The untold story in Iraq

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Feb 282007
 
Authors: Luci StorelliCastro

Many of my conservative counterparts are correct: The media is not telling us the whole story in Iraq. War supporters, convinced America is on the path to victory and that liberals would like nothing more than to see America fail, contend that the media is not doing enough to cover the success stories in Iraq.

I find the conspiracy theory that there is a liberal bias in the media hard to come by, especially considering that major media tycoons, such as Rupert Murdoch, are conservative to the core. I would even venture further and reproach the media coverage in this country following the aftermath of Sept. 11, when the “fourth branch of government” was tamed to sing the same tune advanced by neoconservatives.

Although I am relieved that the media is doing its job again – asking the difficult questions, breaking down walls of sleaze and corruption, and pressuring this government to be transparent and accountable to the citizenry – I think there is still a fair amount of stories that are neither being covered nor being given the spotlight they merit.

One issue in particular is that of rape. The war in Iraq is like every other war in history where an external brigade of men invades a country and a state of lawlessness and chaos ensues. Under this context, rape is often used as a weapon against women and children.

Perhaps in an effort not to open wounds left by the war in Vietnam or to demoralize the troops, the increasing number of rape cases in Iraq have gone largely unreported. This is shameful. We owe it to the rape victims to tell their story in an effort to crack down on those responsible for these dehumanizing crimes and the upper echelons of power who are allowing rape to go on under their watch.

In a welcomed effort to bring rape to the discussion table, a recent story in the New York Times reported the raping and killing of a 14-year Iraqi girl by at least three American soldiers.

Currently, five American soldiers are facing charges for their alleged involvement in the rape case that occurred nearly a year ago in March 2006. In an emotionally charged testimony, one soldier gave explicit details of the horrific crime.

The New York Times also reported that in order to avoid complications, the soldiers targeted a victim whom they knew lived in a house with only one male. The soldiers dressed in an inconspicuous manner, so as not to be recognized as Americans, before setting out to their victim’s home – evidence that this was a premeditated crime.

Once in the house, the soldiers locked the 14-year-old’s parents and 7-year-old brother in a bedroom while they took turns raping the girl in the living room. According to one of the soldiers, the girl battled to fend off her attackers, all the while, pleading in Arabic. To cap off the nightmarish scene, the girl and her family were murdered by the same band of soldiers.

Of course, American soldiers are not the only ones involved in the surge of rape cases in Iraq. More recently, in an unprecedented Al Jazeera broadcast, a Sunni woman related her horrific kidnapping, beating with a water hose, and rape by three members of the Shiite-dominated Iraqi National Police. This incident has further inflamed sectarian violence and raised questions about Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s leadership.

Al-Maliki’s initial response of promising to conduct an in-depth investigation of the crime was later reversed. In a radical turn of events, al-Maliki released a statement calling the alleged rape victim a liar and wanted criminal. Furthermore, he praised the officials involved in her detainment and has attempted to smear her image by declaring that she is unmarried and was having an affair.

Personally, I consider rape the most heinous of war crimes – yet, it is also the least reported atrocity. We need to change this reality and begin exposing the entire on-the-ground situation in Iraq.

Luci Storelli-Castro is a senior political science and philosophy major. Her column runs every Thursday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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