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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Justice on Contractor Rape?

Jamie Leigh Jones was but one of several women sexually attacked by our military contractors.* As with torture, there has been a basic failure to actually have the government prosecute these cases. This sort of this is disgusting:
"American women working in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to be sexually assaulted while their assailants go free," said Senator Bill Nelson, who called the hearing. Because squabbles about who has jurisdiction in these cases have proliferated, Nelson arranged to have representatives from the Defense, State and Justice departments sit down together in front of him. They were forced to listen while the latest victims testified.

As a Cato report noted:
As Salon magazine noted, since reporting the case, Leamon, like Jones, has found herself in a legal limbo. This is because Halliburton has an extralegal dispute-resolution program, implemented under Chief Executive Officer Dick Cheney in 1997. Once you get past the rhetoric about reducing lengthy and costly legislation, its actual impact means that employees like Leamon and Jones signed away their constitutional right to a jury trial -- and agreed to have any disputes heard in a private arbitration hearing without hope of appeal.

Must not "look back" though. The dangers of using mercenaries was expressed in the Declaration of Independence:
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

But as with selective concern with "northern aggression" by those in the South who tend to support foreign invasions that their foreparents deemed unpleasant when done to them, we often have a selective memory here. A Republican member of Congress did help Jamie Leigh and support legislation requiring reporting of such violent acts, reminding that this sort of thing is "not a political issue" (as in partisan). Tell that to the thirty Republican senators who rejected an amendment that would refuse funding to contractors who required arbitration when even in matters of:
(1) assault and battery; (2) intentional infliction of emotional distress arising out of the alleged assault; (3) negligent hiring, retention, and supervision of employees involved in the alleged assault; and (4) false imprisonment

IOW, to apply exceptions to mandatory arbitration that the majority of the conservative Fifth Circuit held applies across the nation. Sen. Franken sponsored the amendment, and Jon Stewart's on point coverage is here. As Ms. Jones noted: "An arbitration proceeding is private and discrete and the outcome of arbitration cannot be disclosed to the public, nor can it be appealed." Many, like Ralph Nader, find them troubling as a general matter. They have no place here.

Of course, there is always the ability to seek criminal sanction. Sure, this is not a matter of a fake prostitute or talk of fake teenage prostitution. OTOH, it would mean looking backward. No, I think the need for civil litigation holds.


* If I was a member of the press as such, "alleged" might be warranted here, but the evidence is there to be sure that she and others were actually raped. And, as noted here, there have been convicted cases (if minor) of sexual abuse under the "Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act." The article underlines the value of the use of the military includes that they clearly are liable for their actions, while contractors fall under a more hazy area. While ACORN is being targeted, we have this:
Earlier that year Ben Johnston, a DynCorp aircraft mechanic for helicopters in Kosovo, also filed a lawsuit against his employer. The suit alleged that in the latter part of 1999 he "witnessed coworkers and supervisors literally buying and selling women for their own personal enjoyment, and employees would brag about the various ages and talents of the individual slaves they had purchased."

And, "not nearly enough has changed." This includes many Republicans not apparently caring. As I said once before, why in the hell am I supposed to take them seriously?

Update: The amendment in question covers this ground:
None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any existing or new Federal contract if the contractor or a subcontractor at any tier requires that an employee or independent contractor, as a condition of employment, sign a contract that mandates that the employee or independent contractor performing work under the contract or subcontract resolve through arbitration any claim under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or any tort related to or arising out of sexual assault or harassment, including assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, or negligent hiring, supervision, or retention.

The DOD is wary but assures they support the spirit. I'm wary of statements like: "The department suggests that 'it may be more effective' to seek a law that would prohibit the clauses in any business contracts within U.S. jurisdiction." What does that last part mean when dealing with firms that do things overseas?

As the text underlines, not just rape is in question. But, as tends to be the case, it is not like the opponents pushed for some bipartisan middle ground that did not include some catchall "sexual harassment" component. This would have helped prevent this wickedly funny blog from having such bite. (You can see/hear Jamie there in the Franken questioning vid.)

Not that depriving people the right to a day in court when their civil rights (including protection from sexual harassment) is an ideal "middle ground," especially when what is at stake is government financing and mandatory arbitration.