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Blue The Nation | April 17, 2014

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The U.S. Military: Waging the War on Women

The U.S. Military: Waging the War on Women
Jonathan Nathan

Hey, you know how the U.S. military has that whole rape/sexual assault/douchebag problem? And people keep wondering where it could possibly have come from? Well why don’t we hop in the time machine and go back to the war in Iraq, where–and you might remember this–rape and sexual violence were literally used as weapons of war against the civilian population. Remember Abu Ghraib? That was just the tip of the iceberg.

Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division gang-raped a 14-year-old girl and murdered her and her entire family, including a five-year-old child, to cover it up. The Army didn’t begin its investigation into the matter for nearly four months. This was just one instance of the use of rape and sexual violence as a tool in the “war on terrorism,” a tool that was all but officially sanctioned by the Pentagon and the CIA under the Bush Administration. Rape was just one of several “new techniques to get more information from detainees,” the use of which soldiers in Iraq were instructed in during the war, according to former Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, the commanding officer of Abu Ghraib. Detainees, male and female alike, were raped and brutalized with foreign objects. This was, supposedly, to get them to talk. In other instances it was simply intimidation.

So fast forward back to the present. Jeffrey Krusinski’s trial for sexual battery will begin on July 18. Krusinski used to be the head of the Air Force’s task force to prevent sexual violence. Two sergeants at Fort Hood, Greg Queen and Brad Haug, have been charged with sexual abuse and forcing servicewomen into prostitution, and other soldiers may yet be implicated as well. Darin Haas, the head of the Army’s equal opportunity and sexual assault prevention office in Fort Campbell, was relieved of his duties after violating a protective order his estranged wife had gotten against him. Navy Commander Allen Maestas was fired for sending sexually explicit text messages and emails to his female subordinates. Army Sergeant Michael McClendon has been charged with secretly filming female cadets in the shower.

And where does it all come from? It comes from the fact that every time something like this happens, we talk about what the woman was wearing, or we laugh off what the guy did as “boys will be boys.” Because, I mean, how could you not want to film naked ladies in the shower, am I right? I mean, they’re naked! Ladies! In the shower! Plus, haven’t we all been a little drunk before, fellas? And when you’re drunk, you want to grope some stranger in the parking lot! Why can’t she just take it as a compliment? Besides, you saw what she was wearing. And she smiled at me earlier when I said “excuse me” as I brushed past her to get to the bathroom! She totally wanted it!

That’s how we talk about rape and sexual violence. Because we don’t get it. Men and women alike, most of us don’t get it. We don’t understand what it really is, what it really represents, even people to whom it has happened. So we use it as a weapon of war, callously, without thinking. And then we bring that war right back home, all across the country. The War on Women was real, but they were wrong when they said it had anything to do with an election, or that it was new, or that it ended when the right candidates got elected to Congress. It’s a war that’s been going on since we climbed out of the primordial ooze, and it’s still going on today, and it’ll be going on tomorrow.

And women are losing.