[Editor's Note: This
article was written before the March 12, 2006 incident at Mahmoudiya
was exposed by the U.S. military in June. Some have suggested
that we take it down, given that it is now all but certain that a
single incident of rape did occur. (Our opinion of the soldier
behind the rape can be found
by the way).
surrounding the crime, however, and the American military's obvious
pursuit of truth and justice in the matter seem to confirm this
article's conclusion that the rumors of rape (which began three
years earlier) were baseless and unfair.
The tragic rape
and murder at Mahmoudiya is truly the exception that proves the
rule. Beyond this singular event, the rumor that American
soldiers are raping Iraqi women has never been based on fact, but
rather malicious propaganda.]
Not many categories
of crime rank worse than that of an armed man raping a woman. It is
one of the most extreme manifestations of cowardice and pathological
selfishness, and it can be completely devastating for the victim on
many different levels. No one who takes rape as seriously as they
should would ever accuse another human being of such a horrible act
unless they saw it happen or knew of solid evidence to support the charge.
In May of 2004, as
the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal was dominating headlines, the
Boston Globe printed pictures of what appeared to be the rape of a
Middle Eastern woman by American soldiers. The pictures were also
published on the Internet and continue to be circulated both online
and in print throughout the Muslim world to this day.
The photos helped
trigger a firestorm of implied allegation and innuendo that ran in
articles with headlines like “Women Raped Before their Husbands” and
“American Perverts Gang-Rape Defenseless Women.” A trip through the
message boards finds that, for many, the rape of Iraqi women by
Americans has become a self-evident axiom that is impervious to
either proof or disproof. As one writer put it (in trying to
justify terrorism), “What else are you supposed to do when you find
that American soldiers have raped your mother, your sister and your
Lindsey Graham, a Republican Senator, has said [in
reference to Abu Ghraib] “we’re talking rape and murder here.”
Democratic Senators Ted Kennedy and Dick Durbin
soldiers to guards at
Nazi concentration camps (in which women often
suffered rape prior to being flung into gas chambers).
A portrait of
Americans raping Iraqi women has become ingrained in both the
rhetoric and conscience of anti-war activism. How can Iraq be
better off if its women are being raped by members of an occupying
force? It is an issue that has been fully exploited by the Left,
yet remains curiously unexamined; almost as if it is were a prized
apple that looks too delicious to bite into for fear of diminishing
Given the serious
nature of rape, however, one would expect these sensational
accusations to be supported by plenty of hard evidence, including an
alarming level of reported rape. If
Americans are targeting Iraqi women for rape, including young girls
and old women, then specific accusations would be made.
Defendants would be named. Trials would be held. Verdicts handed
But in fact,
peeling away the surface of rumor and anecdote reveals… more rumor
and anecdote. Instead of an apple, the inquirer discovers the issue
to be more like an onion, where the layer below is not much
different than the layer above.
Given the hype and
insinuation, it is somewhat astonishing to find that there are no
substantive charges that American soldiers have ever raped Iraqi
women outside the walls of detention centers. Neither is there any
public record of indictments, court proceedings or formal
accusations. Nearly all of the specific accusations center on Abu Ghraib.
This is quite
significant because out of a nation with 13 million females, only 42
were ever held by the Americans at Abu Ghraib, and all were released
by May of 2004. In other words, there are no substantive
charges that any Iraqi woman has been raped by an
American in the past two years. The alleged rapes were supposed
to have occurred prior to this - and been limited, for the most
part, to a pool of 42 women.
Even with the
guilty parties convicted and appropriately punished this would still
be quite appalling if it had occurred. Fortunately, the issue isn’t
left to speculation, since a very extensive
conducted into the abuses at Abu Ghraib even before the scandal was
made public. Subsequent outrage in America (which was across
also ensured that every allegation to come out of the shameful
affair was sufficiently pursued.
conducted with detainees by outside investigators and each
accusation of misconduct was carefully examined to determine authenticity.
Seventeen personnel were removed from duty and seven soldiers were
indicted and eventually convicted based on the investigation.
although there were several allegations of sexual coercion, only two
involved female detainees. In one case, a woman was ordered to
expose her breasts for a snapshot. In the other, two soldiers
kissed a female detainee and touched her inappropriately. There
were no instances of rape involving women.
In fact, the only
formal allegation of rape at Abu Ghraib (which arose from an
interview with a single detainee) involved a male prisoner. Another
prisoner alleged that he observed a translator sodomizing the
detainee while a female soldier took pictures. No photos or other
witnesses were found to corroborate the story, and neither was there
a translator by the name alleged, although the description did fit
that of an Arab civilian who was known to be homosexual.
In contradiction to
what is often alleged, no former prisoner has ever come forward to
publicly claim that they were sodomized or raped.
of the detainees whose humiliation merited action against the guards
responsible was being punished because he was
thought to have raped a fellow detainee.
standards, in fact, the general treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib
was relatively benign. No one died or lost body parts as a
result of the "sexual humiliation" or abuse by guards.
death that is erroneously attributed to the subjects of the abuse
scandal is that of a Saddam loyalist who was suspected of being
behind the bombing that killed a dozen humanitarian workers.
Although guards posed in inappropriate fashion afterwards with the
body, the victim was not a part of the prison system, and his death
is alleged to be from smothering during an interrogation that was
administered by other parties.
This one fatality still evoked righteous anger in
the West (including from this writer) but what is deplorable by
American standards is often laughable by others. Even as the prison
abuse scandal was making headlines, 22 prisoners at Abu Ghraib were
deliberately killed by Islamic insurgents in an April 20th,
2004 rocket attack (as American soldiers fought to defend the
inmates, it should be noted). The event went virtually unnoticed
and without condemnation from those whose compassion for Abu Ghraib
inmates seems limited to matters of convenience.
Even the famous
photo – the so-called ‘symbol’ of Abu Ghraib – showing a
black-hooded figure standing with electrical cords attached to his
body shows no actual torture, only the assumed threat of torture (anyone pretending not to understand the difference would quickly
drop the act if forced to choose between the two). Misinformation
has played an enormous role in the public’s perception of the
scandal. The New York Times, for example, published Abu Ghraib
accounts that were later proven to be fraudulent, including
testimony from an individual who falsely claimed to be the figure in
And what of the
pictures published in the Boston Globe that purported to show U.S.
soldiers engaging in gang rape? It turns out that they were
and bad ones at that. They had been produced by a pornographic Web
site for its subscribers. Apparently the newspaper did not bother
to put the slightest effort into fact-checking before publishing the
photos since anyone in the military could have told them that green
uniforms aren’t worn by armed forces serving in Iraq.
news organizations act so irresponsibly to defame the very Americans
who put themselves in harm’s way to defend them, can any better be
expected of the international community?
Indeed, the myth
that American soldiers are raping Iraqi women has developed a life
of its own, completely independent of mitigating fact. Anti-war
activists occasionally produce articles or reports that adopt an air
of professional credibility with the liberal use of ominous phrases
like “pattern of systematic abuse” to describe detention practices.
But a hard reading usually finds that there is precious little
confirmed fact to be had amidst the recycled third-hand gossip and
urban legends that make up the text of such “reports,” which,
themselves, seem more like “patterns of systematic exaggeration.”
Again, nearly all
of the rumors boil down to prison scuttlebutt at Abu Ghraib. One such tale has a
70-year-old woman stripped naked, harnessed and ridden like a donkey across the
floors of the facility, which sounds pretty salacious until one realizes that
even a healthy young man would have great difficulty supporting the
weight of another with bare knees on hard cement.
As the ball of yarn is
further unwound in search of the fact that presumably lies beneath, one finds the sensational
language of rape giving way to milder terms like “sexual
humiliation” as accounts move closer to actual events. Few of those
people making wild, blanket accusations of rape appear to have
examined the issue all that closely.
legend concerns a “letter” that was purportedly written by a female
detainee at Abu Ghraib named “Noor” and “smuggled out” in late
2003. No one by that name was in the prison at the time, but the
note found its way to a female Iraqi attorney and activist, Amal
Swadi, who suggested that “Noor” was an alias. Interestingly,
Swadi’s group of lawyers initially discounted the authenticity of
the document, since the allegations seemed far-fetched. However –
as the story goes – when Abu Ghraib photographs depicting “sexual
humiliation” (albeit mostly of males) began to surface along with
hints of something darker, the attitude of the group changed.
The "Noor" letter has
immune from scrutiny, which is remarkable given that
it forms the foundation for so much dramatic speculation.
On trying to separate fact from fiction, it should first be pointed
out that the person
who actually wrote the note has never been found. The writing also makes several
claims that are certainly untrue, such as the assertion that
female inmates were starved and that all such detainees became
pregnant through rape.
Although there were
legitimate accusations from Abu Ghraib concerning the quality of food provided in discrete
cases (later rectified by catered meals) neither the effects of
starvation nor pregnancy appear in the observations of independent
monitors from that time period. The charge of rape has also been
disputed by other detainees, such as Huda Alazawi, who once made
some awful accusations on the record (to the highly credulous
Guardian) but insisted at the same time
that neither she nor any other female had been sexually assaulted by
guards. Neither did she mention starvation.
What is most
suspicious about the letter is how it is written, and, for this
reason, its complete contents are “protected” by those who exploit
it. The document is referenced in a vague way by many individuals
and groups, but none appear to have enough confidence to publish the
full text. This is understandable because the sections that have
been leaked sound more like the work of a creative propagandist.
Alleged abuses are detailed in poetic prose, and each is blamed on
“Zionists.” The author also says that the prison system in Iraq is
run by Jews.
References to the
letter are usually accompanied by a claim that the American military
has “confirmed” its contents to be “consistent” with the practices
at Abu Ghraib. The Guardian even went so far as to say that
the Pentagon confirms the letter to be "entirely and devastatingly
accurate." But this is clearly untrue. The supposed “confirmation”
by the military is really just a 53-page report by Major General
Antonio Taguba from 2004, which is a credible analysis of the
irregularities at Abu Ghraib, but makes no mention of female
detainees being raped.
Taguba’s report there was a single instance of a guard having sex
with an inmate and, though inappropriate and against the rules, did
not involve direct coercion. Even in the West this situation is not
punished as a crime of rape, and any Muslim feeling particularly
pious on the subject might want to consult Bukhari’s Hadith (Vol. 3,
Bk. 46, No. 717-718) to see how the prophet Muhammad dealt with women captured
investigation, the Pentagon has steadfastly denied that it has any
knowledge of women being raped at Abu Ghraib, which directly
contradicts any claim that the contents of the letter have been
confirmed by military authorities. Still, major news organizations,
such as the Guardian, have repeated this
qualification, thus keeping the urban legend alive.
Yet another strike
against the authenticity of the “Noor” letter is the mere fact that
terrorist groups are well known to fake such material for propaganda
purposes. In February of 2006 a young Saudi (dubbed “Fatima’s
Fiancé”) even strapped bombs to his body and embarked on a murder spree
against Iraqis, with the understanding that he would marry an Iraqi
woman in the hereafter who was supposedly raped and killed at Abu Ghraib. The impassioned young man
recorded a suicide video
in which he read a letter that “Fatima wrote" from prison.
The letter was a
fabrication, of course. There was no Fatima, and the only women who
died at Abu Ghraib were killed there during the Saddam era. That
insurgents would find it necessary to invent a fictional tale of
rape provides obvious insight into what little reality has to offer
But it is more than
just sophisticated hoax, wild rumor and a curious psychological need
to believe the worst about America and its military that keeps the
myth of rape afloat despite a lack of real accusers and real
defendants. The United States has been demonized to such fanatical
heights in the Arab world that many Muslims simply assume that the
Americans would do to their prisoners what the Iraqis did to female
Americans captured in battle – or worse.
reputation of Abu Ghraib plays into the public consciousness as
well. It is generally known that hundreds of prisoners were
executed there under Saddam and that tens of thousands were
tortured. Videotape shows women being raped. If an Arab leader can do
this to his own people, then why would the Great Satan treat them
The distortion is
amplified by the rhetoric of opposition leaders in the U.S. When
American Senators boldly
compare their own soldiers to Nazis, for
example, then it is only natural when someone less familiar with the
actual facts assumes that the rape of Iraqi women is practiced and
perhaps even sanctioned at some level.
The nuances of
political posturing in America are lost on much of the world, which
doesn’t understand that the exaggerated language and controlled
outbursts are mere dramatic ploys. Fewer still bother to consider
that the politicians making the most comprehensive claims about the
damage that Abu Ghraib supposedly does to America’s image are – not
coincidently – those with the most to gain from keeping the scandal
alive, as evidenced by their efforts to publicize and embellish the
very issue that they claim is damaging.
Obviously it can’t
be said definitively that no rapes have occurred in Iraq. In fact,
it is alleged that about a dozen female soldiers have reported being
raped by fellow Americans. Real numbers are difficult to come by
because news sources often lump the actual rape of females in
uniform with lesser incidents of sexual assault or sexual harassment for
maximum effect (ie. “There have been 88 cases of rape, attempted
rape or sexual assault in the past
This may sound
shocking (and, of course, it is inexcusable) but it has occurred at
a rate that is significantly less than that of the general population in
America, despite the fact that military males fall into the most
prolific age bracket for rapists.
According to the
FBI, there is one case of reported rape each year in the United
States for every 1,200 men (although this certainly doesn’t mean
that one out of every 1,200 men is a rapist, since most rapists
commit multiple assaults). Given that there have been over 100,000
American men in Iraq for the past three years, normal crime patterns
should have produced close to 300 incidents of rape during that
time, even apart from any supposed lenient policy toward such
Yet, no one in the media has been able to substantiate a
single such allegation concerning Iraqi women, and, in an age of DNA
and advanced medical examination practices, there are only a handful
of rape cases within the ranks.
In putting together
this article, TheReligionofPeace.com contacted and requested
supporting documentation from many of the more credible-sounding
sources making the claim that American soldiers were raping Iraqi
women. Not one of the parties contacted was able to support their
several soldiers currently serving in Iraq were quick to explain the
obstacles that would confront a potential rapist, not least of which
is that American soldiers and Iraqi women always travel in groups.
The military also takes steps to ensure that all soldiers are aware
of the very serious consequences of sexual assault, which partially
explains the sharply reduced level of actual rape against
Given the urban
legend that has grown up around such a serious subject, the lack of
specific evidence (or substantive allegations even) that American
soldiers are truly raping Iraqi women would seem to be a newsworthy
story, and it is somewhat puzzling that major media outlets have
declined to aggressively pursue the truth of this matter.
what circumstances should fictional rape merit more attention than
actual rape? There shouldn't be any. But contrast the
media frenzy over Iraq, where not one victim has come forward to
even claim that
she was raped, with the virtual media blackout of what is happening
in Sudan, where
with real names are gang-raped by Arab men merely because they have
Though it isn’t
possible to prove a negative – and there may indeed be legitimate
indictments that have somehow managed to escape public attention – there
is absolutely nothing that even suggests a pattern of Muslim women
targeted for rape by Americans. Neither is there the slightest bit
of evidence that such a crime would be tolerated by the military.
In this case, the burden of proof should rest squarely on those
making such ghastly accusations in the first place – and none appear
capable of taking up the challenge.
absence of rape patterns seems most disappointing to those who would
otherwise claim to be most outraged. One gets the sense that they
are not just assuming the worst, but actually hoping for it, as
anti-Americanism has apparently become a goal unto itself.
So ravenous is the
appetite for horror stories that tales must either be invented where
they don’t exist, or their absence explained by imaginative
constructs. When confronted with the reality that Iraqi women
simply aren’t charging Americans with rape, for example, frustrated
cynics often fall meekly back on the hypothesis that it isn’t
happening because these women fear being killed by their own
enough to argue from pure speculation in the absence of evidence
needs to understand that this is not the sort of issue where
imagination can be substituted for fact.
Where are these
rapes supposed to be taking place, and under what circumstances?
How is the opportunity created? Who is doing it? Where is the
Not content merely
with leaving these questions unaddressed, hardened believers up the
ante by whispering tales of women being murdered by their families
after returning home from prison. Such a fate is said to have
befallen the elusive Ms. Noor – with the proof being that she hasn’t
been found (the possibility that she never existed, apparently isn't
Unlike with other
honor killings, however, dead bodies, names and eyewitnesses are
mysteriously absent, which generally defeats the point. Like
terrorism, honor killing isn't very effective if no one knows about
it. The purpose, after all, is to restore public honor after public shame.
And so, we reach
the core of the onion only to find that there was very little
beneath the surface. The wild, inflammatory accusations of American
soldiers raping Iraqi women turn out to be founded on nothing more
than a few strands of rumor knitted with highly questionable
third-hand gossip and fueled by creative imagination, forgeries,
irresponsible journalism, and deliberate misrepresentations of
official findings by those in desperate need of anti-war propaganda.
Unlike other urban
legends, however, this is not a practical joke without harmful
effect. Instead, it is calculated disinformation that trivializes the issue
of rape and unfairly taints some of the most selfless men of our
In the real world, American soldiers have
literally given their lives in defense of Iraqi women. Even the
terrorists recognize the protective inclination that U.S. soldiers
inherently have for defenseless females, and they have exploited
it. On April 4th, 2003, for
example, two women stopped their car outside an American checkpoint
at Haditha Dam and screamed for help. The ruse worked and three of
the five soldiers rushing to their aid were killed in the ensuing
Anyone who truly
understands the seriousness of rape would never cast spurious
allegations, no matter the cause - and a noble cause
doesn't require lies. Falsely accusing someone of rape, much less leveling
blanket charges against men putting themselves in harm’s way in
service to their country, is almost as despicable as the crime
This article was written by Glen Reinsford, who wrote
Age of Tolerance,
a novel that tracks the current trends of immigration, economic and
social policy into the future.
Go back to the List of Islamic Terrorist Attacks