Friday, November 29, 2013
THE U.S. MILITARY'S DIRTY WAR ON WOMEN
Written by John la Forge. COUNTERPUNCH. "The Best Military In The World?"
The Military’s Dirty War on Women
Atrocities against people of occupied or targeted countries aren’t the only ones accumulating. According to a July 2012 report by the Pentagon, over 25,000 sexual assaults occurred in fiscal year 2012, a 37 percent increase from FY 2011. About “500 men and women were assaulted each week last year,” USA Today reported July 25. See: “Reports of Military Sexual Assault Rise Sharply,” NY Times, Nov. 7; & “Sexual Assaults in Military Raise Alarm: 26,000 Cases Last Year,” May 7, 2013.
Throughout the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, according to the Pentagon, 74 percent of females report one or more barriers to reporting sexual assault. In addition, 62 percent of victims who reported sexual assault indicated they experienced some form of retaliation. This is why, according to US Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., more than 85 percent of all military sexual assaults go unreported. In fact, Sen. Baldwin says, “overall rates of reporting dropped from 13.5 percent in 2011 to 9.8 percent in 2012.”
In view of the staggering numbers, and to help end the cover-up and suppression of sexual assault reporting, US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, has proposed removing investigation and disposal of such allegations from the military chain of command and place these cases with military prosecutors. Currently, commanders — superior to victims and perpetrators — decide whether or not to prosecute an accused G.I. Commanders even have the power to reduce or overturn a judge or jury’s conviction.
Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013, S. 967, would give military prosecutors, instead of commanders, the independent authority to decide whether or not felony cases go to trial. The proposalhas earned broad bipartisan support. It would reform the Code of Military Justice to make the system independent at the felony level.
A related bill, the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Act — S. 548 —sponsored by Sen.s Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, would prevent those convicted of sexual crimes from serving in the military, improve tracking and review of sexual assault claims in the military, and help ensure victims have access to criminal justice.
Presidential speeches can’t permanently obscure our record of military outrages. Some Congressional reform could at least confront the ones committed against women in uniform.
John LaForge is co-director of Nukewatch—a nuclear watchdog and environmental justice group in Wisconsin—and edits their quarterly newsletter.