The following essay describes disturbing specifics of rape of U.S. military personnel by U.S. military personnel.
Former US navy officer Hannah Sewell screamed and yelled for help. No one came to her rescue. "Once he was done, he rubbed his hand over my entire body and said: 'I own all of this.'" she said. "My main nerve in my spine was pinched in three places and my hips were rotated. I could barely walk. I collapsed, due to muscle spasms in my back because my back was injured during the rape."
Sewell was told her rape kit, nurse examiner's report, and photos of her bruised arm were all lost. She then learned that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service had the evidence, but because the case had been closed, there was nothing they could do. Her assailant is still in the navy and stationed just three hours from her home in Kentucky.
The above scene is described in a new award-winning documentary, The Invisible War, by film maker Kirby Dick.
Now that a few years of "discussion" have brought approval of torture up to the magic 50% approval level, it looks as though it’s time for a national discussion about rape. Is it ever legitimate, as polls have shown Americans to believe torture to be? Can there be an over-riding justification, such as lawyers and Presidents have claimed with respect to torture? Is it ever acceptable for rapists to go unpunished and even rewarded? In the case of Julian Assange, rape has been treated as a dreadful offense, justifying international incidents between sovereign nations. To everyone who has seen the 2,000 photos of U.S. soldiers raping imprisoned Iraqi women, men, and children, (photos of rape the President called, “less than sensational”), there is certain knowledge that rape is going unpunished. Is institutionalized rape less offensive than civilian rape? We may as well ask if it’s preferable to be tortured at Guantanamo than at Bagram.
[h/t , Riley Waggaman, whose clarifying Counterpunch article When Obama Whitewashed Rape informs most of this essay, including many of the ideas.]
Is Obama better than Romney? So far, there is little public distance between the candidates on the issue of rape. That’s not as wonderful news as one might think. Obama has declared unequivocally against it: “Rape is rape.” He has been applauded for taking this firm stance. But by his actions he has proven not so committed to punishing everyone who has committed rape, even after he’s personally seen a photo of the rape being committed.
As far as the judiciary, a court did order Obama to release the photos, an order he defied. But a ruling in a different case brought by U.S. veterans found that rape is an "occupational hazard" of military service. Be sure to discuss this occupational hazard with your recruiter before making your final decision to sign up. If he is honest, he will tell you that, for women, there is a 1 in 5 chance of being raped while serving.
So, we have "legitimate rape" and rape as an unprosecutable "occupational hazard" of military service. I said we are having a national debate; I wasn't joking.
About 500,000 million women have been raped while serving in the U.S. military. What level of fuzzy thinking is required to imagine such a force as furthering the rights of women around the world? Yet we find U.S. Presidents proudly proclaiming the rights of women as one justification for U.S. occupation of sovereign nations. When WMD’s and support of al qaeda began to evaporate as justifications for the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, President Bush began to appeal to the U.S. duty to prevent rape in foreign countries:
In Iraq, Saddam Hussein once used rape rooms to brutalize women and dishonor their families.
President Obama has continued this theme, such as with his May 19, 2011 speech on the Middle East.
What is true for religious minorities is also true when it comes to the rights of women. History shows that countries are more prosperous and peaceful when women are empowered. That is why we will continue to insist that universal rights apply to women as well as men – by focusing assistance on child and maternal health; by helping women to teach, or start a business; by standing up for the right of women to have their voices heard, and to run for office. For the region will never reach its potential when more than half its population is prevented from achieving their potential.
The facts indicate that the U.S. is ignoring the timber in its own eye. The facts suggest our country desperately needs a long, honest look in the mirror. Responsibility demands that we ask ourselves, how can the rights of women be furthered through deployment of a military that, according to its own study, tolerates widespread rape in its own ranks?
From The Invisible War:
There was a senior officer in my command who, the first time he spoke to me, he said: “Female Marines here are nothing but objects for Marines to f**k.”
Where could this woman turn in order to avoid being subject to repeated rape? It is entirely up to the discretion of commanders whether to throw reports of rape into the waste basket. Twenty-five percent of victims don’t report it because the rapist sits perched securely above them in the chain of command. Thirty-three percent keep silent because the reporting officer is a friend of the rapist. This is institutionalized rape. What you do to the least of these. . . To put that in more personal terms, they could well come for your daughter next. Says researcher Helen Bennet:
Most rapists are repetitive criminals. People do it again and again. The tragedy of that is every one of these guys who gets off free will be doing it to other women again and again, often for years and years and years.
To educate yourself in a gut wrenching mountain of facts, please read Rose Aguilar’s article for al jazeera. It’s not an opinion piece; Aguilar provides the journalistic service of quoting from the Department of Defense study [pdf] as well as from participants in the documentary. The DOD numbers tell their own vivid story.
Of 3,223 perpetrators who were actually investigated, only 175 ended up serving jail time, according to Susan Burke, an attorney who grew up on military bases.
There are many facts; each suffices alone.
A US navy study found that 15 per cent of incoming recruits attempted or committed rape before entering the military. That's twice the percentage of the equivalent civilian population.
In previous war crime trials, the military has proven itself to be much more concerned with containing damaging visual imagery than with countering criticism and accurate accounts in written media. They once apologized for any pain “the release of these photographs” of war crimes had caused. Humanity is still waiting for an apology for the crimes depicted. The Invisible War has grabbed enough attention and outrage that Obama and the high command put on their straight faces back in April, making plain how offensive rape is to all civilized people everywhere, and promising to get to the bottom of it [Sir! No Sir! That was NOT a joke, Sir!] Wink. Wink.
During the writing of this essay, I couldn’t remember the name of the air base in Afghanistan. I tried searching the term “air base Afghanistan” but the results were indeterminate. Add the word “torture” to the search and, Voila! there you have it, United States Air Force Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Please do take a moment to consider the implications of this shameful fact.
The point of the film:
If a soldier rapes a fellow soldier, he will most likely get a slap on the wrist and will continue raping. The US government has power to stop this, but chooses not to.
What empowers the USG to tolerate widespread rape of its own soldiers? An enabling factor is the willingness of citizens to accept the fairy tale of American as universally well intended, as immune to the problems of male violence which attend military conflict in all eras and in all places. It is long past time for a long, hard look in the mirror.