It would seem to me that the current, quite justified uproar about sexual violence in the US armed forces sheds a very bright light on the cognitive dissonance produced by America’s view of itself as a democratic, enlightened and inclusive society that serves as a model for the world to emulate, which contrasts with the reality of a worldwide empire which is maintained by the most powerful military establishment in history and that has been at war continuously for over ten years with no positive results.

Transforming the military’s entrenched culture of sexual violence will require new approaches and a much stronger effort than what the Pentagon has done so far. That is the depressing truth of a Defense Department study released on Tuesday estimating that about 26,000 people in the military were sexually assaulted in the 2012 fiscal year, up from about 19,000 in the same period a year before. Those who thought that the crisis could not get any worse have been proved wrong. As in other years, only a small fraction of assaults were reported — 3,374 in 2012 compared with 3,192 in 2011. The study, based on anonymous surveys, suggests that the great majority of sexual assault victims do not report the attacks for fear of retribution or lack of faith that the military will prosecute these crimes. Just two days before the report’s release, the officer in charge of sexual assault prevention programs for the Air Force, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, was arrested in Arlington County, Va., and charged with sexual battery, compounding the sense that the military is incapable of addressing this crisis. Editorial – New York Times

I would suggest that the sexual violence should be viewed in the same context as the suicide epidemic in the US armed forces:

A 2009 U.S. Army report indicates military veterans have double the suicide rate of non-veterans, and more active-duty soldiers are dying from suicide than in combat in the Iraq War (2003-2011) and War in Afghanistan (2001–present). Colonel Carl Castro, director of military operational medical research for the Army noted “there needs to be a cultural shift in the military to get people to focus more on mental health and fitness. Wikipedia

An astonishing 6,500 former military personnel (…) killed themselves in 2012, roughly equivalent to one every 80 minutes.(…) Contrary to widely held assumptions, it is not the fear and the terror that service members endure in the battlefield that inflicts most psychological damage, Nash has concluded, but feelings of shame and guilt related to the moral injuries they suffer. The Guardian

What is our armed force’s job, what do they do?

Simply put, they kill people and blow things up.

What is the object of our armed forces killing people and blowing things up?

The object of war is to force an adversary by violence or threat of violence to do something they would otherwise not wish to do except to avoid that violence: in short to violently bend the will of the adversary to suit our interests.

Let us now look at a rough and ready definition of “rape”, from Wordnet:

  1. rape, colza, Brassica napus — (Eurasian plant cultivated for its seed and as a forage crop)
  2. rape, rapine — (the act of despoiling a country in warfare)
  3. rape, violation, assault, ravishment — (the crime of forcing a woman to submit to sexual intercourse against her will)

I think, then, that without forcing the metaphor, you could say that the United States armed forces have, for example, “raped”, Iraq, Panama and Vietnam in recent memory (all for their own good of course).

Now, who are the soldiers?

For hundreds, for thousands, of years soldiers have been very young men, brimming with testosterone, horny as chimpanzees, taught to kill people and blow things up, who spend most of their time bored to death and short periods frightened to death, and often just plain dead.

General William Tecumseh Sherman famously said that “war is hell”.

Here is picture of what he meant.

Marines pee on dead taliban

This is a famous picture, but what is on view is nothing that extraordinary in the context of war, simply that latter-Afghanistan is the first war in history where soldiers carry cellphones with cameras that can upload pictures to Internet… imagine if somebody had had a cellphone at the My-Lai massacre.

Now use your imagination and try to visualize American women soldiers urinating on dead Taliban and you get an idea of how complicated it is to fit women into this culture… as much physically as anything else. Awkward to say the least. You would ask yourself why any woman in her right mind would want to be there and do that. To which a feminist could quite rightly ask in turn why any man in his right mind would want to either. Why indeed?

Which brings to one of the sorest points in the entire business: in the increasingly immobile American class structure, practically the only way a young person from a poor family can access to higher education or first class vocational training is to join the armed forces. In most developed countries all these things can be obtained for free without having to risk death or physical and mental mutilation.

Cross posted from: http://seaton-newslinks.blogspot.com