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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/6/13

Rape and War Go Hand-in-Hand

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The main mission of any military is to kill and destroy things, and males are better suited for killing and destroying things than the female, who is muscularly weaker and designed by The Great Mystery for birthing and nurturing. I know I may be on thin cultural ice here, but at some point this has to be recognized. This does not mean war is always a completely masculine enterprise. Women are quite capable of killing and destroying, especially in a modern hi-tech battlefield soon to feature more sophisticated drones and robotics. But the fact is war at its most brutish extreme is a masculine enterprise.

If this is true, there are real questions whether the Senate Armed Forces Committee or anyone else in government is willing or able to change the status quo in which hyper-masculinity has been a get-out-of-jail-free card. The issue is 26,000 reported sexual assaults or rapes last year, an increase of 7000 over the previous year. One percent of those reported cases resulted in court martial conviction. It's estimated the 26,000 figure is only 15 percent of the total assault cases in the military. In some cases, like Kori Cloci's, a woman can be threatened with a court martial of her own (for lying or some other charge) if she pursues a case.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand from New York and the other women on the committee are rightfully fired up. Gillibrand is proposing legislation that would shift the decision-making about rape and sexual abuse charges from the chain of command to more neutral military prosecutors. Also, commanders would not be allowed, as they are now, to overrule and veto an indictment or conviction, as was the case for ace pilot Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, convicted of sexually assaulting a woman, a conviction then simply tossed out by a three star general.

Coming off two wars, two things are vitally important to the US military command:

One, it does not want to give up any of its secrecy, which amounts to a huge reservoir of information, some of it vitally important to be kept secret for operational reasons, and most of it simply to avoid sharing with the American public embarrassing or criminal activities. And, two, it does not want to give up any power; that is, it won't voluntarily allow its precious chain-of-command, the backbone of any military, to be broken up or diluted.

The problem is in order to effectively clean up the rape issue in the military these two areas can no longer be considered sacred cows to be avoided. The Constitution puts civilians in control of the military, and civilian leaders need to step up and get tough.

Senator Gillibrand has the right idea. Her challenge attacks one of the prime hurdles to justice in the US legal system: selective enforcement. It's a continuum with demonization on one end and mitigation on the other. When it comes to the "crime" of whistleblowing, for example, the Obama administration is heavily working the demonization end of the continuum and giving out few breaks. Bradley Manning is facing life in prison -- while "Scooter" Libby got a pardon. The same is true with rape and sexual aggression in the military. Some get the breaks while others get the shaft.

The solution is simple: Men who rape and sexually abuse women in the military should be quickly prosecuted and put away for a long time. No ifs, ands or buts. It doesn't matter whether you're an officer, a flying ace or a Seal Team Six hero, you sexually assault a woman in uniform you go to jail.

The question hovering over the Senate Armed Services Committee is this: In an institution that relies so heavily on the masculine aggressive instinct -- what arguably drives a man to sexually dominate a female (or a male for that matter) -- is a tough solution even possible? Or are we, instead, doomed to the usual cover-up and PR sophistry?

When the dust settles, will women be forced to adjust to sexual predator behavior as an unfortunate reality, a form of collateral damage, in an increasingly separatist warrior military culture? 

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I'm a 72-year-old American who served in Vietnam as a naive 19-year-old. From that moment on, I've been studying and re-thinking what US counter-insurgency war means. I live outside of Philadelphia, where I'm a writer, photographer and political (more...)

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