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November/ December 2013 The War of Rape

What happened to Jamie Leigh Jones in Iraq?

By Stephanie Mencimer

A dust storm delayed her flight from Dubai to Baghdad; when she finally arrived, Jones got her first view of the country through the windows of a bulletproof car driving along Route Irish, which in 2005 was one of the most dangerous roads in the world. After arriving, Jones emailed her mom about the trip:

Getting here will make u puke. I did it was so scary because you do get shot at. I was in a hard car but still- its loud and a gun is pointed right at you! Its freaky as anything! There were some vbeds the same day as I got here. Those are when a terrorist will r+un into your car and explode his car once he hits you. You cant make it through one of those. And its very possible it could happen. But after you get inside the wire, they let you go in a hellicap for every time you leave camp which isn’t scary.

Jones was assigned to live in Camp Hope, a base near the U.S. Embassy in the Green Zone. She got a second-floor room by herself in a two-story concrete barracks built by Saddam Hussein to house the Republican Guard. Although she had her own bedroom, the building housed 400 or so other men and women. And her room didn’t have a bathroom, which forced her to walk downstairs to get to the communal ladies’ room. She immediately started emailing coworkers back in Houston to try to get moved to a shipping container, which was more private.

Jones had gone to Baghdad to replace another staffer in the IT department, Sara Tumbarella, who was going back to the States. Tumbarella was a spunky twenty-three-year-old woman with long blond hair who’d spent four years in the Army before joining KBR as a contractor. On Jones’s first night there, Tumbarella introduced her to a couple of friends. They made drinks and then went to the Olympic-sized pool at one of Saddam’s former palaces.

Later that evening, Tumbarella introduced Jones to Charles Bortz, a twenty-eight-year-old firefighter who grew up in a small fishing and logging community near Astoria, Oregon. He had enlisted in the Air Force right out of high school and spent eight years serving in Afghanistan, Honduras, and elsewhere before joining KBR. Bortz was dating a woman who worked in Jones’s department but was on leave.

Two nights later, after work, Jones was outside the barracks talking on her cell phone when Tumbarella and Bortz came by and invited her to join some coworkers who were having drinks outside another barrack. She went up to her room, poured herself a cup of Bailey’s Irish Cream, and joined them. By all eyewitness accounts, Jones and Bortz spent the evening flirting. Tumbarella testified that she pulled Bortz aside to remind him that he had a girlfriend who worked in Jones’s department, and that their hooking up would not end well as a result. She gave Jones similar advice.

Around eleven p.m., Jones, having temporarily gone back to her room, sent an email to Peter Arroyo, one of the first people she’d met upon her arrival. She knew Arroyo from Houston, and he had been helping her get settled in Iraq. She complained to him, “I don’t know dude. This place is kinda messed up. Allready I have enemies and its day3.”

At the gathering, Jones had several drinks, but none of the people with them noticed that either Jones or Bortz was particularly intoxicated. The pair was seen by several people leaving the gathering together around midnight heading for Jones’s barracks. What happened next is a matter of dispute.
Jones has told different versions of her story from that night. Initially, she told an Army doctor who examined her, and a woman from KBR’s human relations department, that she was in her room when a bunch of firefighters knocked on the door, came in, and offered her a drink. After taking a few sips, she said, she blacked out and then woke up the next morning bruised and bleeding. Later, on other occasions and in her public appearances, she described going to a party with her coworkers, having two sips of a drink, and remembering nothing else until she woke up the next morning bleeding and bruised with a naked man in her bunk.

Bortz has a different story. After the party, he says he and Jones had vigorous consensual sex and then went to sleep in her barracks. He woke up early and went down the hall to the men’s bathroom. When he returned, one of Jones’s coworkers, Anthony Adams, was knocking on her door, ready to take her to work. Bortz said he and Adams exchanged knowing looks, and that he told Adams that Jones was in the bathroom and not ready to go. When she came back, Bortz said she looked at him and asked, “Did we have sex last night?” Bortz replied, “Are you serious?” Jones said she was joking, but Bortz said he told her, “That’s not funny, you know. We don’t joke about that.” She also asked him if they’d used a condom. He said no. Then he said he held a mirror for her while she put on makeup, walked her to the bus stop, and kissed her good-bye.

According to court testimony and depositions, Jones called Arroyo from the bus stop and asked him for a ride to work. He later said that, after she got into his Suburban, Jones told him about her budding relationship with Bortz, who she said was planning on breaking up with his girlfriend.

At work that morning, over the course of about two hours, Jones had a series of email exchanges with Arroyo. She thanked him for giving her a ride. He responded, “Not a problem. Just promise you won’t get caught up in camp gossip,” to which she replied, “Oh im sure I already am.” She told him, “The girls hate me here.”

About two hours later, she wrote Arroyo back, “Dude I am so like sad today-I miss my family!” Arroyo counseled her to be patient. Not long after, Jones told him she wanted to talk. “I don’t know it really sucks what happened- I don’t want you to like get pulled in or anything maybe be just a listening ear or something,” she said. Arroyo said he would come over. Meanwhile, word of Jones’s encounter with Bortz had spread through the small Camp Hope community, mostly because Bortz had told his roommates and Tumbarella about it.

Anthony Adams told State Department investigators that when Jones got to work that morning, she “looked normal, in fact, she went to her desk and was laughing and joking with her new coworkers and seemed to be fitting in just fine. That was until her cell phone started to ring.” Adams said after the phone calls, Jones stood up, announced that she didn’t feel well, and said she had to go.

Stephanie Mencimer is a reporter at Mother Jones and a contributing editor at the Washington Monthly.

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