Using Syrian President s Bashar al-Assad s reported use of chemical weapons1 (the missing WMD from Iraq?) on his own citizens as a catalyst, a red line Obama said months ago that Syria must not cross or else ! Mr . Obama has finally made a decision .
Months after his ultimatum, the or else has arrived, much to the elation of War Drum Pounder John McCain: In an about face, the most unqualified president perhaps in American history, one who touted himself anti-war as Candidate Obama, is involving us in yet ANOTHER war:
The president has made a decision2 about providing more support to the opposition that will involve providing direct support to the Supreme Military Council . That includes military support, Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes told reporters.
And our military support will be (already is?) siding with the Syrian Rebels, reportedly heavily linked to Al Qaeda3, our mortal enemy in the War on Terror . Now correct me if I m wrong, but isn t aiding and abetting your enemy, one you are currently at war with, treason ?
Ah, but wait . Mr . Obama recently declared the War on Terror over (even though his NSA continues to spy on you and me and every other American citizen .
You know . For our Safety) . How convenient when one wishes to arm their former enemy in an effort to further the Rise of Radical Islam Arab Spring.
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort .
No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
Now call me a conspiracy theorist, but I find the timing of Mr . Obama s new-found muscle-flexing interesting . Could it be that he wishes to distract us from the plethora of scandals hanging around the neck of his regime like a stinking, rotting carcass ?
Would he be so callous as to send more of our troops into harm s way in order to deflect our attention, or perhaps as a political move to make himself appear presidential as his poll numbers tank ? I would hope that the answer is no, but given that everything he does seems to have a political motivation, well, I m not holding my breath.
And I find it unconscionable that Mr . Obama is willing to expose our troops to injury and death in a civil war we really have no business entering (we cannot aid every warring country), when he refused to send aid to our four Americans under terrorist attack in Benghazi (reportedly a gun-running operation into Syria4 to covertly arm the rebels), leaving them to seven hours of unthinkable hell .
Mr . Obama has shown no leadership skills . He has no credibility given all the scandals he and his administration are currently embroiled in .
And now he s put himself in charge of yet another inessential war . Pardon me if I don t feel an ounce of confidence in his ability to command our forces, or for that matter, even care about their safety or their needs . The last war we entered morphed into one that still languishes twelve years later, with military casualties in Afghanistan increasing5 under Obama s watch .
Americans are war weary .
The majority do not wish to send troops into Syria .
But what do our voices matter?
- ^ reported use of chemical weapons (www.nydailynews.com)
- ^ The president has made a decision (www.cbsnews.com)
- ^ heavily linked to Al Qaeda (www.usatoday.com)
- ^ reportedly a gun-running operation into Syria (townhall.com)
- ^ military casualties in Afghanistan increasing (www.breitbart.com)
- ^ al qaeda (victorygirlsblog.com)
- ^ barack obama (victorygirlsblog.com)
- ^ chemical weapons (victorygirlsblog.com)
- ^ John McCain (victorygirlsblog.com)
- ^ scandals (victorygirlsblog.com)
- ^ Syria (victorygirlsblog.com)
- ^ Syrian Rebels (victorygirlsblog.com)
WASHINGTON A two-star general who commands U.S . Army forces in Japan has been suspended from his duties for allegedly failing to report or properly investigate an allegation of sexual assault, the Army said Friday.
Maj . Gen .
Michael T . Harrison was suspended by the Army chief of staff, Gen . Ray Odierno, and Army Secretary John McHugh, the Army said .
It provided no details about the alleged sexual assault case.
Until the investigation of Harrison’s role is completed, Maj . Gen . James C .
Boozer will take his place in Japan, the Army said.
Harrison already had been selected to become deputy commander of the Army component of U.S . Central Command, based in Kuwait . That new assignment was publicly announced in February by the Pentagon, which said at the same time that Boozer would replace Harrison as commander in Japan .
It was not clear Friday why the changes had not yet taken place.
An Army spokesman in Washington, George B . Wright, said that by suspending Harrison rather than relieving him of his command in Japan, the Army was leaving open the possibility that he might be reinstated in that job once the investigation is completed.
Harrison, a 33-year Army veteran, began his assignment in Japan in October 2010.
Amid increased political pressure to crack down on sexual abuse in the military services, the Air Force said Friday it is expanding the office responsible for sexual assault prevention and placed a female two-star general in charge.
Maj . Gen .
Margaret H . Woodward, who ran the U.S . portion of the allied air campaign over Libya in 2011 and is one of the Air Force’s brightest stars, is running the reorganized office .
She will report to the vice chief of the Air Force.
The move won praise from the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep . Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., who called Woodward a “breath of fresh air.”
The office previously was run by a lieutenant colonel, Jeffrey Krusinski, who was arrested in May and charged with sexual battery . That incident escalated public debate over whether the military was taking seriously the problem of sexual abuse.
The House is scheduled to vote next week on a defense policy bill that would take away the power of military commanders to overturn convictions in rape and assault cases .
The legislation also would require that anyone in uniform found guilty of a sex-related crime receive a punishment that includes, at a minimum, a dismissal from military service or a dishonorable discharge.
McKeon said Woodward is well-suited to the challenge she is facing.
“I welcome her voice to this fight,” he said.
The Pentagon estimated in a recent report that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year, up from an estimated 19,000 assaults in 2011, based on an anonymous survey of military personnel.
An Air Force spokesman, Lt . Col . John Dorrian, said Friday that Woodward’s office will be given additional resources, including a much larger staff than in its previous configuration .
He said Woodward began the job this week.
Woodward entered the Air Force in 1983 with an aerospace engineering degree from Arizona State University . She has one master’s degree in aviation science and another in national security strategy.
A command pilot with more than 3,800 flight hours, she flew aerial refueling aircraft and commanded air operations in numerous U.S . military operations, including the Iraq and Afghanistan wars .
As commander of 17th Air Force, based in Germany, she commanded the U.S .
portion of the allied air campaign over Libya in 2011.
Most recently she served as the Air Force’s chief of safety .
She also oversaw an investigation of the sexual abuse scandal at the Air Force’s training headquarters at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
Vice Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral James Winnefeld (file photo). A US admiral says sexual assaults committed by American soldiers in the country s Army are similar to insider attacks carried out by Afghan troopers against US-led soldiers in war-torn Afghanistan.
Any form of unwanted sexual contact or sexual harassment is a different kind of insider attack that is lethal, said Admiral James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a meeting with a women’s military group on Thursday.
We will not allow this to go on We have worked hard on this but not hard enough, he added.
Washington is facing a crisis resulting from the rising number of sexual assaults in the country s military.
On May 25, President Barack Obama said the problem would undermine trust in US military.
Those who commit sexual assault are not only committing a crime, they threaten the trust and discipline that makes our military strong, Obama said during the US Naval Academy graduation ceremony at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland.
A newly-released report by the Pentagon on sexual assaults in the military indicates that unwanted sexual contact protests involving military personnel jumped to 26,000 in 2012 from 19,000 a year before . The figure shows a 37-percent increase.
The sharp increase in the number of sexual assault cases comes as the Pentagon is planning to integrate women into front-line combat roles.
According to a survey conducted in 2011, about one out of five military women said they had been the victims of sexual assault by another service member since joining the military.
I am sure by now you have seen Senator Saxby Chambliss jaw dropping mixture of misinformation and misogyny at the Senate Armed Services hearing on Sexual Assaults in the Military this week . Terrific govertainment! If you missed it, I will post it at the bottom of this article . In the middle of a six minute pep talk on how the military needs to do more to change the culture, Senator Chambliss observes that with any group of men 17-23, the raging hormones of youth make the conditions right for sexual assault .
If you are anything like me, you were yelling at the TV, How many girls did you rape when you were young and at the mercy of your raging hormones, Senator Chambliss? 1
Red State tried to rehabilitate2 the beleaguered Senator today. Eric Erickson3 wants you to know Senator Chambliss didn t mean rape when he said hormones make conditions right, he meant things like sexting and creating Facebook pages that objectify women . It s like Chambliss handed them the shovel and asked them to dig him in deeper . If the senator meant sexting and rating female cadets, as Red State suggests, what was he doing talking about those trivial matters at a hearing on sexual assault?
Weak as Red State s explanation may seem, the very fact that they would think to make such an argument highlights a problem that went unaddressed in the hearing .
The Army, and apparently Senator Chambliss, lumps rape and sexual assault into a category with all below the waist improprieties, most of them not even illegal in the civilian world . Someone needs to tell the Army and according to Red State, Senator Chambliss, that sexual assault is not like adultery . Sexual assault is not like a consensual affair with someone in your command .
Sexual assault is not like sexting . It is not a crime caused by the libido run amok, and the Army should stop thinking of it that way.
At the same time the generals were facing off with the Senate Armed Services Committee, there were two trials going on at Fort Bragg in North Carolina . In one, married, 50-year-old Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair is accused of adultery, which is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice .
The 32-year-old underling with whom he was having the affair says she is still in love with him and does not want him prosecuted . Sinclair offered to plead guilty and retire, but the army refused to accept his plea . And a good thing too .
We re only in the pre-trial hearing phase and I know he called her Panda and she called him Mr . Sexy Pants . I know he liked to pull her hair during sex, and that she peed in a trash can in the corner of his quarters so she wouldn t be seen coming and going .
The other trial6 has no govertainment value at all . It s a horror story . Staff Sergeant Robert Bales armored up, took his weapons into a nearby Afghanistan village in the dead of night and massacred 16 people, including an entire 11 member family .
He then piled the bodies together and lit them on fire before returning to base and surrendering . Truly the stuff of nightmares.
I mention these two diverse trials to highlight the change in thinking that needs to occur . The military thinks sexual assault belongs in a category of crimes like the ones General Sexy Pants is facing .
That only serves to trivialize sexual assault, the same way Red State claims Senator Chambliss did . Sexual assault belongs in the category of crimes Robert Bales is facing . Rape is an assault .
Rape is not sex act.
No matter how you interpret Senator Chambliss remark about hormones run wild being responsible for sexual assault; whether he meant he thinks being horny causes young men to become rapists, or that he thinks sexting is an aspect of sexual assault, the conclusion is the same . He is clueless . The Army is clueless .
And Red State is most definitely clueless . How can things change under men such as these?
Fortunately our bodies can just shut that whole thing down
Author s Note: One has to wonder how Saxby Chambliss was ever appointed to the Armed Services Committee, as he never wore the uniform . Bad knee .
Five deferments . Moreover, the Senator won his seat by what Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory called dirt-bomb politics7, swift boating a genuine war hero . You may remember Chambliss was the man who charged his opponent, incumbent Senator Max Cleland, with being unpatriotic .
Yes, that Max Cleland8, the patriot who not only served in the war Saxby dodged, he left two legs and an arm in Vietman . During the campaign, Chambliss excoriated Cleland for breaking his oath to protect and defend the Constitution, because he didn t like the way Cleland voted on an amendment to a chemical weapons treaty that said citizens from terrorist countries could serve on the UN inspection team . Don t get me started.
Senator Chambliss remarks:
Proud and loud Liberal . Closet writer of political fiction . Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family .
Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.
Tagged as: Eric Erickson, Fort Bragg, General Jeffrey Sinclair, General Sinclair, Max Cleland, Rape, Red State, Robert Baled, Saxby Chabless, senate armed services committee, sexual assault1314151617181920212223
- ^ Senator Saxby Chambliss (thenewcivilrightsmovement.com)
- ^ tried to rehabilitate (www.redstate.com)
- ^ Eric Erickson (thenewcivilrightsmovement.com)
- ^ Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair is accused of adultery (fayobserver.com)
- ^ Uniform Code of Military Justice (www.au.af.mil)
- ^ other trial (fortbragg.patch.com)
- ^ dirt-bomb politics (www.washingtonpost.com)
- ^ Max Cleland (en.wikipedia.org)
- ^ Facebook Page (www.facebook.com)
- ^ Jean Ann Esselink (thenewcivilrightsmovement.com)
- ^ @Uncucumbered (twitter.com)
- ^ Facebook (www.facebook.com)
- ^ Eric Erickson (thenewcivilrightsmovement.com)
- ^ Fort Bragg (thenewcivilrightsmovement.com)
- ^ General Jeffrey Sinclair (thenewcivilrightsmovement.com)
- ^ General Sinclair (thenewcivilrightsmovement.com)
- ^ Max Cleland (thenewcivilrightsmovement.com)
- ^ Rape (thenewcivilrightsmovement.com)
- ^ Red State (thenewcivilrightsmovement.com)
- ^ Robert Baled (thenewcivilrightsmovement.com)
- ^ Saxby Chabless (thenewcivilrightsmovement.com)
- ^ senate armed services committee (thenewcivilrightsmovement.com)
- ^ sexual assault (thenewcivilrightsmovement.com)
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WASHINGTON With broad support from Republicans and Democrats, a House committee Wednesday approved legislation to tackle the growing problem of sexual assault in the armed forces by taking away the power of military commanders to overturn convictions in rape and assault cases. The bill passed by the House Armed Services Committee also requires that anyone found guilty of a sex-related crime receive a punishment that includes, at a minimum, a dismissal from military service or a dishonorable discharge. The word should go out clearly and strongly that if you commit a sexual assault in the military, you are out, said Rep .
Michael Turner, R-Ohio . Turner and Rep . Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., wrote many of the provisions in the House bill.
By stripping commanders of their longstanding authority to reverse or change court-martial convictions, lawmakers are aiming to shake up the military s culture and give victims the confidence that if they report a crime their allegations won t be discounted and they won t face retaliation. Frustration has been building on Capitol Hill for weeks over the Defense Department s failure to staunch sexual assaults in the ranks. The Pentagon estimated in a recent report that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year, up from an estimated 19,000 assaults in 2011, based on an anonymous survey of military personnel .
While the number of sexual assaults that members of the military actually reported rose 6 percent to 3,374 in 2012, thousands of victims were still unwilling to come forward despite new oversight and assistance programs aimed at curbing the crimes, the report said. The military has obviously been unable to solve this problem independently, Tsongas said. The legislation is part of a sweeping defense policy bill that the Republican-led Armed Services Committee pulled together during a daylong session .
The $638 billion measure for the fiscal year beginning Oct .
1 included $86 billion for the war in Afghanistan as well as contentious provisions on the U.S . detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and nuclear weapons. The full House is expected to vote on the bill next week.
Despite the congressional clamor to cut the deficit, the committee bill rejects several Pentagon attempts to save money . It spares a version of the Global Hawk unmanned aircraft, rebuffs attempts to increase health care fees for retirees and their dependents, and opposes another round of domestic base closures. In fact, the panel didn t just say no to more base closings, it went as far as including a provision barring the Pentagon from even planning for another round.
That drew ridicule from Smith, who offered an amendment essentially eliminating the prohibition on the Pentagon thinking ahead . Smith said it made no sense to tie the Pentagon s hands as it faces smaller budgets. I don t think this committee has the luxury of being so darn parochial anymore, to say every single time any one of the (military) services comes into our state and says, Look, we ve got to rearrange, that we re going to fight tooth-and-nail to stop them, Smith said.
But Smith s amendment was soundly rejected, 44-18 . Several Republicans argued that they didn t want the Pentagon wasting time planning for an effort that Congress would never accept. The committee approved an amendment to provide $140 million as a down payment to install ground-based interceptors at a new missile defense site on the East Coast to expand the country s defenses from a potential ballistic missile attack by Iran .
The measure would require the site at a yet-to-be-determined location to be ready by 2018. Overall, the bill fails to acknowledge the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that Washington has grudgingly accepted . The cuts of $41 billion hit the Pentagon on March 1 and forced the military to furlough workers and scale back training.
The Pentagon faces deeper reductions in projected spending of close to $1 trillion over a decade, but the bill did not reflect that reality for next fiscal year . The Pentagon likely will have to cut $54 billion to meet the numbers dictated by the so-called sequester. The committee s action on sexual assaults came one day after a high-profile Senate hearing during which senators grilled military leaders about the scourge in their ranks .
The leaders conceded that they have been less than diligent in dealing with the problem, but pushed back against far-reaching legislation to give the authority to level charges to a military prosecutor rather than the victim s commander. Military leaders are more receptive to the House provisions, would strip commanders of the discretion to reverse a court-martial ruling, except in cases involving minor offenses . Commanders also would be barred from reducing a guilty finding by a court-martial to guilty of a lesser offense.
The measure also would require that anyone found guilty of rape, sexual assault, forcible sodomy or an attempt to commit any of those offenses receive a punishment that includes a dismissal from military service or a dishonorable discharge. The legislation eliminates the five-year statute of limitations on trial by court-martial for sexual assault and sexual assault of a child . It also establishes the authority for military legal counsel to provide legal assistance to victims of sex-related offenses and requires enhanced training for all military and civilian attorneys involved in sex-related cases.
Rep . Jackie Speier, D-Calif., applauded the committee s action . But she said she would continue to push for even broader changes to better protect victims.
Speier has introduced separate legislation that would take the reporting and investigation of sexual assaults out of the military s normal chain of command . The bill would create an autonomous Sexual Assault Oversight and Response Office comprised of civilian and military experts . Speier said she will offer her bill as an amendment on the House floor.
Unless we increase the number of prosecutions and the number of convictions, they we have not achieved the goal, she said .
We have not sanitized the military of sexual predators.
By RICHARD LARDNER and DONNA CASSATA
WASHINGTON (AP) U.S . senators dressed down senior military leaders Tuesday, led by female lawmakers, combat veterans and former prosecutors who insisted that sexual assault in the ranks has cost the services the trust and respect of the American people as well as the nation s men and women in uniform. Summoned to Capitol Hill, Army Gen .
Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the beribboned four-star chiefs of the service branches conceded in an extraordinary hearing that they had faltered in dealing with sexual assault . One said assaults were like a cancer in the military. But they strongly opposed congressional efforts to strip commanders of their traditional authority to decide whether to level charges in their units.
Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, especially the panel s seven female senators, grilled the chiefs about whether the military s mostly male leadership understands differences between relatively minor sexual offenses and serious crimes that deserve swift and decisive justice. Not every single commander necessarily wants women in the force . Not every single commander believes what a sexual assault is .
Not every single commander can distinguish between a slap on the ass and a rape because they merge all of these crimes together, said Sen . Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. Frustration among the senators seemed to boil over as they discussed recent high-profile cases and statistics on sexual assault that underscored the challenges the Defense Department and Congress face.
Sen . John McCain, R-Ariz., a Navy veteran of Vietnam, said a woman came to him the previous night and said her daughter wanted to join the military . She asked McCain if he could give his unqualified support to her.
I could not, McCain said . I cannot overstate my disgust and disappointment over the continued reports of sexual misconduct in our military . We ve been talking about the issue for years, and talk is insufficient.
The committee is considering seven legislative proposals, including one introduced by Gillibrand that would deny commanders the authority to decide when criminal charges are filed and remove the ability of senior officers to convene courts-martial. More than 40 senators are sponsors or co-sponsors of the proposals, several of which have overlapping provisions . A bill by Sens .
Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., would provide any victims with a special military lawyer who would assist them throughout the process . Another, sponsored by Sens . Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, would require any service member found guilty of rape or sexual assault receive a minimum punishment of a dismissal or a dishonorable discharge .
Dempsey and the service chiefs warned against making the dramatic changes called for in Gillibrand s legislation . Removing commanders from the military justice process, Dempsey said, would undercut their ability to preserve good order and discipline in their units.
We cannot simply legislate our way out of this problem, said Gen . Ray Odierno, the Army s chief of staff . Without equivocation, I believe maintaining the central role of commander in our military justice system is absolutely critical to any solution.
But Gillibrand defended her proposal, which has garnered 18 co-sponsors in two weeks . She said victims of sexual assault are reluctant to report the crimes to their commanders because they fear their allegations will be dismissed and they might face retaliation . Aggressive reforms in the military s legal code are needed to force cultural changes, she said.
You have lost the trust of the men and women who rely on you, Gillibrand said . They re afraid to report . They think their careers will be over .
They fear retaliation . They fear being blamed . That is our biggest challenge right there.
Dempsey and the service chiefs told the committee they back Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel s April recommendation to change the Uniform Code of Military Justice and largely strip commanding officers of the power to toss out a military verdict . That change is included in several of the Senate proposals including Gillibrand s and is likely to be adopted by the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday in its version of the annual defense policy bill. But Gillibrand and several other senators said that wasn t nearly enough.
Several members of the committee noted that American allies including Great Britain, Israel and Australia have already have taken serious cases outside the chain of command . The U.S . military leaders said they had just begun to study the changes to see how they might apply to this country.
The committee s Democratic chairman, Sen . Carl Levin of Michigan, opened the hearing by saying the problem of sexual assault is of such a scope and magnitude that it has become a stain on our military . Levin has not endorsed any of the bills.
The military leaders didn t dispute Levin s assessment. Sexual assault and harassment are like a cancer within the force, a cancer that left untreated will destroy the fabric of our force, Odierno said . It s imperative that we take a comprehensive approach to prevent attacks, to protect our people, and where appropriate, to prosecute wrongdoing and hold people accountable. Continued…2
While acknowledging the problem and accepting that legislation is inevitable, the military leaders insisted that commanders keep their authority to handle serious offenses including sexual assault cases that occur in their units.
The Air Force s top officer, Gen . Mark Welsh, said, Commanders having the authority to hold airmen criminally accountable for misconduct .. . is crucial to building combat-ready, disciplined units.
But, their voices rising, female members of the committee complained that the military s reporting process fails to recognize the seriousness of rape. This isn t about sex, said McCaskill, a former county prosecutor in Missouri . This is about assaultive domination and violence .
And as long as those two get mushed together, you all are not going to be as successful as you need to be at getting after the most insidious part of this, which is the predators in your ranks that are sullying the great name of our American military. The Pentagon estimated in a recent report that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year, up from an estimated 19,000 assaults in 2011, based on an anonymous survey of military personnel . While the number of sexual assaults that members of the military actually reported rose 6 percent to 3,374 in 2012, thousands of victims were still unwilling to come forward despite new oversight and assistance programs aimed at curbing the crimes, the report said.
Sen . Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., suggested that youth is partly to blame for the problem . The young folks that are coming into each of your services are anywhere from 17 to 22 or 23, he said .
The hormone level created by nature sets in place the possibility for these types of things to occur . But Chambliss also said the military and Congress need to do far more to stop sexual assaults from occurring. Commanders and senior enlisted troops are ultimately responsible for ensuring that their units don t develop climates conducive to sexual assaults and harassment .
But Dempsey said that he and other military leaders haven t kept their fingers on the pulse of their units as closely as they should over the past decade due to the heavy pace of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think I took my eye off the ball a bit in the commands that I had, said Dempsey, who spent more than three years as a commander in Iraq. Dempsey also said in response to a question from McCain that there are gaps in the way the services screen prospective recruits that could allow an individual with a history of sex-related crimes to join.
There are currently, in my judgment, inadequate protections for precluding that from happening, Dempsey told McCain . So a sex offender could, in fact, find their way into the armed forces of the United States. Continued…3
The committee s hearing, which lasted nearly eight hours with testimony from three different panels of witnesses, came as a string of incidents has raised doubts about how aggressively the services are acting to change their cultures and eradicate sexual assaults. Last week, the Pentagon said the U.S .
Naval Academy is investigating allegations that three football team members sexually assaulted a female midshipman at an off-campus house more than a year ago . A lawyer for the woman says she was ostracized on campus after she reported it. In recent weeks, a soldier at the U.S .
Military Academy was charged with secretly photographing women, including in a bathroom .
The Air Force officer who led the service s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response unit was arrested on charges of groping a woman .
And the manager of the Army s sexual assault response program at Fort Campbell, Ky., was relieved of his post after his arrest in a domestic dispute with his ex-wife.
Some lawmakers are reluctant to impose such a fundamental change on the Pentagon. | AP Photo
It s a battle between tradition and change, and it could decide how far Congress is willing to go to make the Pentagon confront a growing epidemic of sexual assaults in the ranks.
Top Democrats and a few Republicans want to take the cases out of the traditional chain of command where an accuser might be reporting the crime to the very person she s accused.
McCain hesitant to endorse women joining military
The Senate is holding hearings on sexual assault Tuesday, where the clash was on full display.
On one side of the fight are those seeking the change, like Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Mark Begich, who argue sexual assault cases need a separate lane in the military even if that threatens the top-down culture of the Pentagon.
On the other side are institutionalists, including hawks like Sen.
Jim Inhofe and Rep. Buck McKeon, who argue the chain of command is fundamental to leading the greatest military fighting machine on earth and shouldn t be tampered with lightly.
While senators like Gillibrand are grabbing headlines for keeping the cause front-and-center in Washington, they will still need to win over colleagues reluctant to impose such a fundamental shift at the Pentagon.
The problem is the military is a little different than other institutions and if you take accountability and responsibility out of the hands of the commanding officer, we shouldn t do that lightly, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the Senate s No.
2 Republican, told POLITICO.
Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, took to the floor Monday evening to rail against the idea. He reiterated his position at the Tuesday hearing.
To take the commander out of the process will invite failure. These commanders have to make decisions to send our brave troops into battle.
How ludicrous is it that we would say to our commanders, you ve got to make a decision to send one of our kids into battle where they may end up losing their lives, Inhofe said Monday. But however, you can t participate in the justice system of the troops. It doesn t make any sense at all.
On Tuesday, senators will review seven bills aimed at combating sexual violence in the military.
Not all of them would take cases out of the chain of command.
We re building support, Gillibrand told POLITICO on Monday. It s just a question of having more time to talk to more colleagues.
Top military leaders will also testify. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has previously been reluctant to support changes to the chain of command.
Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, said legislation like what Gillibrand is pushing will be needed.
I think it s very serious. You have nearly 30,000 of these in a year indicates there s a real problem, the California Democrat told POLITICO. My view is that these either should be court martial-able events or there should be special prosecutors.
It should be removed from the commanding officer.
Other leading female voices in the Senate say the Pentagon needs a cattle prod.
- ^ Continue Reading (www.politico.com)
- ^ Also on POLITICO: Hagel to cadets: Fight sexual assault (www.politico.com)
- ^ Also on POLITICO: Sex assault scandal tests Pentagon (www.politico.com)
NEW YORK Sexual assault occurs in myriad settings and the perpetrators come from every swath of U.S. society. Yet as recent incidents and reports make clear, it s a particularly intractable problem in the military, with its enduring macho culture and unique legal system.
The most significant factor, according to advocates, is the perception by victims in the military that they lack the recourses available in the civilian world to bring assailants to justice.
The military says they have zero tolerance, but in fact that s not true, said Dr.
Katherine Scheirman, a retired Air Force colonel with more than 20 years of service in the U.S. and abroad. Having a sexual assault case in your unit is considered something bad, so commanders have had an incredible incentive not to destroy their own careers by prosecuting someone.
Insisting it takes the problem seriously, the military has put in place numerous policies and programs to reduce the assaults, notably since the 1991 Tailhook scandal in which Navy pilots were accused of sexually abusing female officers at a Las Vegas convention.
Still the problem persists, as indicated in a recent Pentagon report estimating that 26,000 service members were sexually assaulted last year, compared with 19,000 in 2011.
Victims reported 3,374 incidents in 2012; there were convictions in 238 of those cases.
That means there are thousands of felons walking around free and dangerous in the military today, said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
Boxer is co-sponsor of a bill that would remove top commanders from the process of deciding whether sexual misconduct cases go to trial. Instead, that decision would rest with officers who are trial counsels with prosecutorial experience.
To advocates for assault victims, that would be a crucial step forward, given Defense Department findings that many victims are of lower rank than their assailants and most fear retaliation if they report the incident.
The missing element is accountability, according to Nancy Parrish of Protect Our Defenders, one of the groups urging changes in the military justice system.
When military leaders are held accountable for countenancing bad behavior, then you ll begin to see a shift in the culture, she said.
They ve proved they can do this with racial integration. Anyone who countenanced racist behavior would be fired.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has conveyed the same message, calling sexual assault a crime that demands accountability and consequences and describing it as a serious problem that we must solve.
Outrage over the Pentagon s failure to stem the problem has grown following an embarrassing string of arrests and incidents of sexual misconduct.
On Friday, in the latest disclosure, the Pentagon confirmed that the U.S. Naval Academy is investigating allegations that three football team members sexually assaulted a female midshipman at an off-campus house last year.
Some longtime advocates for assault victims say they ve grown weary of promises to do better.
They say they are dismayed, saddened, committed to making change, but all their rhetoric really boils down to is, How do we not get caught? said Paula Coughlin, who as a Navy lieutenant in 1991 was instrumental in bringing the Tailhook scandal to light.
There s an environment in the military that says you can get away with it you don t go to jail if you attack women, said Coughlin.
In the civilian world, positions of power often are exploited by sexual abusers, as evidenced by the many cases involving clergymen, coaches and teachers.
Scheirman, now a physician in Edmond, Okla., said issues of power and control are particularly pronounced in the military.
Commanders have the power to destroy your career, to make your life a living hell, she said.
Though 99.9 percent of them don t, you can t take that chance. If it was a commander who assaulted you, you d be delusional to think that if you reported it, any justice would be done.
While precise comparisons are difficult, the Defense Department s recent report suggests that women in the military and the civilian world face roughly the same risk of sexual assault. One crucial difference is that most civilian victims have options, such as going to the police or filing a civil suit, in the aftermath of harassment or assault that aren t available to service members.
In civilian world, all of these recourses act as a deterrent, said Anu Bhagwati, a former Marine captain who advocates on behalf of assault victims as executive director of the Service Women s Action Network.
In the military, Bhagwati said, there s no freedom of movement, no right to quit your job, You re forced to coexist with your perpetrator.
Cynthia Smith, a Defense Department spokeswoman, says the military does offer options to assault victims, who can report incidents to a sexual assault response coordinator, a victim advocate, a health care provider or a chaplain.
The contrasts between the military and corporate America are stark to Marene Nyberg Allison, who was in the first class of women at the U.S.
Military Academy, graduating in 1980. After six years in the Army, she became an FBI agent, served on a Defense Department advisory committee on women in the military, and is now a senior executive with Johnson & Johnson.
If I go on a business trip and someone tried to sexually assault me, I could sue them, I could sue the company, I could sue just about everybody, she said. In the military, you re not allowed to do that.
At a corporation, no one is asking, Does a woman really belong here?
she said. You see that in the military this whole idea of Do women belong here at all?
Steps are being taken.
Two weeks ago, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the military to recertify all 25,000 people involved in programs to prevent and respond to sexual assault. On Thursday the Defense Department launched a service called The Safe HelpRoom, enabling assault victims to participate in group chat sessions providing support and referrals.
Bhagwati says the biggest strides toward achieving lasting change would be to double the representation of women in the military from the current level of 15 percent and end the exclusion of women from certain units and missions.
In particular, she said, more women are needed as officers, so they have the collective confidence to push for change.
It s hard for women to go against the grain, she said. It s not a culture that teaches moral courage, as opposed to battlefield courage.
It s also a culture that has been conducive to sexism and the degradation of women, Bhagwati contends.
At bases overseas, there s commercial exploitation of women thriving around them, women being trafficked, she said. You can t expect to treat women as one of your own when, in same breath, you as a young soldier are being encouraged to exploit women on the outside of that base.
We don t condone that kind of behavior, insisted Cynthia Smith.
We work in an environment where we need to treat everyone with respect.
Jessica Kenyon, who served with the Army in South Korea, recalled a pervasive tendency to scapegoat women.
If there are any problems in the unit sex, drinking and driving, anything that could possibly be tagged to women being in the unit it s seen as their fault, she said.
Kenyon said her Army career derailed after she was raped and impregnated by a fellow soldier in 2006. Now 32, she runs online support services for military victims of sexual assault.
I treat my cases like they are incest survivors, she said. You re willing to take a bullet for the guy you just met and to have that trust willfully violated makes the sense of betrayal that much higher.
One notable aspect of the Pentagon s recent sexual-assault estimates was the level of male-on-male assaults.
Men were the victims in nearly 14,000 of the estimated 26,000 assaults, although women, comprising a small fraction of active-duty personnel, had a higher rate of being assaulted.
Men need to be encouraged to come forward, so if you ask for help, it s seen a sign of strength, not of weakness, said Paul Rieckhoff, a former Army officer who heads Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
Allyson Robinson of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, one of the groups which successfully campaigned to let gays serve openly in the military, said repeal of don t ask, don t tell has given more male soldiers the confidence to report same-sex assaults.
Under don t ask, service members who were victims of assault by their own sex could have been accused of being gay if they reported it, and thus lose their careers, she said.
She disputed suggestions from some conservatives that repeal of don t ask, don t tell is responsible for an increase in male-on-male assaults.
Sexual assault is never about sex or sexual orientation, she said. It s a crime of violence that s about power and domination.
Cynthia Smith said commanders will be the key to any improvements.
No one should be at risk male or female, she said. Commanders are expected to provide the necessary resources or training so that both men and women know where to turn should they have questions or need support.
Dempsey, among others, suggests that the sexual assault problem has been aggravated by the strains of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Professor David Segal, director of the University of Maryland s Center for Research on Military Organization, said such strains are a key factor in the surge of suicides, spousal abuse and other problems in addition to sexual assault.
The military has been phenomenally stretched over the last decade it s been asked to do too much for too long with too few resources, he said.
The veneer of civilization is very thin, and the wars have worn it down or cracked it.