Sunday, March 18, 2007

Women & War

Today's New York Times Magazine has a lengthy piece on women in war, beginning with a profile of Suzanne Smith, a 21-year-old Army specialist who went AWOL rather than be redeployed to Iraq. Swift claimed to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and was pressured to have sex with her commander during her previous deployment. The piece reports that "a 2003 report financed by the Department of Defense revealed that nearly one-third of a nationwide sample of female veterans seeking health care through the V.A. said they experienced rape or attempted rape during their service. Of that group, 37 percent said they were raped multiple times, and 14 percent reported they were gang-raped," and cites findings that women subjected to sexual assault are more likely to develope PTSD.

Although the military has implemented new policies for reporting such abuse, the article reports a "a pervasive sense among them that reporting a sexual crime was seldom worthwhile. Department of Defense statistics seem to bear this out: of the 3,038 investigations of military sexual assault charges completed in 2004 and 2005, only 329 - about one-tenth - of them resulted in a court-martial of the perpetrator. More than half were dismissed for lack of evidence or because an offender could not be identified, and another 617 were resolved through milder administrative punishments, like demotions, transfers and letters of admonishment."

While some may look at stories like these and conclude that women don't belong in war, a more productive approach (given clear personnel needs) might be to take advantage of these individual women's willingness to speak out to tackle the larger problem, attempt to change a sub-culture of violence against women in the military (remember, these men come home to women and society as well), and to ask questions about how we can train killing machines without training dominance machines in general and how we can maintain killing machines if we have to acknowledge that they may be profoundly emotionally affected by their actions and experiences (because women aren't the only ones coming home broken).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

We shouldn't ever be in the business of creating "killing machines" to begin with. That is the entire problem in a nutshell. Dominance and exploitation are always wrong morally and environmentally. Witness how we "kill" our mother earth and all things female in general. Our society is sick unto death.

11:29 AM  

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