Box Turtle Ben Says Something Smart

Almost as soon as the story about the rape of Jamie Leigh Jones hit the media, rightbloggers stepped up to declare the charges completely fabricated, because Duke rape case Mike Nifong rush to judgment. For instance, Ace O. Spades, Heterosexual declared:
It feels all un-PC to call a woman alleging a gang-rape a liar but it sure seems convenient that there is no evidence whatsoever for this, all apparently destroyed by a large conspiracy of men who, for whatever reasons, feel a burning passion to cover-up and abet a brutal gang-rape."
And you'd expect that Ace would take that stance, because the Iraq war is awesome, and women are scary creatures whose genitals are made out of Play Doh and bacon, so we know they can't be trusted.

It was unsurprising, and I fully expected that would be the unanimous declaration from the right. But then I read a post from a surprising source: Ben Domenech, the man who penned the infamous "Box Turtle" speech by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

The post leaves me, frankly, more sober than before.

The story of the rape of Jamie Leigh Jones, filed by ABC's Brian Ross on this weekend's 20/20, is a sad tale indeed. It is tragic, and it is moving.

But for anyone who knows any woman who has worked in the green zone, either under the protection of the Department of State, or as a contractor, it is not at all surprising.

I personally know three young women who have worked in this environment - not even including my sister, who has experienced it as well. The stories they have told me of conditions for females in the green zone are disturbing at best. There are universal similarities in what they describe: a dominant boy's club atmosphere; a fraternity but with guns and more men desperate for an outlet; so few women and many of them young, attractive, and unattached; flimsy locks on their quarters; and in many circumstances local nationals walking unescorted (but don't you dare complain to the embassy, we all know what happens then).

It is an ideal atmosphere for the conditions that lead to tragic events, attacks like the one that Jamie Leigh claims happened to her.


Here's the truth, according to my friends: women who are working in the green zone, even non-contractors, are particularly careful to never walk anywhere alone. Not because they are worried about being bombed or attacked by the enemy: they are worried about the men who are there. Men who are supposed to be their fellow comrades and friends, who are supposed to treat them with respect, but instead are ever-present threats. So try for a moment to understand that not everything in Iraq is flowers and candy, and that sometimes American men do terrible things, and American companies let people slip through the cracks. "We make men without chests, and expect virtue and enterprise..." it would not be the first time, nor the last.

For my own part, I hope against hope that Jamie Leigh Jones' story is not true. But if her story is true, I pray her attackers are found and punished, and those who enabled them are made to pay dearly for their mistake. And if they are not found, I hope that the vile act they engaged in makes them prisoners to sin, their guilt weighs like hot coals on their skulls, and their infamy haunts them to the end of their days.
Understand, Domenich is a full-throated Iraq war supporter. He has every interest in painting a happy picture about our conduct in Iraq. That he doesn't is a good thing; it is easy to ignore hard truths when they conflict with one's goals. The right has spent the past seven years doing just that. And it's unfortunate. Because if the right had admitted these problems, then we all -- opponents of the war and proponents alike -- might have been able to rein in contractors, stabilize the Green Zone, help reduce the astronomical percentage of female American soldiers who are sexually assaulted by their male peers. But the right was and is far more interested in making things sound good than actually making things good. And that means that things will continue to fester in the Green Zone and outside it, contractors will continue to bow to no law, and women will continue to be assaulted in Iraq.

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