army as suicide from an M-16 rifle gunshot. From the day their daughter’s body was returned to them, the parents, both of whom have had a long association with the Army—the father, a medical doctor, is an Army veteran and worked 25 years as a Department of the Army civilian and the mother, too, worked for the Department of the Army—harbored grave suspicions about the Army’s investigation into Johnson’s death and the Army’s characterization of her death as suicide. As she had been in charge of a communications facility, Johnson was able to call home daily; in those calls, she gave no indication of emotional problems or being upset. In a letter to her parents after her death, Johnson’s commanding officer, Capt. David Woods, wrote, “Lavena was clearly happy and seemed in very good health both physically and emotionally.”
Over the next two and a half years, Dr. and Mrs. Johnson and their family and friends, through the Freedom of Information Act and congressional offices, relentlessly and meticulously requested documents concerning Lavena’s death from the Department of the Army. Gradually, with the Army’s response to each request for information, another piece of evidence about Johnson’s death emerged.
The military criminal investigator’s initial drawing of the death scene revealed that Johnson’s M16 was found perfectly parallel to her body. The investigator’s sketch showed that her body was found inside a burning tent, under a wooden bench with an aerosol can nearby. A witness, an employee of the defense contractor Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR), stated that he heard a gunshot and when he went to investigate, he found a KBR tent on fire. When he looked into the tent, he saw a body. The official Army investigation did not mention a fire, nor that Johnson’s body had been pulled from the fire.
The fact that Lavena Johnson’s body was discovered in a KBR tent raises questions.
Many KBR women employees have been raped in Iraq. One law firm in Houston has 15 clients with sexual assault, sexual harassment or retaliation complaints against Halliburton and its former subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root LLC (KBR), as well as against the Cayman Island-based Service Employees International Inc., a KBR shell company (Karen Houppert, “Another KBR Rape Case,” The Nation, April 3, 2008).
Two female employees of KBR who were raped while in Iraq have testified before Congress. On her fourth day in Iraq, July 28, 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was gang-raped by seven fellow KBR employees at Camp Hope in Baghdad. Jones’ rape occurred nine days after Lavena Johnson was found dead in a KBR tent at Balad Air Base. Jones was drugged, raped and beaten, and the injuries she suffered were so severe that she had to have reconstructive surgery on her chest (“Democracy Now,” April 18, 2008, “Two Ex-KBR Employees Say They Were Raped by Co-Workers in Iraq,” www.democracynow.org/2008/4/8/exclusivein_their_first_joint_interview_two).
Jones reportedly was taken back to the KBR area, where she was placed into an empty shipping container under KBR armed guard for almost 24 hours without food or water or the ability to communicate with anyone. The military doctor who examined her turned over the “rape kit” photographs and statement to KBR. Jones persuaded a guard to allow her a phone call, which she made to her father. Her father promptly called their Texas congressional representative, Ted Poe, who then called the State Department in Iraq and demanded her immediate release. Jones was rescued shortly thereafter and quickly left Iraq. Congressman Poe again contacted the State Department and the Department of Justice in an effort to launch an investigation, but both departments ignored the requests and even refused to contact Poe for the next two years. The “rape kit” and the photographs of and statement from Jones taken by a military doctor disappeared (ABC News, “KBR Employees: Company Covered Up Sexual Assault and Harassment,” abcnews.go.com/Blotter/popup?id=3948132&contentIndex=1&start=false&page=1).
Jones testified Dec. 17, 2007, before the House Judiciary Committee on “Enforcement of Federal Criminal Law to Protect Americans Working for U.S. Contractors in Iraq” (judiciary.house.gov/hearings/hear_121907.html).
The nonprofit foundation Jones created after her ordeal, the Jamie Leigh Jones Foundation, has been contacted by 40 U.S. contractor employees alleging that they are the victims of sexual assault or sexual harassment on the job and that Halliburton, KBR and Service Employees International Inc. have not helped them or have obstructed their claims (Karen Houppert, “Another KBR Rape Case,” The Nation, April 3, 2008).
Dawn Leamon was another civilian contractor employed by KBR who was raped allegedly by KBR employees. She was the sole medical provider at Camp Harper, a base near Basra in southern Iraq. Leamon reported being raped anally by a U.S. soldier in January 2008 while a KBR employee forced his penis into her mouth. She says she was told to keep quiet by her KBR supervisor and by the military liaison officer. Her laptop computer was seized within hours after she e-mailed a civilian lawyer. She testified on April 9, 2008, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the hearing “Closing Legal Loopholes: Prosecuting Sexual Assaults and Other Violent Crimes Committed Overseas by American Civilians in a Combat Environment” (foreign.senate.gov/hearings/2008/hrg080409a.html).
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