And cover them up, at the highest levels.
Rep. Jane Harman visited a VA hospital where doctors told her that 41% of the female veterans seen there reported that they were victims of sexual assault while serving in the US military. Assault, that is, by their fellow-soldiers. 29% of them were raped. An independent investigation by the GAO suggests that the numbers may be still higher because of many unreported cases.
Congress is holding hearings, and issued a subpoena to Dr. Kaye Whitley, the Pentagon's expert on the subject. She was ordered not to testify. Ordered, we repeat, by her superiors -- whom we dearly hope to see held accountable. Oh, and we suspect this was a last-minute change of plans. The DoD news page indicated (and at this writing still does) that Whitley and other Pentagonals would testify. So who rearranged her schedule -- and why?
Up until today, we have tried to believe in the traditional American story of a proud military, soldiers who live by a code of honor which sets them apart from the thugs and cretins who run our government and corporations. It has been difficult to believe this, in the face of atrocities like Abu Ghraib and Mahmudiya, not to mention the Air Force's inability to keep track of nuclear weapons and its passion for designing VIP comfort pods. But we have managed, despite the mounting evidence, to believe that the career soldiers (including sailors, marines, and even airmen) who guard our country genuinely do hold themselves to a higher standard.
But 41% is a lot of women. A lot of daughters and sisters and mothers. A lot of American soldiers, abused in ways that are war crimes pure and simple when committed by an enemy.
Some people will give a sigh and shed a few crocodile tears that barely cover their satisfaction, and then mutter that they always said women didn't belong in the Army. But women aren't the ones committing these crimes. The crimes are committed by men, who commit them because they have reason to believe that they will not be seriously punished.
That needs to change. Now.