Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Plight of Women in the Army 
Salon has a rather hysterical take here:

As thousands of burned-out soldiers prepare to return to Iraq to fill President Bush's unwelcome call for at least 20,000 more troops, I can't help wondering what the women among those troops will have to face. And I don't mean only the hardships of war, the killing of civilians, the bombs and mortars, the heat and sleeplessness and fear.

I mean from their own comrades -- the men.

I have talked to more than 20 female veterans of the Iraq war in the past few months, interviewing them for up to 10 hours each for a book I am writing on the topic, and every one of them said the danger of rape by other soldiers is so widely recognized in Iraq that their officers routinely told them not to go to the latrines or showers without another woman for protection.

The female soldiers who were at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, for example, where U.S. troops go to demobilize, told me they were warned not to go out at night alone.

"They call Camp Arifjan 'generator city' because it's so loud with generators that even if a woman screams she can't be heard," said Abbie Pickett, 24, a specialist with the 229th Combat Support Engineering Company who spent 15 months in Iraq from 2004-05. Yet, she points out, this is a base, where soldiers are supposed to be safe.

Spc. Mickiela Montoya, 21, who was in Iraq with the National Guard in 2005, took to carrying a knife with her at all times. "The knife wasn't for the Iraqis," she told me. "It was for the guys on my own side."

Comprehensive statistics on the sexual assault of female soldiers in Iraq have not been collected, but early numbers revealed a problem so bad that former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld ordered a task force in 2004 to investigate. As a result, the Defense Department put up a Web site in 2005 designed to clarify that sexual assault is illegal and to help women report it. It also initiated required classes on sexual assault and harassment. The military's definition of sexual assault includes "rape; nonconsensual sodomy; unwanted inappropriate sexual contact or fondling; or attempts to commit these acts."

I don't mean to say sexual assault and harrassment doesn't happen in the military, and don't want to minimize the events that have occured. It does happen. Is it as rampant as the Salon article studiously implies by avoiding all but anecdotal evidence? No.

Last year, Col. Janis Karpinski caused a stir by publicly reporting that in 2003, three female soldiers had died of dehydration in Iraq, which can get up to 126 degrees in the summer, because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. They were afraid of being raped by male soldiers if they walked to the latrines after dark. The Army has called her charges unsubstantiated, but Karpinski told me she sticks by them.

It's awful that these women died, but it happens to men, too. I recall it happening to a couple of men in the 3rd ACR when the heat got up to the 130 degree mark and higher. Older soldiers and women are more sucseptible to heat injuries. As our good friend Paul Anka would say, "That's Just. The fucking. Way. It. Is!"

The leadership of the unit, right on down to the team leader level, must compensate by monitoring these soldiers more closely and enforcing hydration.

Plus, holy crap! This lady was the brigade commander! Didn't she do anything?

The latrines were far away and unlit, she explained, and male soldiers were jumping women who went to them at night, dragging them into the Port-a-Johns, and raping or abusing them.

Well, gee...if you really think that's a problem, you direct your sergeant major to post guards, and/or you get some generator powered lights for the port-o-johns. It's not that bloody hard, General.

"In that heat, if you don't hydrate for as many hours as you've been out on duty, day after day, you can die." She said the deaths were reported as non-hostile fatalities, with no further explanation.

Huh? "Were reported?" Why the passive construction? General Karpinski was the Brigade Commander. She had, or could appoint, her own Public Affairs Officer who worked for her, and if she had any command interest in reporting the deaths correctly, she could have done so, and done so directly to the home town newspapers.

She didn't. At least until she lost her job, when it became clear what a disaster area her command was. Doesn't she take responsibility for anything in her command?

I have yet to meet an Iraq war veteran of either sex who does not suffer from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Wow. That's quite a statement. Don't you think that tells you something about the sample population you're interviewing?

Are you even qualified to assign a disorder diagnosis?

Demond Mullins, 25, who served with the infantry in Iraq for a year, from 2004 to '05, told me that although there were no problems in his unit he heard from his commanders that there were rapes in other units in his camp. "One time a woman was taking a shower late, and guys went and held the door closed so she couldn't get out, while one guy went in to rape her," he said.

Wow. That information is at least fourthhand. Impressive.

Not saying it never happens. I'd bet it's more likely to happen stateside than overseas, though. Of course, a former Sergeant Major of the Army wasn't exactly setting a great example.

While commanders of some units are apparently less vigilant about policing rape, others engage in it themselves, a phenomenon known in the military as "command rape." Because the military is hierarchical, and because soldiers are trained to obey and never question their superiors, men of rank can assault their juniors with impunity.

Oh, now that's just bullshit. The military is heierarchical, of course, but it has dual channels all the way up to the Pentagon at every echelon above squad. Plus, every soldier who's been a specialist at least two years knows everything. Just ask them. Our soldiers are never trained never to question superiors, never trained to obey illegal orders, and all of them have sat through at least one briefing on sexual harrassment policy. Stateside every commander has a sexual harrassment policy hanging on the bulletin board, and every unit has an EEOC officer and EEOC NCO.

This reporter seriously needs to get around more.

Callie Wight, a psychosocial counselor in women veterans' health in Los Angeles, has been treating women who were sexually assaulted in the military for the past 11 years. In all that time, she told me, she has only seen a handful of cases where a woman reported an assault to her commander with any success in getting the assailant punished. "Most commanders dismiss it," she said. A nine-month study of military rape by the Denver Post in 2003 found that nearly 5,000 accused military sex offenders had avoided prosecution since 1992.

Well, there's the not-so-minor problem of evidence. It takes more to convict than testimony, which is why prosecuting rapes is so difficult, and so many rapists get away with it even stateside. That's a separate issue, though.

I can't imagine a commander dismissing a rape allegation if there were any hope of prosecuting. And even absent sufficient evidence to successfully prosecute, there are a number of other remedies available to the chain of command, as well.

The real attitude is this: If you tell, you are going to get punished. The assailant, meanwhile, will go free.


It happens, sometimes, if there is no corroborating evidence. But that is not "the attitude" of the Army, its chain of command, or its NCOs. There are bad actors, yes. Show me an institution where that's not true.

This author (Why doesn't it surprise me that she's a Columbia journalism professor), who is writing a book about women veterans who has somehow managed never to even meet a veteran who does not "suffer from" PTSD (yeah, we're all victims.) has a seriously distorted view of the Army.

Unfortunately, there are corners of it which are poorly led. Karpinsky's brigade comes immediately to mind.

Hysterical isn't the word for it. I'm not sure that the English language has such a word. And it steams me to no end when crap like this is put out there. It takes a legitimate issue, rape (whether in the military or civilian life) and turns it into something else, hatred/bias toward the Army in this case.
Is thiks the same Janis Karpinski that covered herself with managerial and command glory at Abu Ghraib?
The same. Is there any evidence in that article that rises above the level of hearsay? 'Cause if there was, I missed it.
I thought this had largely been debunked a while ago.

As for Col(demoted) Karpinski, who cares what she says?
Welcome to a currently hot meme. It's also a favorite subject of folks like Amanda Marcotte, GinMar, et cetera.
Complete list of OIF Female Casualties..wth dates and cause.

This story doesn't.. um.. hold water.

For example, the medical person whom Karpinski cites as having seen a female Seargent Major die of dehydration from this cause.. well.. there was no reported death of a female Seargent, Seagent Major or Major during that time. It's incredibly obvious that this entire meme is bogus on its face, but.. people believe what they want to believe..

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