COMMENTS: Gang Rape and Gift Packages

There were two items--one feelgood, the other scandalous--arising from Iraq, although no report was filed with a Baghdad dateline. The scandal was exposed at hearings on Capitol Hill into Kellogg Brown Root, the Green Zone contractor. Time was that the networks newscasts were scrupulous at preserving the anonymity and obscuring the visual identity of any woman who had been raped. Times have changed. Both ABC's Brian Ross and NBC's Kelly O'Donnell gave full play to the open testimony of 23-year-old Jamie Leigh Jones.

Jones recounted working for Halliburton as a computer technician with its KBR subsidiary two years ago when she was drugged and gang-raped by colleagues. "Halliburton KBR held her under armed guard in a shipping container," said ABC's Ross, quoting Jones, "and told her she would be fired if she tried to make a big deal out of it." Now the Justice Department claims it has no jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed inside Iraq by Pentagon contractors' employees, NBC's O'Donnell pointed out. "Jones is trying to hold KBR responsible with a civil lawsuit claiming sexual harassment. The company says the case is without merit."

The feelgood Iraq story came from the village of Yusufiyah, south of Baghdad in the so-called Triangle of Death, where ABC's Bob Woodruff showed us Col Jack Pflaumer handing out "candy, clothing and school supplies" to local children. He gets the gifts--"over 10,000 lbs of clothing, toys, baby formula and more"--from the grand-sounding Pennsylvania-based Operation Build Iraqi Hope. It turns out that the operation is run by the colonel's wife Lisa, out of a home that has begun "to resemble a warehouse."


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