By Lata Jha:
You could be the world’s most powerful country, but there could still be enough reason for you to feel ashamed. In what doesn’t really come as a surprise to many of us, US military officers have been severely berated for both their involvement in recent cases of sexual assault and harassment, and their unflinching apathy towards victims of the crime.
At a congressional hearing attended by uniformed officers of the army, navy, air force, Marines Corps and the Coast Guard last week, senators said sexual abuse within the army was like ‘plague’. Officers as distinguished as four star generals were asked to document sex crimes better and make it easier for victims to come up and report the crime. It’s extremely traumatic for a female to talk about what she’s been through. It could be as disparate as having been looked at sideways inappropriately or being pushed against the wall and brutally raped.
While most high ranking officials including the commander of the US Marine Corps, General James Amos, agreed that that the military had not paid sufficient attention and sympathy in addressing sex related crimes in the past, it wouldn’t be appropriate to completely alter legal traditions of the military in this regard.
One of the proposals demanded that military prosecutors be allowed to decide whether a case should go to trial instead of unit commanders, thus ensuring impartiality for the victim. Instances of countries like Israel and some European allies where this had worked were cited to demonstrate the success of this method.
Others, including General Martin Dempsey, the highest ranking military official in the country argued that a unit commander bereft of any authority would not be able to maintain discipline and order in the unit. The need is for reform, but not at the cost of allowing responsibility to be shirked.
Within the military, raging hormones were blamed for a lot of the crimes. Many of these “young boys” are barely 19 when they’re recruited, some officials said. This was however vetoed almost unanimously, as senators argued that the crime was less about sex, and more about dominance and power.
The US military has for long been known unfortunately for its sexual perversions. As far back as the Iraq war, there were reports on how prisoners were humiliated and photographed in awkward sexual positions. Now of course, it’s a lot more upfront.Â Â These are things that could affect one of us. In seeking absolute power for the country, maybe it’s time they paid some attention to the lives of the people who actually make up the country.