Monday, April 28, 2008

Congress must investigate crimes against women soldiers

The effort to prompt a renewed investigation of the suspicious death in Iraq of PFC LaVena Johnson has always had a strong ally in retired Army Colonel Ann Wright. Today, Col. Wright speaks out on LaVena’s case and that of other military women - in-theater and in the US - who have died following sexual assault. The introduction from the article at CommonDreams.org:

The Department of Defense statistics are alarming — one in three women who join the US military will be sexually assaulted or raped by men in the military. The warnings to women should begin above the doors of the military recruiting stations, as that is where assaults on women in the military begins — before they are even recruited.

But, now, even more alarming, are deaths of women soldiers in Iraq, and in the United States, following rape. The military has characterized each of the deaths of women who were first sexually assaulted as deaths from “non-combat related injuries,” and then added “suicide.” Yet, the families of the women whom the military has declared to have committed suicide, strongly dispute the findings and are calling for further investigations into the deaths of their daughters. Specific US Army units and certain US military bases in Iraq have an inordinate number of women soldiers who have died of “non-combat related injuries,” with several identified as “suicides.”

94 US military women in the military have died in Iraq or during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). 12 US Civilian women have been killed in OIF. 13 US military women have been killed in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). 12 US Civilian women have been killed in Afghanistan.

Of the 94 US military women who died in Iraq or in OIF, the military says 36 died from non-combat related injuries, which included vehicle accidents, illness, death by “natural causes,” and self-inflicted gunshot wounds, or suicide. The military has declared the deaths of the Navy women in Bahrain that were killed by a third sailor, as homicides. 5 deaths have been labeled as suicides, but 15 more deaths occurred under extremely suspicious circumstances.

8 women soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas (six from the Fourth Infantry Division and two from the 1st Armored Cavalry Division) have died of “non-combat related injuries” on the same base, Camp Taji, and three were raped before their deaths. Two were raped immediately before their deaths and another raped prior to arriving in Iraq. Two military women have died of suspicious “non-combat related injuries” on Balad base, and one was raped before she died. Four deaths have been classified as “suicides.”

Col. Wright recaps the story of LaVena Johnson in some detail, but also speaks on the “suicides” and “non-combat related injuries” of such personnel as Army Private First Class Tina Priest, PFC Hannah Gunterman McKinney, Major Gloria D. Davis, and others. The prevalence of such deaths and assaults against the women who serve in the military demands earnest investigation by the armed forces - and by Congress, should the services fail in this trust. I highly recommend reading the essay by Col. Wright in its entirety.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The petition is reopened!

The petition to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees asking the members of those bodies to direct the Army to revisit the investigation of the suspicious death of Pfc. LaVena Johnson is once again open for signatures and supportive comments. This reopening of the petition comes just one day after its announced closing. The reason for the reversal is that LaVena's father, Dr. John Johnson, requested that the petition remain open for a while longer. I am more than happy to oblige him in this.

An earlier goal for this petition effort was ten thousand names; that mark was met and surpassed, and the current count stands at just over twelve thousand signatories. I hope that the additional time given the open period of the petition will result in even more public support for the effort to uncover the truth behind LaVena's death.

No new deadline for the end of the name-gathering phase has set; that info will be posted here and elsewhere as soon as it has been determined.

Thank you, again, for your attention and support.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The petition closes, moves to next phase

As announced earlier, the name-gathering phase of the LaVena Johnson petition effort has come to an end. The next phase will consist of weeding out duplicate entries, formatting and printing copies of the document, and arranging for their delivery to the members of the two Armed Services Committees.

Information on the status of the petition effort and related news will continue to be posted on on this site.

Many, many thanks to all who have lent their names to this effort. More news to come.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

KKFI interview with LaVena Johnson's father

On a program originally broadcast on August 3, 2007, Tom Klammer - host of Tell Somebody on Kansas City’s KKFI-FM - interviewed LaVena's father, John. Tom has graciously made the interview available for all interested. The interview has been spilt into two parts, each approximately 21 minutes long.

Part one of the interview:

Part two:

As mentioned here earlier, the name gathering for the House and Senate Armed Services petition requesting a re-investigation of LaVena's death comes to a close on Friday, April 18.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

LaVena's father goes to Washington

KMOV in St. Louis reports today that Dr. John Johnson, father of LaVena, will travel to Washington to speak with legislators about his daughter's story.

Johnson will get to tell his story on Wednesday in Washington as congress investigates the war in Iraq.

Johnson will meet with key members and staff of several congressional committees with the help of retired army Colonel Ann Wright who is a 29 year military veteran who is now an anti-war speaker and author.

Wednesday, Johnson will meet some members of congress who will at least listen as he visits Capitol Hill.

Colonel Wright introduced Dr. Johnson when he spoke at the national convention for Veterans for Peace which was held last year in St. Louis.

The article at KMOV also makes note of the petition to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, which closes on Friday, April 18.