Former U.S. soldier, Steven Dale Green, was found guilty of all 17 counts with which he was charged today in the rape of a 14 year old girl and the murder of her and her family to cover up the assault while serving in Iraq.
According to witness testimony, Green and 3 or more fellow soldiers began talking about the girl’s family while playing cards and drinking at a checkpoint. Green had made it clear to anyone who listened that he wanted to kill Iraqis for the loss of members of his own unit. That night however, the talk turned to “wanting to have sex with Iraqi women” and the group soon pinpointed Abeer Qassim al-Janabi (14) and her family (including mother & two sisters aged 6 and 14) as potential targets, presumably b/c they lived close to the checkpoint. It is also likely that the number of women in the family also made men bent on misogynist fantasies of raping occupied women made the al-Janabis spring to mind.
Green is said to have killed all of the other family members before raping 14 year old Abeer. He then shot her multiple times in the face and then set her body on fire where it lay.
Green was found guilty in U.S. court in Kentuky but Iraqis are calling for the death penalty since that is likely what he would have gotten there. The court has not decided whether to give him the death penalty or life in prison but either way his sentence will be carried out on U.S. soil.
His conviction has ignited new tension between Iraqi residents and U.S. personnel in the small town of Mahmoudiya, where the assault and murders took place. The tensions have been exacerbated by the callous reference to the conviction by Green’s lawyers as “unimportant”:
“Is this verdict a surprise to us? No. The goal has always been to save our client’s life. And, now we’re going to go to the most important phase, which is the sentencing phase and we’re going to accomplish that goal.” emphasis mine. (Yahoo News)
In saying this, Green’s lawyer implies that the life of a convicted rapist and murder is more important than the lives of his four victims. More than that, the story of what happened to Abeer Qassim al-Janabi and her family that day and the resolution it may bring both to their souls and to the members of their small town is apparently less relevant than whether or not their killer lives. And while I do not agree with the death penalty, I am astounded at how anyone could say that aviolent rapist and murderer’s life is more important than finding truth.
And yet this comment is no more heinous than the defense mounted for Green. Among other things, his lawyers argued that Green couldn’t help it b/c his division “lacked leadership.” Many people, programs, and departments lack leadership and don’t plot rapes and murders, nor set 14 year old girls’ bodies on fire . . . I’d like to believe that the common connection between war and violence against women does not negate the shame that soldiers who would never do such things feel in response to Green, even if his lawyers are incapable of it.
Green was discharged from the army due to a “personality disorder” supposedly before the investigation of the rape and murders. Witnesses testified they had seen Green enter the house that night and reported the attack. Given the proximity to a checkpoint, it is unclear how anyone could have been ignorant of the murders or the rumors about U.S. soldiers being involved immediately afterward. Green’s lawyers, used the discharge to argue that the army had failed to notice that he was “struggling” and had emotional issues. (Unfortunately, many mental and emotional problems are either ignored or undeserved in the armed forces, nevertheless this does not excuse Green’s actions.) They plan on using this strategy to argue against the death penalty on Monday during sentencing as well.
Testimony during the trial says Green started threatening to kill higher ranking officers, soldiers, and civilians immediately following his seemingly succesful assault on 14 year old Abeer and her family. The army maintains that it was these threats and not the fear an attempt to cover up growing suspicion that Green had been involved in the rape and murders that led to the discharge. One cannot help but wonder if it was both.
Ultimately, the conviction is bittersweet. While it holds Green accountable for crimes often committed against women during wars and genocides, it also highlights the profound lack of care and accountability some people feel toward innocent civilians living in a war zone by nature of their gender, race, and/or location. Neither the death penalty nor life in prison will ultimately address this sentiment and it is the dehumanizing of Iraqis, and Iraqi women and girls, that made Green’s crime possible at all.
- Green. AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
- The gravesite. AP Photo/Ali Al-Mahmouri