Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Status note on Care2 petition for LaVena

A quick check of the Justice for LaVena Johnson petition authored by activist Danielle Vyas and hosted at the Care2 petition site - addressed to Congress and the President - shows that it is just 45 signatures shy of its goal of 3000! Excellent work, Danielle! If you haven't stopped by to lend your name to the list, please take a couple of minutes to do so.

Update: And now we find that the Vyas petition has already bested its goal by fifteen signatures - so far! Many thanks to Danielle for her activism on behalf of LaVena and her family, and for everyone who signed her petition and helped bring attention to it.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Truthdig on military sexual assault hearing

Activist and retired Army Colonel Ann Wright has been indispensable to the effort to prompt a renewed investigation of the death in Iraq of Pfc. LaVena Johnson. She has also fought to make known the wider issue of murder and sexual assault of women in the armed forces. Col. Wright attended the recent hearings on sexual assault in the military held by the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, and has written at Truthdig a critical account of the refusal of the Department of Defense to allow a witness to be heard:

Sexual Assault in the Military: A DoD Cover-Up?

There was quite a struggle in Congress this week. The Department of Defense refused to allow the senior civilian in charge of its Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) to testify in Thursday’s hearing on sexual assault in the military. Rep. John Tierney, chair of the House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, angrily dismissed Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Michael Dominguez from the hearing when Dominguez said that he, the DoD chief of legislative affairs and the chief of public affairs, had ordered Dr. Kaye Whitley, chief of SAPRO, to refuse to honor the subpoena issued by the subcommittee for her appearance.

Full committee Chairman Henry Waxman called the DoD’s decision to prevent Whitley from testifying “ridiculous and indicating DoD is covering something up.” It could also place Whitley in contempt of Congress. Rep. Christopher Shays said the DoD’s decision was “foolish.”

One of the questions that would have been put to Whitley was why DoD had taken three years to name a 15-person civilian task force to look into allegations of sexual assault of military personnel. The panel was finally named early in 2008 but has yet to meet. She would have also been queried on the SAPRO program’s failure to require key information from the military in order to evaluate the effectiveness of sexual assault prevention and response programs.

In addition to LaVena Johnson, Col. Wright references the cases of Army Spc. Suzanne Swift, Army Pfc. Tina Priest, and Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach.

Read more of Col. Wright’s article at Truthdig.

It should be noted that the chairman of the subcommittee's parent, the House Oversight Committee - Representative Henry Waxman - is the named petitionee of a new public appeal for hearings on the LaVena Johnson case. This petition is authored by the advocacy group ColorofChange.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Programming note: New feed for LaVena site

A brief programming note: Feed subscribers to the LaVena Johnson website should edit their feed reader settings to use the site's new Feedburner feed address (http://feeds.feedburner.com/lavena). This address will provide subscribers with access to all blog posts at the LaVena Johnson website, regardless of changes in the website's platform or even its address.

The website's use of RSS/RSD/Atom feeds will continue for an indeterminate period, but is subject to coming changes at the site. To avoid possible interruptions in service, subscribers are strongly advised to switch to the Feedburner address. Thanks.

Friday, August 1, 2008

LaVena PDF handout available

Kriss Avery of the Gateway Green Alliance in St. Louis created a one-page handout for use by Dr. John Johnson when he spoke at this year’s NOW National Conference about his daughter LaVena. Kriss has been kind enough to make that document available for anyone who wants to help spread the word about LaVena and the effort to prompt a new investigation of her death in Iraq.

Just click the link to directly download the file.

Revised: The previous (and free) download account failed for unknown reasons. I've replaced it with a more straightforward method you see above. Many apologies for the earlier snafu!