Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Friday, September 30, 2011
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Wednesday 20 July 2011
by: Eleanor J. Bader
The setting changes but the scene does not: Men and women in crisply
pressed uniforms enter public high schools across the country and
cajole the teenagers they meet into signing on the dotted line to
serve Uncle Sam.
Thanks to Section 9528 of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002,
recruiters from the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and
Navy have the same access to secondary school students as college
recruiters or potential employers. This, in concert with mandatory
Selective Service registration for all 18-year-old males and the
Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery [ASVAB] exam that is given
to nearly three-quarters of a million high school juniors and seniors
each year, has prompted many domestic peace activists to organize
opposition to the militarization of youth. They advocate
"truth-in-recruiting," arguing that lofty promises made at the time
of enlistment -- extensive travel, scholarships or an easy route to
U.S. citizenship -- often fail to materialize once service begins.
What's more, these peace activists say that they are paying
particular attention to female recruits, warning them of potential
pitfalls: The risks associated with wartime service even in
"non-combat" positions, as well as the too-common experience of
sexual harassment and assault by unit supervisors and peers.
The War Resisters League, an 88-year-old national group with more
than 25 chapters across the U.S., targets students and, when
possible, tables at schools to provide little-known facts about the
military: One in four soldiers gets a less than honorable discharge,
making them ineligible for college money; nearly one-third of females
seeking health care from the Veteran's Administration report
experiencing a rape or attempted rape while conscripted.
"Up until the economic recession began, the military had a hard time
finding recruits," says Kimber Heinz, National Organizing Director of
the War Resisters League. "But now the military is not only meeting
its quota, it's a de facto jobs program and you have recruiters
preying on students who can no longer afford college or find work."
One of its brochures, Know Before You Go, offers this information for
those thinking of signing up: "The military contract states, 'Laws
and regulations that govern military personnel may change without
notice. Such changes may affect pay, benefits, and responsibilities
as a member of the Armed Forces regardless of the provisions of the
enlistment document.'" In other words, beware: Even though a recruit
has signed a contract, the terms can be modified at the military's discretion.
"We let people know that if we're at war a recruit can be stop-lossed
and might end up on multiple tours," Heinz continues. "The recruit
has no control over this. We always remind people that the military
is the only job where if the worker quits, he or she goes to jail."
The organization also provides data on what it means to be a
conscientious objector and outlines the penalties for failing to
register for Selective Service.
Other truth-in-recruiting messages are also hammered. For one,
despite promises to the contrary, Heinz reports that skills learned
in the military are rarely transferable to the civilian world. "We
make it clear that many, many people come out of the military
traumatized or disabled," Heinz continues. "We ask people to think
about what it means to be an occupier of someone else's land and we
try to get people to consider whether they'll be able to live with
killing someone or seeing someone killed."
It's a heavy message, and it is repeated by more than 75 local
organizations throughout the 50 states.
Joanne Sheehan is an adult advisor to YouthPeace, a student-led
social justice group at the Norwich Free Academy, a public, regional
high school in eastern Connecticut. Since 1998 YouthPeace has raised
issues including military recruitment and Islamophobia with the student body.
Students Can Opt-Out
For the past seven years, members have also coordinated an annual
opt-out campaign to inform students that the law allows them to
request that their contact information be withheld from recruiters.
"Schools typically send student names, addresses, and phone numbers
to the military in October, so we have about a month once school
starts to publicize the opt-out provision," Sheehan says. "A few
years ago we pushed the superintendent to put information about
opting-out in the first paragraph of a letter that is sent to parents
at the beginning of the year. We want to be sure they understand that
their children don't need to provide data to recruiters, that it's
something they can opt-out of."
In some schools recruiters have free rein in the hallways
The peace groups also broach a broader anti-militarist agenda, even
in places like San Diego with a heavy military presence and 110,000
military employees. There, the school board recently voted to ban
students enrolled in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps
[J-ROTC] from taking in-school marksmanship classes. "Fifteen of the
18 high schools in San Diego have ROTC. One of them, Lincoln, was
temporarily closed for rehabbing and when we saw the plan for the
renovation, we saw that it included a firing range. We brought this
to the community's attention and formed the Education Not Arms
Coalition," says Rick Jahnkow, coordinator of Youth and Non-Military
Opportunities, known as Project YANO.
The consensus, Jahnkow says, was to focus on ending gun classes
rather than campaigning against ROTC more generally because group
participants felt an anti-ROTC campaign would fail. Education Not
Arms pointed to the pervasive gun violence already plaguing the
Lincoln area and denounced planned cutbacks in Advanced Placement
classes needed by college-bound pupils. The efforts paid off: The
school board ended all in-school gun training.
Boosted by this victory, Project YANO and Education Not Arms next
turned their attention to school-based recruiters. In late 2010 San
Diego activists succeeded in restricting recruiters to two school
visits per year, similar to policies in New York City, Chicago,
Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland. As a result,
recruiters must schedule specific times to meet with potential
conscripts and cannot disrupt "normal school activities."
"In some schools the recruiters eat lunch with the kids, hang out and
chill in the parking lot, and have free rein in the hallways," says
Pat Elder of Maryland's PeaceAction Montgomery. "In most places, what
they get to do depends on the principal. I've seen schools where male
recruiters are always around, playing one-on-one basketball with kids
who don't have fathers."
This scenario led New York City's Youth Activists-Youth Allies
Network to monitor recruiters to ensure that they obey the
regulations that circumscribe their access to individual students.
YA-YA Network staff -- all but one of whom are between 15 and 19 --
also lead workshops about U.S. foreign policy and the costs of war
and militarism. "Several years ago I asked participants what their
peers thought about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," says YA-YA
advisor Amy Wagner. "The wars were not very present for them. I
talked about how during the Vietnam War when you turned on your TV
you always heard the number of dead soldiers. They thought about this
and concluded that facts were being hidden from them on purpose. They
did a lot of research and the result was a short video now up on
YouTube, called The War Will Not Be Televised.
Terms can be modified at the military's discretion
The YA-YA Network is presently focused on making sure that schools
abide by regulations that mandate that a school staff person be
appointed to provide guidance on military recruitment in each high
school. "We first want to investigate and see if this is being done,"
Wagner says. "If not, why not. If it is, we want to know where these
people are getting their info and who's training them. We want to
give students the information they are entitled to so that they fully
understand their range of options."
Indeed, it is this idea of options that propels organizing against
militarism. Take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test,
a four-hour recruiting tool used in nearly 12,000 high schools
nationwide. To date, Maryland is the only state to require schools to
select a provision that stops student scores from being sent directly
"Look, if you take even moderate Democrats and sit them down and ask
them who they think should give student data to the military -- mom
and dad or the Pentagon – they'll all support parental decision
making," says Pat Elder of PeaceAction Montgomery.
They want students to understand that becoming a soldier is not
necessarily the best way to show personal strength or valor. "A lot
of people want to be tough and powerful, so they enlist," says the
War Resisters League's Kimber Heinz. "They ultimately learn that
enlisting is not a good way to test how strong they are."
Eleanor J. Bader
Eleanor J. Bader is a freelance writer, teacher and feminist activist
from Brooklyn, New York. She writes for The Brooklyn Rail,
ontheissuesmagazine.com, RHrealitycheck.org and other progressive
blogs and publications.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Thank You for Your Service?
by Laurence M. Vance, lewrockwell.com
July 19th 2011
It is without question that Americans are in love with the military. Even worse, though, is that their love is unqualified, unconditional, unrelenting, and unending.
I have seen signs praising the troops in front of all manner of businesses, including self-storage units, bike shops, and dog grooming.
Many businesses offer discounts to military personnel not available to doctors, nurses, and others who save lives instead of destroy them.
Special preference is usually given to veterans seeking employment, and not just for government jobs.
Many churches not only recognize veterans and active-duty military on the Sunday before holidays, they have special military appreciation days as well.
Even many of those who oppose an interventionist U.S. foreign policy and do not support foreign wars hold the military in high esteem.
All of these things are true no matter which country the military bombs, invades, or occupies. They are true no matter why the military does these things. They are true no matter what happens while the military does these things. They are true no matter which political party is in power.
The love affair that Americans have with the military – the reverence, the idolatry, the adoration, yea, the worship – was never on display like it was at the post office the other day.
While at the counter shipping some packages, a U.S. soldier, clearly of Vietnamese origin in name and appearance, dressed in his fatigues, was shipping something at the counter next to me. The postal clerk was beaming when he told the soldier how his daughter had been an MP in Iraq. Three times in as many minutes I heard the clerk tell the soldier – with a gleam in his eye and a solemn look on his face – "Thank you for your service." The clerk even shook the soldier’s hand before he left.
I could not believe what I was seeing and hearing, and I am no stranger to accounts of military fetishes in action.
Aside from me not thanking that soldier for his service – verbally or otherwise – I immediately thought of four things.
One, what service did this soldier actually render to the United States? If merely drawing a paycheck from the government is rendering service, then we ought to thank every government bureaucrat for his service, including TSA goons. Did this soldier actually do anything to defend the United States, secure its borders, guard its shores, patrol its coasts, or enforce a no-fly zone over U.S. skies? How can someone blindly say "thank you for your service" when he doesn’t know what service was rendered?
Two, is there anything that U.S. soldiers could do to bring the military into disfavor? I can’t think of anything. Atrocities are dismissed as collateral damage in a moment of passion in the heat of battle by just a few bad apples. Unjust wars, we are told, are solely the fault of politicians not the soldiers that do the actual fighting. Paul Tibbets and his crew are seen as heroes for dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Before he died, Tibbets even said that he had no second thoughts and would do it again. I suspect that if the United States dropped an atomic bomb tomorrow on Afghanistan and Pakistan, killing everyone and everything, and declaring the war on terror over and won, a majority of Americans would applaud the Air Force crew that dropped the bomb and give them a ticker-tape parade.
Three, why is it that Americans only thank American military personnel for their service? Shouldn’t foreign military personnel be thanked for service to their country? What American military worshippers really believe is that foreign military personnel should only be thanked for service to their government when their government acts in the interests of the United States. Foreign soldiers are looked upon as heroic if they refuse to obey a military order to shoot or kill at the behest of their government as long as such an order is seen as not in the interests of the United States. U.S. soldiers, however, are always expected to obey orders, even if it means going to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, or Libya under false pretenses.
And four, what is a Vietnamese man – who most certainly has relatives, or friends or neighbors of relatives, that were killed or injured by U.S. bombs and bullets during the Vietnam War – doing joining the U.S. military where he can be sent to shoot and bomb foreigners like the U.S. military did to his people?
And aside from these four things, I’m afraid I must also say: Sorry, soldiers, I don’t thank you for your service.
I don’t thank you for your service in fighting foreign wars.I don’t thank you for your service in fighting without a congressional declaration of war.I don’t thank you for your service in bombing and destroying Iraq and Afghanistan.I don’t thank you for your service in killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans.I don’t thank you for your service in expanding the war on terror to Pakistan and Yemen.I don’t thank you for your service in occupying over 150 countries around the world.I don’t thank you for your service in garrisoning the planet with over 1,000 military bases.I don’t thank you for your service in defending our freedoms when you do nothing of the kind.I don’t thank you for your service as part of the president’s personal attack force to bomb, invade, occupy, and otherwise bring death and destruction to any country he deems necessary.
Thank you for your service? I don’t think so.
Laurence M. Vance [send him mail] writes from central Florida. He is the author of Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State, The Revolution that Wasn't, and Rethinking the Good War. His latest book is The Quatercentenary of the King James Bible. Visit his website.
Copyright © 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
Original Page: http://lewrockwell.com/vance/vance250.html
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“Our” Troops vs. Our Eco-System
by mickeyz, fairsharecommonheritage.org
July 18th 2011
Since I’ve already told you about the importance of repetition, let me recite some numbers I’ve shouted out a few hundred times or so:
80% of the world’s forests are gone90% of the large fish in the ocean are gone80% of the planet’s rivers can no longer sustain sustain life200,000 acres of rain forest are destroyed each day200 animal and plant species go extinct every 24 hours
If these statistics make you (at least) squirm, you might be interested to know something I’ve also repeated till I’m hoarse: The US Department of Defense (DoD)—the interventionist institution formerly known as the War Department—is the biggest polluter on Planet Earth, for example, releasing more hazardous waste than the five largest US chemical companies combined.
To add insult to injury, the world’s worst polluter—the entity wrecking havoc upon the landbase that makes all life possible—also gobbles up 54% of US taxpayer dollars. But it takes more than obscene amounts of money to keep this criminal enterprise afloat. It also takes more than the volunteers willing to be paid to wage illegal, immoral, and eco-system destroying wars. The DoD will be able to maintain its crime spree as long as most of us continue to unconditionally support (sic) those troops.
As long as the yellow ribbons fly, our shared heritage/future is doomed.
For some, the phrase “support our troops” is merely a euphemism for: support the policies that put the troops there in the first place. For others—sadly, including many activists—the mantra is a safe way to avoid taking an unqualified, uncompromising stand against this war (and all war). Many who identify themselves as “anti-war” still vigorously defend the troops…no questions asked.
The excuse-making typically falls into two broad categories. The first being: “Our troops are just following orders.”
If you activate the google function on your interwebs machines, you’ll easily find many reasons why this concept has no legal basis. For example, Principle IV of Nuremberg Tribunal (1950) states: “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”
(Besides this, I hope I don’t have to explain that “only following orders” also has no moral footing.)
The second common excuse: “It’s a poverty draft. The poor have to enlist because they any economic options.” America is certainly an unjust economic society and this would be a compelling argument…if it were true. However, studies found that wartime recruits since 1999 are “on average a bit wealthier, much more likely to have graduated from high school, and more rural than their civilian peers.” It seems youths “from wealthy American ZIP codes are volunteering in ever higher numbers” while “enlistees from the poorest fifth of American neighborhoods fell nearly a full percentage point over the last two years, to 13.7 percent. In 1999, that number was exactly 18 percent.”
Did some of the soldiers enlist primarily for economic reasons? Sure. Did others sign up for a chance to shoot some “ragheads”? Probably. After factoring out these two relatively small groups and rejecting the illegal, immoral, and reactionary “only following orders” defense, I ask this of anti-war, pro-green activists: Exactly how are the men and women who willingly signed up to be paid to wage war immune from any and all scrutiny and/or blame?
They are also not immune from profound irony.
While most American citizens—even if they’re anti-war—are manipulated, harassed, coerced, and guilted into hanging yellow ribbons, from Shays Rebellion in 1787 to Coxey’s Army to the Bonus Army to the Gulf War Syndrome, generation after generation of US military personnel has suffered a distinct lack of support from their own government (and the corporations that own it). “Our troops” are just as controlled and exploited as the US citizens that worship them.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the number of suicides among people serving in the armed forces has jumped more than 25% since 2005. In 2010 alone, 454 service members killed themselves in combat zones.
Life doesn’t get easier for those who make it home. About one-third of the adult homeless population is veterans and, according to the VA, is 95% male.
The majority of homeless vets are…
singlecome from urban areassuffer from mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders
People of all ethnicities may sign up to defend (sic) the land of the free (sic) but 56% of all homeless vets are African American or Hispanic (despite only accounting for 12.8 percent and 15.4 percent of the US population respectively).
More VA stats:
107,000 veterans are homeless on any given nightOver the course of a year, approximately twice that many experience homelessnessOnly 8% of the general population can claim veteran status, but nearly 20% of the homeless population is made up of veterans
Another 1.5 million veterans, says the VA, are considered at risk of homelessness due to “poverty and lack of support networks.”
Yes, you read that correctly: “lack of support networks.”
Yellow ribbons, flag-waving, repressive laws, peer pressure, and loud chants of “USA” don’t qualify as support. Rather, this is self-policed obedience manipulated by a corporate-dominated state. As long as so many of us conform, our tax dollars will be stolen to fund endless foreign wars and interventions launched by the most egregious polluter on Planet Earth…and the lost souls volunteering for this global terror campaign will learn too late that no one gives a shit about them.
Support? Our eco-system needs it most. What our citizens could use is some assistance rediscovering the capacities of critical and independent thought.
One more thing: Let’s stop with the “our troops” charade. You and I may foot the bill, but “we” have no say in how that money is spent. If those truly were “my” men and women, I’d bring them right home and put them to work doing something useful…like turning the Long Island Expressway into the world’s longest organic farm.
Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook.
Original Page: http://www.fairsharecommonheritage.org/2011/07/18/our-troops-vs-our-eco-system/
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Sunday, July 17, 2011
Sexual Violence Against Women in the US Military: The Search for Truth and Justice
towardfreedom.com | Jul 14th 2011 12:20 PM
An investigation into the alleged suicide of US Army Private Lavena Johnson points to a larger story of sexual violence against women in the military.
Do you know the story of US Army Private Lavena Johnson and her alleged suicide? If you get most of your news from the mainstream media, probably not, considering the mainstream media has mysteriously cowered from her story of how a loving and happy 19-year-old suddenly killed herself in 2005 while serving in Iraq.
But now that the Cold Case Investigations Research Institute of Philadelphia has agreed to tackle the case, perhaps the story of Lavena and the mysterious deaths of other US female soldiers on bases in Afghanistan and Iraq will finally become recognized by a much larger audience.
Each year the Cold Case Investigations Research Institute (CCIRI) takes on a high-profile cold case. Past investigations have looked into the murders of Tu Pac and Chandra Levy, for instance.
So far, CCIRI has had their own ballistic and forensic experts and a psychologist who is an expert on suicides, take a good look at the military’s investigative file and autopsy photos. All have serious doubts Lavena took her own life.
“There’s no question the military’s [investigation and conclusion of suicide] has problems,” says Sheryl McCollum, director of CCIRI. “If there are any signs of murder, you can’t automatically call it a suicide.”
But while the CCIRI has found the courage to take on this potential military cover-up, major media such as CBS News’s 60 Minutes and ABC News have attempted to report on Lavena’s death, but backed away from airing the story, even though both CBS and ABC spent thousands of dollars on Lavena, sending multiple teams to the home of the Johnsons. 60 Minutes also paid to have Lavena’s body disinterred for a second autopsy, this according to Lavena’s father, Dr. John Johnson of St. Louis.
“No one will touch Lavena’s story with a ten-foot pole,” says Dr. Johnson about the mainstream and corporate media.
He believes the Pentagon has a choking grip on a media industry that has become so financially injured, if 60 minutes or ABC News were to air stories such as Lavena’s, the military would pull advertising from those channels, he says.
“The military sure as heck don’t want to admit black female soldiers are being raped and murdered because they’re having a hard time recruiting and retaining black females,” he told Toward Freedom. “Major media stories of brutally raped black female soldiers would devastate recruiting.”
Indeed, the Pentagon has tried to intimidate reporters and editors working on stories about Lavena. Essence magazine, for example, was threatened to have their military ad dollars pulled if they ran a story on Lavena. The magazine eventually caved to the Pentagon running a watered-down story as the editors reportedly said their survival depended on military advertising, which in Essence’s case, is seeking young black women recruits, such as Lavena.
Nonetheless, Lavena’s family continues their effort to raise awareness about a daughter who loved serving her country and lived for making a difference to help others.
The US military was her destiny, says her father; she’s third generation Army. So it was no surprise to her family when the former violin-playing honor student was ordered to Iraq in 2005.
Though she always maintained a positive attitude, on July 18th, 2005, Lavena’s spirit took a tremendous turn for the worse, claims the military. On that afternoon, says the military, her brand new boyfriend of two months broke up with her via email from his home in Kentucky.
Scorned, she printed out the e-mails and retreated to her barracks at Joint Base Balad, this according to the military. Later that night she changed out of her camos and put on a jogging suit. She took the break-up e-mails and put them in a pocket, slung her M-16 over her shoulder as most soldiers did on this base and headed out to buy snacks at a military store – with a male friend the military refuses to name.
Once at the store, Lavena used her debit card to buy a six-pack of soda and M&Ms. The pair returned to the barracks, claims the military, but sometime after this Lavena left one more time, making her way to an empty tent owned by the contractor Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR), formally a subsidiary of Haliburton.
Just 24 hours before this fateful night, says her mother, Lavena called her with a global phone. Her daughter sounded happy, says the mother, as they made plans for her homecoming at Christmas and Lavena told her, “Don’t decorate the tree without me.”
But within the KBR tent, just one day after making plans for Christmas, Lavena was distraught beyond any hope after the breakup with her boyfriend – this according to the military. So Lavena found a can of aerosol, lit the break-up e-mails on fire, and lit the tent on fire. The military says Lavena then took her M16 and pulled the trigger. The happy soul and young life of Private Johnson was gone; a suicide.
This was the military’s official version of Private Johnson’s “non-combat related death”. This official version of what was deemed a suicide was based on an investigation by the US Army’s investigative arm, the US Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID).
Soon after CID’s conclusion, the Armed Services Committees in the Senate signed-off. Case closed.
The story of Private Lavena Johnson, however, is far from over, as attested by the CCIRI’s decision to take on her case. What’s more, Lavena’s father says he has one simple reason to keep the pressure on the military: The evidence showing his daughter didn’t take her own life, but instead was murdered and possibly raped, is too great to take lying down, and the story of her being a jilted girlfriend simply a cover.
According to military documents, Lavena’s commanding officer, James Woods, told investigators that before her suicide, she was always smiling and that he did not see any changes in her behavior.
Two ballistics experts, Donald Marion and Cyril Wecht, told the family that Lavena’s wounds were not consistent with an M16 and the alleged exit wound from the top of her head looks more like a wound caused by a 9 mm pistol.
The US military’s autopsy of Lavena had revealed a busted lip, broken teeth, scratch marks on her neck, but no serious injuries. Yet after she was raised from the grave for a second autopsy, new X-rays would reveal a broken neck. Even stranger, the second autopsy also showed the military had removed part of Lavena’s tongue, vagina and anus, and didn’t tell the Johnsons, or document this in the first autopsy.
As implausible and twisted as it sounds, the taking of body parts, in some cases the heart or brain or both, has occurred to other bodies of female soldiers whose death’s were ruled “non-combat related”.
Dr. Johnson believes the military took Lavena’s body parts so to hide what truly happened to his daughter: Military Sexual Trauma or MST.
“My daughter wanted to serve her country, and they’re going to insult her like this?” asked Dr. Johnson to this reporter. “The Army had the absolute chutzpah to say she killed herself. We believe she was raped and murdered by a contractor. If they had a daughter [that died mysteriously in a war zone] they would be acting the same way, there’s no doubt. And I’m not resting until something is done.”
Coincidentally, rape by contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan may not be an isolated thing committed by a rare predator. In July of 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones, then 20 and working in Iraq, alleged she was gang-raped and beaten by fellow KBR employees and locked in a shipping container by managers after she sought out law enforcement. Jones and her lawyers, who lost a federal civil suit against KBR in July, said nearly 40 other female KBR employees who worked in Afghanistan and Iraq told them stories of rape, beatings and sexual harassment.
Besides a cold shoulder from the military, the Johnsons say Congress has hardly lifted a finger to help, either. A team of Congressional staffers did investigate Lavena’s death, but nothing official ever came of it.
One of the Congressional staffers, however, agreed to speak to Toward Freedom anonymously, saying when the Congressional team asked for Lavena’s autopsy photos, “the Army pushed back hard.” This staffer suggests if you believe the Army’s version of how Lavena died, you need to check your intelligence for a power outage. “The Army’s story is ridiculous,” scoffs the staffer.
Activists such as Army Ret. Col. Ann Wright, now a peace activist who’s currently sailing the Mediterranean with the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, says there are many more suspicious deaths of female soldiers and the military’s explanation behind them is simply not believable.
In fact, says Wright, there are 20-plus female soldier deaths under scrutiny, nearly all have occurred on bases in Afghanistan or Iraq. Of these 20, the military reports 14 were suicides, which includes Lavena Johnson. And like the Johnsons, many of these families refuse to accept the military’s explanation, believing their daughters died at the hands of fellow soldiers or contractors.
This much is clear: The mysterious deaths of female soldiers coincide with an increase in reported sexual violence against women in the military during a time when women are joining like never before. In 1970, female soldiers made up 1 percent of the entire armed forces; today, that number has jumped to roughly 15 percent, nearly 200,000 in all. As the numbers of female troops grow, the U.S. Department of Defense’s own reports bear out the rising problem of military sexual assaults in war zones: up 26 percent from 2007 to 2008, and another 33 percent over the following year.
One reason these numbers are spiking, says Wright, is because male soldiers know they can get away with it. In a 2008 Government Accountability Office survey that found 50 percent of military sexual-assault victims never even reported the crime because they felt their commanding officers would ignore the charges or worse, silence them is some way.
In a war zone, the air of intimidation following a rape, says Wright, can be ratcheted to another level simply because the victim is surrounded by violence and confusion.
“They’ll say, ‘You’re going to be dead by tomorrow,’” Wright says. “‘Raping you is just the cost of war. We’ll just chalk it up (your murder) to unsafe security.’”
John Lasker is a freelance journalist from Columbus, Ohio.
Original Page: http://towardfreedom.com/women/2474-sexual-violence-against-women-in-the-us-military-the-search-for-truth-and-justice
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