Politrix: Animal Farm

On July 19, 2005, 19-year-old Private First Class LaVena Johnson died near Balad, Iraq. The Army shipped her body back to St. Louis, Missouri, and told her family that she died of “self-inflicted, non-combat injuries.” In short, suicide.

Already a sad story, but it gets worse: When her father saw his daughter’s body at the funeral home, he knew something was wrong. Turns out, LaVena had been raped, beaten and partially burned.

Her face was bruised, her lip busted so bad it had to be reconstructed for the funeral. White gloves had been glued to her hands, hiding burns. There was a gunshot wound on the left side of her head (LaVena was right handed) that appeared to be from a pistol rather than an M-16 round from her own gun, as the Army had reported.

Dr. Johnson’s suspicions led him and his family to ask the military to reopen an investigation into LaVena’s death. After two years of relentlessly tracking down details, Dr. Johnson discovered that there was a CD of photos from the tent where his daughter had been found. With help from his local Congressman, he finally got the Army to send the disc to Missouri. What he saw was disturbing: The pictures showed that her teeth had been knocked in, her nose had been broken and she had bite marks and scratches on her skin. Her right side had been doused in an accelerator and lit on fire and her genitals were bruised and cut, and had been cleaned with a corrosive fluid. She had been redressed and dragged into the tent, which was then set on fire. The tent was on her base, indicating that she had been attacked by someone in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Yet, the military has refused to investigate her death as a homicide, and requests of Congress to hold a hearing have so far gone unheeded.

But LaVena Johnson isn’t the only one. As I’ve discussed here before, nearly one-third of female military veterans report having been raped or nearly raped while serving their country. As of press time, the U.S. military reports that 100 servicewomen have died in Iraq; five of them were declared “suicides,” a ruling that several families are disputing.

But the most distressing part of this story, perhaps, is that it isn’t at all surprising. When you have a team of hired guns whose main function is to maintain “order” by force, it’s only natural that certain members will go rouge—especially when said team is lead by politicians (cough) who think ignoring the Geneva Conventions in favor of waterboarding is A-OK. Yes, it’s true, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

It’s hard to feel hopeful in the face of blatant impropriety, but I’ll ask you to anyway: Please sign the petition that is being circulated to force Congressman Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to investigate LaVena’s murder. It won’t bring her back, but it’s a step in the right direction.


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Last 5 posts by kenrya

  • Verna

    Very interesting story.
    Everyone should be aware what is going on in the US Army.
    Good “eye opener”


    I really wish that this story (or similar stories) would make it to “Dateline” to give this topic a better exposure, but with nowadays’ censorship, who knows!

  • TAhad

    All participating suspects should be chained to trees and set on fire, viewed on the five o’clock fox five news wearing their uniforms with the american flag tied around their heads. All rapers should be judged then taken outside and burned publicly.

  • Diane

    Inexcusable, so not surprising. The government is always trying to cover up – but they always leave clues (like why were there still photos???)

    I never thought it was ‘wrong’ to keep women from serving on the front lines. And I cannot believe I still believe it. I’m all for fairness – but war is not fair. Our military isn’t made up of ‘typical’ folk – you’ve got the ‘elite’ boys clubs – and Tailhook groups. You’ve got people signing up to escape something.

    You’d think it’s the most honorable profession to be in, but it’s rife with incivility, privilege, pandering, lies. Even if you start out ‘typical’ – what you see and what you’re told to do eventually make you something you were not.

    I wish military women could serve without fear. But they cannot. Why not make it so they don’t have to choose to go to the front – like the olden days.

  • What’s sad is that a story like this will never be told on mainstream media. That’s what makes platforms like this more powerful now than ever before.

  • Shermona

    Wow! It’d be nice if this story was picked up by mainstream news, but I won’t hold my breath. Great article Kenrya.

  • Van

    Thank God for the advancements in Technology! If not, we would never be informed of the issues that plague the world, but especially us. I think that with pressure and time, hopefully her family will one day be able to have some closure.