Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Are You Kidding Me?

Image credit: Cujo359

Sometimes, you just have to ask yourself "What the fuck?":

On Oct. 6, the Senate passed an amendment that would guarantee rape victims employed by defense contractors a chance to take their case to court. The 30 Republicans who voted against it have been vilified. (See, for example, But the Department of Defense -- and, by extension, the White House -- also opposed the amendment. Why?
The department argued that it and its subcontractors "may not be in a position to know about such things," i.e., whether contractors employ the mandatory arbitration clauses. "Enforcement would be problematic," the note read, because contractors may not be privy to what's in their subcontractors' contracts.

Why Did The DoD, And The White House, Oppose The Franken Rape Amendment?

There's a whole lot of U.S. law that is difficult to enforce. Let's start with drug laws, which are filling our prisons with people who, for the most part, are less dangerous than the people they're replacing. We let record companies sue people who have no money for downloading music when, in some cases, they didn't know anything about it. We don't seem to have a problem with that at the congressional or presidential level.

I agree with the DoD's objection that this is really something that should be put into law for all employers in America, but it hasn't yet, and given how thoroughly bought and paid for Congress is right now, I'd say it will be a long time before that happens. Meantime, the employees of DoD contractors are often working in places where there is either little in the way of a court system, or where the actions of DoD personnel are subject to status of forces agreements (SOFAs). As ABC reported back in 2007:

Legal experts say [rape victim Jamie Lee] Jones' alleged assailants will likely never face a judge and jury, due to an enormous loophole that has effectively left contractors in Iraq beyond the reach of United States law.

"It's very troubling," said Dean John Hutson of the Franklin Pierce Law Center. "The way the law presently stands, I would say that they don't have, at least in the criminal system, the opportunity for justice."

Congressman [Ted] Poe [R-TX] says neither the departments of State nor Justice will give him answers on the status of the Jones investigation.

Asked what reasons the departments gave for the apparent slowness of the probes, Poe sounded frustrated.

"There are several, I think, their excuses, why the perpetrators haven't been prosecuted," Poe told ABC News. "But I think it is the responsibility of our government, the Justice Department and the State Department, when crimes occur against American citizens overseas in Iraq, contractors that are paid by the American public, that we pursue the criminal cases as best as we possibly can and that people are prosecuted."

Since no criminal charges have been filed, the only other option, according to Hutson, is the civil system, which is the approach that Jones is trying now. But Jones' former employer doesn't want this case to see the inside of a civil courtroom.

Victim: Gang-Rape Cover-Up by U.S., Halliburton/KBR

According to that same report, after State Department agents rescued Ms. Jones from the container she was held in, an Army doctor confirmed that she had been raped. The rape kit "disappeared" after it was given to KBR security people.

This isn't just some case of a crime victim getting added revenge through the civil courts. Suing KBR and its officials may be the only way she gets any justice at all. KBR was complicit in this woman's treatment after her rape. It deserves to be sued.

So why is there such an objection to this provision? Having to do things that ordinary companies don't have to is part of federal contracting, particularly at DoD. There are auditing requirements, including time card audits to make sure that employees are charging to the projects they should be. Does anyone worry about how enforceable that requirement is? Of course not. DoD enforces it the best it can.

Compared to that enforcing a ban like this should be easy. Just ask the folks who run the corporation to swear that they haven't required their employees to sign such a thing. Have them make all their subcontractors sign up to that, too. If they have any doubts about what their employees signed over the years, just have them all sign documents stating that they don't have to take such cases to arbitration. If it turns out the managers who sign those affidavits are lying, they can go keep the drug users company in jail.

Congress had no problem creating such a ban when ACORN employees were caught trying to aid a young man and woman who were pretending to be a prostitute and her pimp.

Oh, and hey, Congress, when you're through counting your campaign funds, could we have that law applied to the rest of our corporations, too?


Dana Hunter said...

Alas, the answer's probably no.

Cujo359 said...

Probably not, Dana. I'm afraid we need many more progressives in Congress before that's going to happen, and we'll need some who are willing to make things happen.