Eideard

Sexual assault – another crime our military doesn’t answer for

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…Sexual violence in the military is so pervasive, even some of those who have been charged with rooting it out are themselves violent. The military just can’t seem to curb the epidemic on its own. It’s more important to pretend nothing has happened when a complaint is lodged; many are never relayed to military criminal authorities, while others are swept under the rug. It’s the victim’s fault — for upsetting camaraderie and esprit de corps. Get her (or him: the Pentagon estimates that 54 percent of victims are men) to be quiet or charge the complainer with conduct unbecoming an officer or insubordination…

It’s true, as the military is fond of saying, that the great majority of military officers are law-abiding. But when a fellow service member is accused, the law-abiding tend to side with the accused. Reporting a rape is never easy, but it’s much harder when the perpetrator is of higher rank than the victim (50 percent of the time) and when the perpetrator is in the victim’s chain of command (23 percent of the time). Join the military, where you may be more prone to sexual attack and you don’t even get the protections, however flawed, you would get at your local police precinct, because the brass close ranks.

There have been attempts to fix pieces of the problem, such as the indignity of a recruit having to salute the man who attacked her while her complaint is being investigated. In 2011 the Pentagon instituted an expedited transfer policy — but there’s no deadline on providing a move, and it doesn’t track how long a move takes. Victims’ groups say more than 60 percent of victims face continued contact and retaliation from their attackers…

Even the big boss, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, couldn’t fix one problem: the ability of commanding officers to overturn jury verdicts with no explanation whatsoever. After a general overturned a sexual-assault conviction of an airman at Aviano Air Base in Italy, Hagel pledged that no such thing would ever happen again. He found out he didn’t have such authority.

Violence and cover-up are part of the military’s culture. If the numbers are right, there are 26,000 estimated assaults but only a minuscule fraction are prosecuted. That means there are a lot of dangerous predators at large.

Gillibrand introduced legislation last week that would essentially remove commanders from the legal process. If passed, complaints would have to go to a parallel system of military prosecutors outside the command structure. No more commanders overturning guilty verdicts…

This bill, though laudable, doesn’t do anything to reduce the violence itself — just the terrible injustice that happens afterward.

Military justice is to justice as military music is to music. One of my favorite slogans from the days of resistance to the VietNam War. The worst bureaucracy in the network of brainless incompetence that is a significant portion of American government – gets to prosecute and judge itself.

I’m not certain if the tradition of Congress leaving governance of our military in the hands of untouchables reflects some guilt over our post-World War 2 policy of Imperial War. More likely, political hacks find it easier to believe their own propaganda about the best in our nation fighting on our behalf, blah, blah. Regardless, leaving corruption and crime to fester does nothing to raise the standards of our several military corps – and even less to protect the victims of crime from the predators our military services seem to attract.

The end of the draft signaled an end to democracy sort of choosing who got to be grunts. Colleges and universities still funneled in a percentage of those who came into military service to learn officer skills. The small number of those devoid of class loyalties, peers of my gangbanger years who were offered enlistment as an alternative to jail time – has become a larger number. Or so I believe. That doesn’t lessen my respect for those proud to serve and especially those who challenge how and where they serve.

OTOH, innocence in perpetuity is a pretty good deal for criminals.

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Written by Ed Campbell

May 25, 2013 at 2:00 pm

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