When Barbara Jennings made her first trip to the Middle East in 1991, she was a soldier, deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Storm. A native of Georgia, she served in the Army for two decades and completed several more overseas tours before retiring in 2003. Then, like many veterans, she kept deploying as a defense contractor.
On the morning of Feb. 21, an American official with the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait paid a visit to Jermaine Rogers, a 41-year-old U.S. Army veteran incarcerated at Central Prison, a notorious jail complex on the outskirts of Kuwait City. Last year, Rogers’ sentence — for the crime of possessing seven grams of cocaine — was reduced from death by public hanging to life in prison. He has been behind bars for two and a half years and maintains his innocence. According to Rogers, the Embassy official brought with him a printed copy of a Task & Purpose article, titled American Veterans Say They’re Being Abused In A Kuwaiti Prison And The Government Hardly Cares, which had been published the day before — and he wasn’t happy.
In early February, Karina Mateo, a logistics analyst for Boeing in San Antonio, Texas, was driving to work when she got a WhatsApp message from a random number with the +965 Kuwaiti country code. Mateo took a deep breath as she began to read. Two and a half years ago, her fiancé, Jermaine Rogers, was arrested in Kuwait on drug charges while working for General Dynamics on a contract with the U.S. military. His punishment had recently been reduced from death by public hanging to life in prison. The sender of the message identified himself as an American and fellow inmate at Kuwait's notorious Central Prison. As usual, the message was brief: