James Barker pleaded guilty today in Kentucky court to raping Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, a 14-year old Iraqi girl, and murdering her and her family. The 23-year old former soldier received 90 years in prison as part of a plea deal with prosecutors in which he promises to testify against the others that participated in the rape and murder.
Barker was stationed at a security checkpoint with three other soldiers on March 12th. They decided to go in the middle of the night to the nearby home of a local family in Mahmoudiya, a village 32km south of Baghdad, where they proceeded to rape fourteen year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi who they had seen earlier in the day while on patrol. Former Private Steven Green, the ringleader, then shot the girl to death after first killing her mother, father and six-year old sister. They then tried to burn the house down to destroy the bodies and any evidence of them being there and threw the gun in a nearby canal.
Barker's Attorney, David Sheldon, attributes the actions of these men to a dehumanization pressure that soldiers in Iraq are undergoing. "The dehumanization that took place for Barker was real," Sheldon said. "The dehumanization that occurs throughout Iraq today that is causing these types of incidents is a responsibility that the United States must bear."
Asked why he did what he did, Barker said that he hated Iraqi's, "They can smile at you and then shoot you in the face." After sentencing Barker, weeping, said, "I want the people of Iraq to know that I did not go there to do the terrible things that I did. I do not ask anyone to forgive me today."