Making Waves: Defending Ka’ena

July 18, 2011 

Making Waves: Defending Ka’ena, Episode 55

Length: 0:27
Social issues & cultural programming dedicated to peace and social justice.
7/19/2011 Tue 9:30 am, Channel NATV Channel 53
Or streaming online:

I speak with Summer Mullins and Uncle Fred Mullins about their efforts to protect Ka’ena from the scourge of off-roaders destroying the sand dunes with their mud bogging, drunken crashes, bonfires and garbage. According to Uncle Fred Mullins, 90% of the offenders are military.  We show some video and photos from Ka’ena.

Also, you can watch past episodes online.

Making Waves, Episode 54 “No Can Eat Concrete!”

I speak with Wai’anae kupuna, Auntie Alice Greenwood (Concerned Elders of Wai’anae) and Candace Fujikane (UH Manoa English Professor) about the struggle for environmental justice to preserve Wai’anae’s cultural sites and agricultural lands from industrial encroachment.

Making Waves, Episode 51, “Violence and the Military Culture”

Darlene Rodrigues speaks with Col. Ann Wright about the epidemic of violence against women in the military and discuss how the military culture exacerbates the violence.



The Invisible Army: trafficked humans make the war machine go

July 8, 2011 

Sarah Stillman wrote an excellent article in the New Yorker about the “invisible army” of foreign workers or “third-country nationals” (TCNs) staffing U.S. military bases in war zones. She reports that “armed security personnel account for only about sixteen per cent of the over-all contracting force. The vast majority—more than sixty per cent of the total in Iraq—aren’t hired guns but hired hands.”  These TCNs tell horrific tales of abuse and exploitation, but also of resistance.  Trafficked humans and modern slavery make the war machine go.   Here are some excerpts from the article:

The Invisible Army

For foreign workers on U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, war can be hell.

by Sarah Stillman June 6, 2011

More than seventy thousand “third-country nationals” work for the American military in war zones; many report being held in conditions resembling indentured servitude by subcontractors who operate outside the law.

The article follows two Fijian women who were recruited to work in Dubai. They were tricked and found themselves working for the U.S. military bases in Iraq:

Soon, more than fifty women were lined up outside Meridian’s office to compete for positions that would pay as much as thirty-eight hundred dollars a month—more than ten times Fiji’s annual per-capita income. Ten women were chosen, Vinnie and Lydia among them. Vinnie lifted her arms in the air and sang her favorite gospel song: “We’re gonna make it, we’re gonna make it. With Jesus on our side, things will work out fine.” Lydia raced home to tell her husband and explain things to her five-year-old son. “Mommy’s going to be O.K.,” she recalls telling him. “Dubai, it’s a rich country. Only good things can happen.”

On the morning of October 10, 2007, the beauticians boarded their flight to the Emirates. They carried duffelbags full of cosmetics, family photographs, Bibles, floral sarongs, and chambas, traditional silky Fijian tops worn with patterned skirts. More than half of the women left husbands and children behind. In the rush to depart, none of them examined the fine print on their travel documents: their visas to the Emirates weren’t employment permits but thirty-day travel passes that forbade all work, “paid or unpaid”; their occupations were listed as “Sales Coördinator.” And Dubai was just a stopping-off point. They were bound for U.S. military bases in Iraq.

Lydia and Vinnie were unwitting recruits for the Pentagon’s invisible army: more than seventy thousand cooks, cleaners, construction workers, fast-food clerks, electricians, and beauticians from the world’s poorest countries who service U.S. military logistics contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Filipinos launder soldiers’ uniforms, Kenyans truck frozen steaks and inflatable tents, Bosnians repair electrical grids, and Indians provide iced mocha lattes. The Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) is behind most of the commercial “tastes of home” that can be found on major U.S. bases, which include jewelry stores, souvenir shops filled with carved camels and Taliban chess sets, beauty salons where soldiers can receive massages and pedicures, and fast-food courts featuring Taco Bell, Subway, Pizza Hut, and Cinnabon. (AAFES’s motto: “We go where you go.”)

The expansion of private-security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan is well known. But armed security personnel account for only about sixteen per cent of the over-all contracting force. The vast majority—more than sixty per cent of the total in Iraq—aren’t hired guns but hired hands. These workers, primarily from South Asia and Africa, often live in barbed-wire compounds on U.S. bases, eat at meagre chow halls, and host dance parties featuring Nepalese romance ballads and Ugandan church songs. A large number are employed by fly-by-night subcontractors who are financed by the American taxpayer but who often operate outside the law.

The wars’ foreign workers are known, in military parlance, as “third-country nationals,” or T.C.N.s. Many of them recount having been robbed of wages, injured without compensation, subjected to sexual assault, and held in conditions resembling indentured servitude by their subcontractor bosses. Previously unreleased contractor memos, hundreds of interviews, and government documents I obtained during a yearlong investigation confirm many of these claims and reveal other grounds for concern. Widespread mistreatment even led to a series of food riots in Pentagon subcontractor camps, some involving more than a thousand workers.

Amid the slow withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, T.C.N.s have become an integral part of the Obama Administration’s long-term strategy, as a way of replacing American boots on the ground. But top U.S. military officials are seeing the drawbacks to this outsourcing bonanza. Some argue, as retired General Stanley McChrystal did before his ouster from Afghanistan, last summer, that the unregulated rise of the Pentagon’s Third World logistics army is undermining American military objectives. Others worry that mistreatment of foreign workers has become, as the former U.S. Representative Christopher Shays, who co-chairs the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting, describes it, “a human-rights abuse that cannot be tolerated.”

The women working in these bases are often sexually assaulted:

Late one night in early April, 2008, I knocked on the door of Lydia and Vinnie’s shipping container to find Lydia curled up on the floor, knees to chest, chin to knees, crying. Vinnie told me, after some hesitation, that a supervisor had “had his way with” Lydia. According to the two women’s tearful account, non-consensual sex had become a regular feature of Lydia’s life. They said the man would taunt Lydia, calling her a “fucking bitch” and describing the various acts he would like to see her perform. Lydia trembled, her normally confident figure crumpled inward. “If he comes tonight, you have to scream,” Vinnie told Lydia, tapping her fist against the aluminum siding of the shipping container. “Bang on this wall here and scream!”

The next day, I dialled the U.S. Army’s emergency sexual-assault hot line, printed on a pamphlet distributed across the base that read, “Stand Up Against Sexual Assault . . . Make a Difference.” Nobody answered. Despite several calls over several days, the number simply rang and rang. (A U.S. Central Command spokesman, when later reached for comment, noted, “We do track and investigate any report of criminal activity that occurs on our military bases.”)

“Treat others how you want to be treated” The abuses of human rights have grown so egregious that workers uprisings have sprung up and spread:

In the three years since Vinnie and Lydia returned from Iraq, thousands of third-country nationals have tried to make their grievances known, sometimes spectacularly. Previously unreported worker riots have erupted on U.S. bases over issues such as lack of food and unpaid wages. On May 1, 2010, in a labor camp run by Prime Projects International (P.P.I.) on the largest military base in Baghdad, more than a thousand subcontractors—primarily Indians and Nepalis—rampaged, using as weapons fists, stones, wooden bats, and, as one U.S. military policeman put it, “anything they could find.”

The riot started as a protest over a lack of food, according to a whippet-thin worker in the camp named Subramanian. A forty-five-year-old former rice farmer from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Subramanian worked twelve-hour days cleaning the military’s fast-food court. Around seven o’clock on the evening of the riot, Subramanian returned to the P.P.I. compound and lined up for dinner with several thousand other workers. But the cooks ran out of food, with at least five hundred left to feed. This wasn’t the first time; empty plates had become common in the camp during the past year. Several of the men stormed over to the management’s office, demanding more rice. When management refused, he recalls, dozens more entered the fray, then hundreds, and ultimately more than a thousand. Employees started to throw gravel at the managers. Four-foot pieces of plywood crashed through glass windows. Workers broke down the door to the food cellar and made off with as much as they could carry.

The riot spread through the vast camp. At one point, as many as fourteen hundred men were smashing office windows, hurling stones, destroying computers, raiding company files, and battering the entrance to the camp where a large blue-and-white sign reads “Treat others how you want to be treated. . . . No damaging P.P.I. property that has been built for your comfort.” (According to an investigation conducted by K.B.R., “P.P.I. employees . . . became agitated after being told they’d experience a delay while additional food was prepared.” “Upon full assessment of the incident,” a company spokesperson relayed in a written statement, “K.B.R. notified P.P.I. management of the need for changes to prevent any recurrence and worked with the subcontractor to implement those corrective actions.”)


1 in 5 Air Force Women and 1 in 20 Men Victims of Sexual Assault

March 18, 2011 

From Service Womenʻs Action Network:

Service Women’s Action Network Statement on Air Force Survey

Christian Science Monitor Previews Survey’s Release:  1 in 5 Air Force Women and 1 in 20 Men Victims of Sexual Assault

NEW YORK – According to an exclusive piece published today online in the Christian Science Monitor, the Air Force is set to release a comprehensive survey later this week that finds almost 1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 men in the Air Force say they have been sexually assaulted or raped since joining the service.  According to the story, among the women surveyed, 58% revealed they had been raped and 20% had been sodomized.  Additionally, almost half of the victims didn’t report the crime because they “did not want to cause trouble in their unit.”  To read the entire exclusive Christian Science Monitor story online, click here.

In reaction to the findings outlined in the story earlier today, Anu Bhagwati, executive director of Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), released the following statement:

“It should be no surprise that rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment are an every day fact of life for women in the Air Force, and every any other branch of the military,” said Anu Bhagwati, former Marine Corps Captain and Executive Director of Service Women’s Action Network.

“Despite having more women than any other branch of service, it’s clear that the Air Force, like the rest of the military, is in over its head when it comes to reducing this threat to our servicemembers,” Bhagwati continued. “Survivors don’t feel safe enough to report their attacks, and frankly, there’s little reason for them to feel safe in today’s military climate. Senior military leadership has failed to protect survivors, punish perpetrators or hold commanders accountable for failing to enforce sexual assault policy. Immediate legislative action by our elected officials is the best tool we have to stop this crisis now.”

In addition to today’s leak of the Air Force survey scheduled for release later this week, the Department of Defense’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) released its FY 2010 “Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military”.  The SAPRO FY 2010 “Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military” can be viewed here

The 622 page report was released moments ago, revealing 3158 reports of sexual assault military-wide in FY10, and is being further analyzed by SWAN’s experts. A forthcoming analysis of the report and fact sheet will be made available to the public as soon as it is completed.  Media outlets interested in interviewing or booking Anu Bhagwati, SWAN’s executive director, should contact:  Robb Friedlander, Luna Media Group, at 913.636.0099 or

SWAN is spearheading a national advocacy campaign to end military rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment. More information can be found at

SWAN is a national human rights organization founded and led by women veterans. SWAN’s vision is to transform military culture by securing equal opportunity and the freedom to serve in uniform without threat of harassment, discrimination, intimidation or assault. SWAN also seeks to reform veterans’ services on a national scale to guarantee equal access to quality health care, benefits and resources for women veterans and their families. You can follow Service Women’s Action Network on Twitter at, or on Facebook at

Ft. Bragg Soldier faces multiple charges including rape and attempted rape – a growing trend

March 24, 2010 

MS. Magazine Blog

Soldier As Rapist: All Too Common

March 19, 2010 by Natalie Wilson

Fort Bragg soldier Spc. Aaron Pernell, 22, an indirect fire infantryman who has served two tours in Iraq, was charged with sexual assault in February. Pernell appeared in court Tuesday on 13 charges including rape and attempted rape. What’s unique about these charges are that they were made at all: thousands of other military rapists have escaped punishment in the past fifteen years, according to the Denver Post in its excellent investigative series [PDF].

As the Ms. Blog recently reported, a new Pentagon study confirms that militarized sexual violence (MSV) is on the rise. Yet, while crimes such as those Pernell is charged with are all too common, perpetrators regularly escape punishment and often re-enter the civilian world with no criminal record.

Since one-third of women who join the military are raped or sexually assaulted by fellow soldiers, we must recognize that the soldier as rapist is all too common. Given that rape and sexual assault rates rise in the civilian world during wartime, we must also recognize that militarized sexual violence is trickling down into our communities. As more soldiers return home, we can expect more crimes like those Pernell is charged with.

In fact, areas surrounding military bases have already seen increasing numbers of sexual assault. Stacy Bannerman, author of When the War Came Home, calls this “collateral damage,” writing:

In the past five years, hundreds, if not thousands, of women have been beaten, assaulted, or terrorized when their husbands, fiancés, or boyfriends got back from Iraq. Dozens of military wives have been strangled, shot, decapitated, dismembered, or otherwise murdered when their husbands brought the war on terror home.

The practice of granting moral waivers–which allow people to enlist who have records of domestic violence, sex crimes, and manslaughter–may also exacerbate rates of MSV. Further, as Professor Carol Burke documents, many soldiers enlist as teenagers to escape troubled or violent homes. Since such abuse (if not addressed) tends to be cyclical, filling our military ranks with abuse survivors without addressing childhood trauma, offering psychological counseling, or implementing anti-abuse training, is a recipe for continued violence. These factors, in conjunction with the prevalence of PTSD (post-traumatic-stress-disorder) in returning soldiers, which has been linked to enacting violence, likely means that rates of MSV will not be going down anytime soon.

Though Pernell’s case is a horrific one, sadly it is far from unique. To read more on this subject, watch for my feature article in the upcoming Spring issue of Ms. magazine.

ABOVE: Mug shot of Aaron Pernell.


Fayetteville, NC Observer

Published: 06:30 AM, Wed Mar 17, 2010

Rape suspect appears in District Court

By Nancy McCleary <>
Staff writer

Spc. Aaron Pernell, wearing his full dress Army uniform, stared straight ahead and showed no emotion Tuesday when he appeared in District Court on charges including rape and attempted rape.

The 22-year-old spoke only when asked by Judge David Hasty if he had filled out an affidavit for a court-appointed lawyer.

“No, I did not fill it out, your honor,” Pernell said in a loud, clear voice.

It was the first appearance in Cumberland County for Pernell, who faces 13 charges including two counts of first-degree rape and three counts each of attempted rape and burglary.

Pernell has been charged by Fayetteville police with three attacks on women from October to December 2008 in single-family homes in the area of Cliffdale Road and the Water’s Edge neighborhood.

One of the women was raped, police said.

Some of the victims and their family members attended the hearing at the Cumberland County Detention Center. They sat in the front row of the small gallery and declined to speak to reporters.

A blonde-haired woman sitting on the front row took deep breaths moments before Pernell’s case was called. She stared down at her hands during part of the brief court appearance.
Three county deputies flanked the two benches where the victims and the families sat and escorted them out of the building.

Robert Cooper, a Fayetteville lawyer, was appointed to represent Pernell.

Hasty reviewed the charges with Pernell and asked if he understood that if he is found guilty, he could be sentenced to nearly 200 years in prison.

Pernell said yes.

His bail was set at $6 million.

Pernell was to be returned to the custody of military police from Fort Bragg, where he is being held.

Earlier Tuesday, Pernell appeared in District Court in Hoke County, where he is accused of breaking into three homes in the Raeford area between April and August 2009 and sexually assaulting three women.

His bail in Hoke County was set at $5 million.

Pernell also is charged with breaking into two homes and raping a woman on Fort Bragg in December.

Pernell, an indirect fire infantryman assigned to the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, is in the custody of the military.

Military officials contend the Uniform Code of Military Justice should apply in civilian court, according to Debbie Tanna, a spokeswoman for the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.

The code doesn’t allow pictures from courtroom proceedings, and Army officials sought to have that applied during Tuesday’s proceedings, Tanna said.

Before the hearing, Chief District Court Judge Beth Keever issued an order banning cameras from the proceedings, Tanna said.

Keever was not available to discuss her decision.

After Pernell was charged Feb. 2 by the military, Fayetteville police said he was a “person of interest” in seven attacks reported in the city between June and January.

However, members of a regional task force created to investigate the attacks – which include an attempted rape in Hope Mills – announced Friday they are looking for someone else in those cases.

Staff writer Nancy McCleary can be reached at or 486-3568.