FEMINISING THE US IRAQ WAR ON TERROR

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This chapter presents the core essence of this study which is the argument that women just like men are capable of perpetrating violence and war. Contrary to the belief that women are naturally 'peaceful,' 'carers' and 'nurturers,' this chapter gives real life encounters of situations where women have been in a position that has caused them to instigate suffering upon others in the fight against terrorism. With a focus on the women in the US military, the study investigates reports of decisions that were made leading to the degradation of suspected terrorists and inhuman treatment by military officials some of who were women. It also takes a look at the catastrophe of an increased use of women as human bombs for the purpose of effectively extending the goals of terrorist groups. The incidences reported are assumed to be a representation of the fact that women in the US have contravened the common belief that the only roles reserved for women during war are those of peace seekers, and supporters of the army in the background. Indeed it becomes clear that women have taken up front line roles in the fight against terrorism and that whatever actions they took were in line with the expectations of those who designed this 'war.' As such, the study finds that women have the capacity to take up significant roles in the fight against terrorism. Of course issues of respect of human dignity have to be considered to make their involvement conducive as well to protect those who become the subjects of women who take up those roles.

Women in decision making positions

Taking cognizance of the fact that Military Officials follow the orders of their commanders who in turn take their directives from those above them such as the National Security Advisor or the Secretary of Defense, it is necessary for the purpose of this study to introduce the role played by Condoleezza Rice. Rice occupied the position of National Security Advisor and was also President George Bush's personal confidante during Bush's administration. Rice is also the most visible woman in the US led 'war on terror' and the decisions made on how to wage the war fell squarely in her docket during Bush's presidency. As any leader bears the weight and blame of the atrocities committed under their management, she too bore the responsibility of the conduct of the US Army officials during their occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq while she occupied the National Security Advisor's office. The actions of the US military women who were accused of torturing prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq can be traced back to her leadership and office. The first documented reports of abuse within the Guantanamo detention facility made their way into Condoleezza Rice's office in late 2002 after an explosion about the interrogation tactics employed by FBI officials (Hersh: 2004). But according to the Bush administration which had perfected the myth of US exceptionalism as discussed in the previous chapter, those held at the facility were not prisoners of war as provided in the Geneva Conventions, but 'enemy combatants' who could be held indefinitely, as teams of CIA, FBI and military interrogators sought to pry intelligence out of them.

This gave way to the way military officials conducted themselves with the knowledge and approval of their leaders. In fact, Hersh (2004) further provides that Rice's immediate deputy Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld had publicly and privately been encouraging soldiers to get tough with captured prisoners (Pg.8) and goes ahead to insinuate that she knew about the torture going on at the detention facility in Guantanamo (Pg. 19). He had also authorized the establishment of a highly secret program which had the blanket advance approval to kill or capture and if possible interrogate high value targets with the approval of Condoleezza Rice. This kind of culture in the military and intelligence explains the behavior of military officials as was reported in the scandal that followed photographs released from the prison at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. It can also be argued that the US military under the auspices of Condoleezza Rice who was the Advisor for National Security at the time was tolerant about the idea of involving women in the fight against terrorism. Burke (2005) notes that one in seven service members serving in Iraq was female and that one in three members of the US army's military intelligence personnel in Iraq was female. These women were in some occasions used as a strategic weapon to humiliate the Muslim Iraqi men held in the US-maintained prisons. According to Patai (2002), sex is a taboo vested in shame and repression among the Arabs and the American pro-war conservatives used this weakness to blackmail the prisoners held at the prisons to extract information from them. Hersh (2004) argues that the sexual humiliation and posed photographs taken at the Abu Ghraib prison had the goal initially, of blackmailing the Iraqi prisoners into spying and offering information about their associates for fear of being exposed to their family and friends through the shameful photos. The President and his top aides, among them his National Security Advisor and personal advisor who was a woman, were engaged in a war against terrorism in which old rules of war were disregarded and priority was given to methods of interrogation which included intimidation and torture.

Some of the women in the US military in Iraq were appointed senior posts that meant the decisions they made and actions they took influenced the way in which the war was waged. Hersh (2004) introduces Janis Karpinski, a woman who was named commander and given charge of military prisons in Iraq in June 2003. During her seven months tenure, Kaprinski is reported to have approved reports and signed orders calling for changes in the daily procedure at the prisons she was in charge of but never really following up on these orders or making sure that her orders were followed. This led to multiple security issues that included the killing and wounding of inmates and military police (Hersh: 2004, Pg. 39). Kaprinski displayed qualities of incompetence according to Hersh's (2004) allegation that she rarely reported at the prisons she should have been running. Her refusal to understand or accept that problems inherent at the Iraq prisons were due to poor leadership and refusal of her command to establish and enforce basic principles and standards among the soldiers were also disturbing. As a woman in charge, Kaprinski's failure to competently carry out her expected duty led to the inhuman treatment that Iraqi prisoners received in the hands of US military officials some of whom were reportedly women as the next sub-chapter demonstrates. Had she performed her role as expected, there would have been less or no reports of abuses and can therefore be squarely held responsible for the inhuman acts and degradation of human lives reported after the invasion of the US invasion in Iraq. These two examples provide evidence of women in positions of influence with respect to the role they have played in instigating pain and torture upon their subjects in the fight against terrorism.

Women in combat

If reports from happenings at the Guantanamo bay prison and at Abu Ghraib in Iraq are anything to go by, then women may very well be the new tool of war. These reports indicate that American women have been used to subject men captured as prisoners to sexual abuse as a form of torture. Perhaps as a further extension to the feminist debate, contemporary wars are now creating new "professions" for women as perpetrators of violence through torture. There have been implications that cases of women raped during war have become so unspectacular and so endemic in military operations that women torturing men has now taken its place. It is of interest why torture of men by women is receiving more attention than the torture of women. There is an obsessive focus on the "appalling" notion that women would use their sexuality as a tool in carrying out their mission as US soldiers. Occurrences such as these instigate that women can now participate in torture on a basis of equality with men. Those that are shocked by women participating in torture, are not shocked because of their belief that women are inherently more gentle, but because of the irrefutable evidence there is a difference between the body gendered as female and the set of discourses and ideologies that inform the sex/gender system.

As discussed in prior chapters, women have been involved in wars as fighters in the front line of battles as well elaborated by the Dahomey Kingdom women fighters and also Soviet Union's Women's involvement in the second World Wars described in Goldstein (2003). Similarly in the 'war on terror' the US has given women an opportunity to play the role of fighters in the military. Burke (2005) argues that women in the US military in Iraq work under the exact same conditions as their male counterparts and even though the US army has refused to appoint female snipers, they have received training in the army's sniper school for a number of years. She especially points at a group of women soldiers nicknamed the 'lionesses of Iraq' giving an example of Kayla Williams, a woman who joined the US military in January 2000. Burke (2005) describes Williams as a tough woman who refuses to conform to the standards set for women during military training and instead chooses to fill the requirements given to men which are tougher illustrating that women are as capable as men if they choose to. Williams' story provides tangible evidence of women's strengths and grounds for contesting the generalization of women as inherently peaceful and incapable of fighting.

Afshar (2003), rules the belief (that men should be associated with wars, rebellion and revolutions while women are associated with peace) out as a simplistic assumption that should be discarded. Most branches of the US military have gradually adapted similar training standards for men and women in true conformity of Murray's (2003) earlier observance that girls and boys successfully working side by side throughout high school should also translate to their working together in the army. The behavior that was reported regarding US military women during the invasion of Iraq should therefore not be viewed as an issue explaining the behavior of 'rogue women' but as what would be any other person's behavior regardless of their gender under the circumstances. The circumstances as described in the previous sub-chapter were such that the top officials under the Bush administration had approved of the actions that would cause distress to prisoners suspected to be linked with terrorists in order to extract information from them. It can be argued that the US military women in Iraq were operating in a situation of blackmail from their leaders which led them to perform actions that were later categorized as crimes against humanity in the belief that they were being loyal to their nation and pleasing their seniors.

Among suspects who were accused of 'sadistic, blatant and criminal abuses' at Abu Ghraib were, Specialist Megan Ambhul; Specialist Sabrina Harman and Private Lynndie England who were women in the US military (Hersh: 2004). They were accused of taunting naked Iraqi prisoners and forcing them to assume humiliating positions among other inhuman acts. In one photograph, Private England appeared flaunting a thumbs-up sign with a cigarette dangling from her mouth while she pointed at the genitals of a young Iraqi who stood masturbating (probably on order) and naked except for the sandbag that had been placed over his head. In another photograph, Specialist Sabrina Harman appeared standing near a pyramid of naked Iraqi men with their knees bent and piled on top of each other while she was bending over and smiling. Another photograph showed a woman taking photos of a pile of hooded bodies and a separate account given by a prisoner who had witnessed the rape of a boy by a foreign contract employee stated that there was a woman present taking pictures of the whole ordeal. The photographs provide hard evidence of the depth of women's involvement in the tricks employed by the designers of the 'war on terror.' While the study does not seek to applaud those actions that contravened Humanitarian and Human Rights Laws, it finds that just like in the Dahomey Kingdom where women fighters were found to be extremely ruthless in the battle ground, so can they be in modern warfare when given the opportunity. It is therefore misguided to continue in the belief that women have got not place during war and that they should simply expect to be protected by men at such times.

Women terrorists and suicide bombers

Women have been involved in terrorism mostly as a manifestation of the concept of martyrdom within their societies. It has been explained previously in this study that women have taken up activities involving acts of terrorism for the same reasons as men have. In this sense, there is no separate set of reasons that influence women to become terrorists or suicide bombers that is any different from the reasons that make men accept to join terrorist networks.

CONCLUSION

Women as victims in the military

The Role of Human Rights Organizations and the Media

Making public the atrocities facing women during The War on Terror

Providing assistance to women affected by the war

Giving a platform for women to air their views during this war

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