Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What does the state of Alaska have in common with the US Military ?

Neither pay for rape kits! Figures have been coming out recently that continue to destroy the idea that the US military is a force of good, and in the case of the war in Afghanistan, a force capable of liberating women: servicewomen are TWICE as likely to face rape and sexual assault as their civilian counterparts.

After Congress threatened Department of Defense officials with contempt citations, the Pentagon admitted that

in 2007 there were 2,688 sexual assaults in the military, including 1,259 reports of rape. Just 8 percent (181) of those cases were referred to courts martial, compared to a civilian prosecution rate of 40 percent. And almost half of those cases were dismissed without investigation. (And I say Whitley "had to admit" the number of cases because in 2004, Congress woke up to the fact that the DoD was blowing off the issue and required the military to make yearly reports on all matters relating to sexual assault in the Armed Forces. But those reports did not indicate either prioritizing or progress -- hence the hearings.)

As the article notes, current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates played a key role in suppressing this information. This adds another reason why activists must challenge the logic of President-elect Obama's consideration of this war-mongering rape apologist.

An important - and positive - lesson in this case is that many revelations about command rape and abuse of women in the armed services have come to light during Winter Soldier testimonies organized by Iraq Vets Against the War and their allies in the antiwar movement. These gatherings, which have taken place from in the Pacific Northwest, Baltimore, DC, Madison, and other cities across the country, have been a venue for service people and vets to speak out about the racism, sexism, and brutality of the armed forces. Exposing these abuses is part and parcel of radicalizing and organizing the antiwar masses in this country who swept Obama into office and can give further confidence to active duty soldiers to speak out and get organized.