Sunday, February 28, 2010
Perturbing the forces
"This is not the time," he said, "to perturb the force that is, at the moment, stretched by demands in Iraq and Afghanistan."
What a curious thing to say. Makes me, oh, I don't know, a bit perturbed.
Perhaps that's because too many commanders still don't ask, and too many victims still won't tell, about the levels of violence endured by women in uniform.
Women now make up 15% of the armed forces. The Pentagon's latest figures show that nearly 3,000 women were sexually assaulted in fiscal year 2008, up 9% from the year before.
Among women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number rose 25%.
Close to a third of female veterans say they were victims of rape or assault while they were serving - twice the rate in the civilian population.
The Pentagon estimates that 80 - 90 percent of sexual assaults go unreported because of "the belief that nothing would be done; fear of ostracism, harassment, or ridicule; and concern that peers would gossip."
More than a half feared they would be labeled troublemakers. That may be due to the fact that the only person a victim can get confidential assistance from is the military chaplain. Anything she says to a doctor, lawyer or victim advocate is not "privileged information."
Women also worry that they will be removed from their units for their own "protection" and talk about not wanting to undermine their missions or the cohesion of their units.
And then, some just do the math. Only 8% of cases that are investigated end in prosecution, compared with 40% for civilians arrested for sexual crimes. Astonishingly, about 80% of those convicted are honorably discharged nonetheless.
Makes you wonder just how, exactly, the repeal of DADT would "perturb the forces". Would the presence of people who are stripped of the fullness of their humanity by being associated with a sex act raise the already sky-high testosterone level supposedly needed to be in battle?
Or, would knowing who was an LGBT person and, therefore, "hands off" to sexual activity so reduce the "available population" so much as to be perturbing to the forces?
The policy of "Don't ask don't tell" is killing us - in the words of the old Book of Common Prayer - "our souls and bodies."
I'm reminded of that spectacular court room scene in "A Few Good Men," when Daniel Kafee, played brilliantly by Tom Cruise, demands, "I want the truth!" Colonel Nathan Jessup, acted with equal brilliance by Jack Nicholson, responds "You can't handle the truth!"
Seems to me that truer words were never spoken.
We need to perturb the forces with the truth of what violence - and secrecy - do to the human soul and body.
We may just discover that we can handle that piece of truth better than either the truth of rape or the truth of our sexual orientation.