Monday, July 28, 2008

Women in the Military

Oh my various gods. You have to be kidding me.

So I was surfing the internet today, and ran across this article by Ann Wright. As the end of the article states, "US Army Reserve Colonel, Retired, Ann Wright is a 29-year veteran of the Army and Army Reserves. She was also a US diplomat in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. She resigned from the US Department of State in March 19, 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War."

And she wrote one doozy of an article. Holy hell.

Is There an Army Cover Up of Rape and Murder of Women Soldiers?

The gist of the article is that a number of factors--each disturbing on its own--are adding up to something ugly. If one in three women who join the US military will be sexually assaulted by the men with whom they serve, if "suicides" are often clearly anything but (particularly post-rape), and if a large percentage of women's deaths are being attributed to this nebulous ruling... what the hell is going on?

I'll put some excerpts in here, but the article itself obviously carries a trigger warning. If you don't really want to know why these "suicide" investigations are suspect, I suggest you steer clear.

But, now, even more alarming, are deaths of women soldiers in Iraq, and in the United States, following rape. The military has characterized each of the deaths of women who were first sexually assaulted as deaths from “non-combat related injuries,” and then added “suicide.” Yet, the families of the women whom the military has declared to have committed suicide, strongly dispute the findings and are calling for further investigations into the deaths of their daughters. Specific US Army units and certain US military bases in Iraq have an inordinate number of women soldiers who have died of “non-combat related injuries,” with several identified as “suicides.”

94 US military women in the military have died in Iraq or during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). 12 US Civilian women have been killed in OIF. 13 US military women have been killed in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). 12 US Civilian women have been killed in Afghanistan.

Of the 94 US military women who died in Iraq or in OIF, the military says 36 died from non-combat related injuries, which included vehicle accidents, illness, death by “natural causes,” and self-inflicted gunshot wounds, or suicide. The military has declared the deaths of the Navy women in Bahrain that were killed by a third sailor, as homicides. 5 deaths have been labeled as suicides, but 15 more deaths occurred under extremely suspicious circumstances.

8 women soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas (six from the Fourth Infantry Division and two from the 1st Armored Cavalry Division) have died of “non-combat related injuries” on the same base, Camp Taji, and three were raped before their deaths. Two were raped immediately before their deaths and another raped prior to arriving in Iraq. Two military women have died of suspicious “non-combat related injuries” on Balad base, and one was raped before she died. Four deaths have been classified as “suicides.”

[See original article for the example cases Col. Wright offers]

Although the data on the number of suicides in the military is vague and purposely underreported by the Veterans Administration, of 69 suicides of men in the military since 2002, 64 committed suicide in the United States, 1 in Kuwait, 2 in Iraq and 2 in Afghanistan. Men are much more likely to commit suicide once they return from a combat zone, than in the combat zone. Of the 8 alleged suicides of women in the military, 3 were in Iraq, 2 in the US, 1 in Kuwait and 1 in Bahrain. The question of why women would be more likely to commit suicide outside the US than once home should be investigated.

The circumstances surrounding each of these deaths warrants further investigation by the US military. Congress can compel the military to reopen cases and provide further investigation.

Granted, some of the commenters on this entry make a good point. What did we think was going to happen when the military started recruiting more and more convicts? Did we think that the quality of our servicemen would be improved with the introduction of more violent offenders? Or was quality not an issue so much as quantity? We need more soldiers, and consequences be damned as long as we get them.

This is a problem for the people our soldiers meet on the ground, obviously. But with a large number of female soldiers these days, it's becoming clear that servicewomen can't have high expectations, either. The best they can hope for is to be safe from their own comrades in arms.

For about a third of those women, their hopes won't pan out. And for a troubling percentage of that sad population... they may lose their lives and have the real cause covered up. It's bad enough that the government has done a poor job of seeing to the health needs of women veterans, and hopefully we're on the way to fixing that. But this? This is a whole different level of disregard, a whole new level of downright misogynist cruelty.


Noonie said...

Thanks you for posting this blog entry. I correspond with COL Wright and she is doing what she can to help the families get the real cause of death of these women. Too many of them are under suspicious circumstances.

Cobalt said...

I was really impressed by her article, and I'm trying to get what Col Wright wrote to as many people as I can. Too many women are being encouraged to join the military under these conditions, and that's completely unacceptable.

Thanks for stopping by!