President Barack Obama enjoys the glamour of being “Commander in Chief,” but not the responsibility. He prefers to golf while his female troops are being sexually abused (the estimate is 130,000 victims over the past five years).
The Afghan people have been the recipients of numerous speeches from Obama Administration officials promoting the rights of women and concepts of justice and freedom, yet these same officials have refused to act to protect women serving within the American military from sexual assaults by their male counterparts. If the U.S. military refuses to protect its own troops from these insider attacks, how can this same military be relied upon to protect the Afghan people from the Taliban and al-Qaeda?
The latest statistics from the Pentagon reveal that an estimated 26,000 sexual assaults and other unwanted sexual incidents occurred within the U.S. military during fiscal year 2013. Of that total, only about 5,000 were officially reported, with only a small percentage prosecuted. The low reporting of these crimes by victims was due to fears, apparently valid, that it would do no good to report the offenses. Retired U.S. Major General Robert H. Scales recently wrote in The Washington Post that there is a culture within the U.S. military in which women are not valued. Oddly, this is the same cancer which pervaded the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and which still guides the Taliban movement. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish friend from foe in Afghanistan.
New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand had been leading a year-long effort to strip U.S. military commanders of their authority over sex crimes. Her proposal was to vest prosecution authority in the service Judge Advocate Generals. Essentially, victims could file complaints directly with experienced prosecutors, much as American citizens do in the civilian world. This significant reform was opposed by both the Pentagon and the White House. As a result it died last month within the Congress.
The Pentagon has long benefited from a legion of apologists. They include former President Bill Clinton (never an ardent protector of women), and his wife, Hillary Clinton (who as Secretary of State refused to criticize the brothels in Kabul that arose to service NATO officials and their contractors). The policy has too long been, “Boys will be boys,” as if this is all just harmless fun.
The apologists cross the spectrum within the American news media. Jennifer Steinhauer of The New York Times wrote a November 7, 2013 article about sexual abuse within the U.S. military. It was low key and bland, containing numerous “talking points” quotes from Pentagon officials to the effect that things were improving. Just as bland was the December 28, 2013 Editorial from The Washington Post entitled, “New sexual assault policies may not go far enough.” It quotes President Obama as giving the Pentagon another year to show improvement and if it does not, the President may order still more reforms (the crucial word is “may”). It apparently never occurred to the Post’s editors that perhaps firing some senior Generals and Admirals would send a more forceful message than implementing the new measures directed by Congress. It also apparently never occurred to the Post that Barack Obama, after five years of this scandal, should not have had to be pushed into reforms by an Act of Congress. Shamefully, none of the mainstream American news media have leveled any criticism against the President for five years of inaction. His Pentagon’s war against women gets a pass.
On May 7, 2013, The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd joined the list of Obama-protectors. Her article entitled, “America’s military injustice” focused on Pentagon missteps, ignoring the Commander in Chief. Mr. Obama never seems to be in the loop on any crisis, disaster, scandal or embarrassing policy or practice. This does not seem to bother Ms. Dowd.
This writer served as an Assistant Staff Judge Advocate with the U.S. Air Force, including a tour with the First Special Operations Wing. The U.S. military justice system was broken years ago and remains broken. This writer recalls a Captain at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma who was sexually harassing a group of 18-year-old female airmen under his command. It proved impossible to remove the Captain from his post because he was a favorite of the base commander and the base commander had a General at the Pentagon who was his patron and who protected him. Because the U.S. military operates on consensus and not leadership, no other General wanted to quarrel with the Pentagon protector. That is U.S. military justice. On a similar vein, this writer was appointed to an Accident Review Board that investigated the death of an LTV Corporation test pilot in Arkansas. The Colonel managing the “LANA” (low altitude night attack) flight program was clearly negligent because the test pilot had not passed his proficiency test for night flight operations and should not have been flying that night. Attempts to have the Colonel disciplined were thwarted because he had a General officer protector. Again, this is American military justice.
If this writer had the opportunity to address President Obama, he would say,
“Mr. President: You are giving these Pentagon generals and admirals another year! That means another potential 26,000 victims! What does it take before you will actually fire someone? If (God forbid) one of your daughters was being sexually abused by your military perhaps you might have a little more sense of urgency and concern. These female soldiers, sailors and airmen are your responsibility and are entitled to no less protection than your daughters. You should be ashamed.”
By warring against their own troops, General Marty Dempsey and his lackluster senior staff at the Pentagon have become their own worst enemy. An army divided against itself will always fail. Afghanistan needs reliable allies and allies committed to ideals of justice. In the absence of such, the nation needs to be prepared in 2014 to go it alone.