a bird and a bottle

American Military Women Betrayed. Again.

Not so shockingly, the US government has sold out American military women yet again. There’s news today (via Majikthise) that Congressional Dems have withdrawn legislation that would have required U.S. military bases to stock emergency contraception. Here’s a snippet:

For reasons that remain unclear, Michaud [the sponsoring Congressman] withdrew the legislation the next morning. According to [his press secretary], it was purely a logistical snafu: “Key supporters had to be in their districts.” But sources close to the issue tell a different story: The legislation, an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, with bipartisan support, was dropped by a Democratic leadership unwilling to go to bat for pro-choice issues. Despite Michaud’s confidence that the votes were there, Democratic leadership wasn’t so sure, and they didn’t want to hang around long enough to find out. The legislation might not have sunk, but they jumped ship anyway.

Newsflash for all of you women in fatigues: if you are sexually assaulted by a fellow officer, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have access to EC. How’s that for supporting our people in uniform?


May 13, 2007, 9:03 pm
Filed under: news & views, politics, war

I don’t often post on the Iraq war around these parts. Mostly, that’s because there are many many many other bloggers saying what I would say already. And also because those bloggers, on the whole, know much more than I do.

But I did think this was worth pointing out: via C&L, check out this slide show the Boston Globe put together. The question the show tries to answer is this: What does $456 billion buy? Why that number? Because that’s how much has been spent on the war in Iraq.

Here’s the part I found most moving/shocking/eye-opening:

According to World Bank estimates, $54 billion a year would eliminate starvation and malnutrition globally by 2015, while $30 billion would provide a year of primary education for every child on earth.

At the upper range of those estimates, the $456 billion cost of the war could have fed and educated the world’s poor for five and a half years.

Go see the rest.

Is She For Real? Column Blames Women for Military Rapes

In a column in a recent Orlando Sentinel, columnist Kathleen Parker lights into Salon and the NY Times for their recent articles about women in the military, sexual assault, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Why is she so mad at the NYT and Salon? Well, because she thinks that the sexual assaults experienced by numerous women soldiers is “not quite rape.” Huh? Here’s Parker in her own words:

Both stories, however, contain enough errors to raise questions about whether the rape-assault rate is as high as suggested. The Salon story reports, for example, that one woman was “coerced into sex” by a commanding officer, which the Salon writer asserts is “legally defined as rape by the military.”

This is simply not true. According to the Manual for Courts-Martial, rape is defined as “an act of sexual intercourse by force and without consent.” The same woman also was prominently featured in the Times story, where she said she was “manipulated into sex.”

Not quite rape, in other words.

It’s funny that she’s going after two articles for their supposed inaccuracies when, as Salon’s Broadsheet notes, her definition of rape is “not quite” right.

Parker is right — the manual does define rape in those terms. But, reading just a few lines down from the manual’s upfront definition of rape, you’ll find this: “Consent, however, may not be inferred if resistance would have been futile…” The soldier was “coerced” into sex; meaning forced to do something that she didn’t want to do; meaning “resistance would have been futile”; meaning she was raped.

Galling, huh? But it’s not even the worst part. Parker goes on to blame not the patriarchal and chauvinistic military structure for the rapes, but the women victims and their feminist predecessors. I’m not kidding:

Clearly, some of what is considered sexual harassment falls into the category of harmless sport — the usual towel-snapping that is, in fact, a way to neutralize sex.

But more overt sexual aggression may be the product of something few will acknowledge, at least on the record: resentment.

Off the record, in dozens of interviews over a period of years, male soldiers and officers have confided that many men resent women because they’ve been forced to pretend that women are equals, and men know they’re not.

The lie breeds contempt, which leads to a simmering rage that sometimes finds expression in aggression toward those deemed responsible.

Targeting women isn’t excusable, obviously. It’s also not the women’s fault that they’ve been put in this untenable situation — exposed both to combat and to the repressed fury of sexually charged young men.

The fault lies with the Pentagon and others who have capitulated to feminist pressures to insert women into combat. Although women are prohibited from direct ground combat and are assigned primarily to support roles, the lack of clear boundaries in Iraq has eliminated the distinction.

Right. So men are excused because their resentment of women usurping their time-honored role as soldiers justifies these rapes. Don’t blame the perpetrators or their commanders who sanctioned such behavior. Blame feminists who dared to claim that women might not actually be equal to men (gasp!). Blame “feminist pressures” for equality (god forbid!). Yes, the distinction between combat and support has been erased by the unrelenting violence in Iraq. But that’s more an indictment of the war than a reason to point fingers at the brave women who enlisted to fight in it.

But, see, to Parker, not only are feminists and women soldiers to blame for their rapes, they’re responsible for the fact that this war has been such an unmitigated disaster.

Finally, our commanders and fighting men could focus on the business of war rather than tending to gender skirmishes that distract commanders and steal time, resources and energy from the military’s purpose.

Right-o. Because if the men could just focus on fighting the war and not getting killed (rather than tending to silly concerns like equality and rape), the war wouldn’t be going so badly.

This is propaganda in its lowest form.

Sorting Things Out At Guantanamo
March 29, 2007, 2:27 pm
Filed under: civil rights, criminal justice, news, news & views, politics, war, wider world

I’ve been avoiding writing about Guantanamo.

I’m not sure exactly why, but I think it has something to do with the size of the can of worms I’d be opening.

Am opening.

There’s been a lot of fanfare over the last few days about the resolution of two cases at Guantanamo: David Hicks’s guilty plea and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s confessions. Many people see it as a step toward resolution — toward the end of the indefinite detentions at Guantanamo.

Today, Adam Liptak, writing in the NY Times, puts the Hicks plea and the Mohammed confession in perspective. These resolutions, he writes, do not say much about the efficacy or fairness of the system that the Bush Administration has established for adjudicating cases at Guantanamo. In fact, says Liptak, in a regular criminal justice system, these processes would be aberrant. Critics of the Bush Administration policy (and I) agree:

To hear critics of the administration describe them, the conclusions of the two proceedings were tainted by past abuse and a justice system not worthy of the name.

“The proceedings themselves just demonstrate the absence of fixed rules,” said Jonathan Hafetz, a lawyer with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law who represents other prisoners at Guantánamo. “This is justice on the fly.”

Of course, the administration’s defenders stand up for the procedures that are being implemented. But I’m left with the nagging feeling that no resolution that comes out of detention at Guantanamo can ever be considers just. I’m particularly concerned about the incentive system that detention at Guantanamo and labeling as an enemy combatant constructs. So is Liptak.

Guilty pleas are common in ordinary criminal cases, too, of course. But in a garden-variety criminal prosecution, the parties bargain, in the famous phrase, in the shadow of the law.

In the usual case, defendants make a rational calculation based on the strength of the evidence against them, the state of the law and, most important, outcomes in earlier cases. If defendants think a plea will result in a shorter sentence than the likely one at trial, discounted by the possibility of acquittal, they plead guilty.

None of that holds at Guantánamo. The incentives and calculations are quite different there.

Mr. Hicks, for instance, was bargaining in the shadow of many things — the conditions at the base, international diplomacy, homesickness and the possibility of indefinite detention without charge. But he was not, for the most part, bargaining in the shadow of the law.

The statute under which he was to be tried was brand new and untested. The relevant regulations are as yet largely unwritten. There is no body of similar trials to set the parameters for settlement discussions.

If the President (et al) want these “trials” and “pleas” to be taken seriously, they need to provide the same protections to alleged enemy combatants as are provided to American defendants; due process has got to mean something, and people need to be entitled to counsel from the beginning of the process. Currently, detainees are not entitled to an attorney for the hearings at which they are designated “enemy combatant.” I’m guessing that once that label is attached to a person, it tends to stick. The presumption of innocence vanishes. The trial, if there is to be one, becomes a farce. And a guilty plea becomes the only way out and is inherently coerced.

I, among many, believe Guantanamo should be closed, and was saddened but not surprised by Bush’s statement last week that the prison will remain open at least until the end of his tenure. But given that it’s sticking around, the administration has got to stop pretending that what’s going on there is acceptable and that Hicks and Mohammed are examples of how and why.

The Christian Right’s Favorite Candidate?
March 20, 2007, 3:26 pm
Filed under: civil rights, news, news & views, politics, sexuality, war

Senator (deleted: Ken) Sam Brownback (R-KS), who is running for the Republican nomination in 2008, hasn’t been annointed by the far right, but that’s mostly because his campaign has little chance of succeeding.

That’s why this is particularly ironic: In a move sure to inure him to the Wingnuts but make it even tougher for him to ever win the nomination (thank goodness), Brownback has come out in support of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Peter Pace’s hateful (not to mention absurd) comments on homosexuality and morality.

Eric Kleefeld at TPM Cafe has the text of the letter Brownback has sent to fellow nutjob President Bush:

The moral behavior of members of the Armed Forces is of the highest importance, particularly during this time of war. The question is whether personal moral beliefs should disqualify an individual from positions of leadership in the U.S. military? We think not. General Pace’s recent remarks do not deserve the criticism they have received. In fact, we applaud General Pace for maintaining a personal commitment to moral principles. He has demonstrated great leadership during a very difficult time and he continues to do so today. We look forward to his continued service as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The other glaring irony? Moral beliefs (i.e. that being gay and out is not a bad thing) DO disqualify individuals from positions of leadership in the U.S. military. It’s called Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and it’s U.S. Government policy.

PTSD Pin-Ups?
March 20, 2007, 6:39 am
Filed under: feminism/s & gender, media, news, war

I mentioned in passing yesterday in my post about the NY Times’s article on Women in Iraq and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that I was a little put off by the article’s central photo — the one of Suzanne Swift lying on a beach, hand suggestively placed between her thighs.

This one:


My thought when I saw the photo was that the Times couldn’t resist being just the teensiest bit sexist, even with an article like this one.

Lindsay of Majikthise, who is a professional photographer in addition to being a powerhouse blogger, knows better than I (being a professional and all) and shares her thoughts on the photo spread.

Here’s what she has to say about this image:

If there’s a message here, I don’t get it. What is Grannan trying to say? Why would you get a woman in jeans and a t-shirt to pose like a swimsuit model on a beach in order to illustrate a story about how she got PTSD in Iraq and went AWOL? I’m not saying it’s a bad photograph. Actually, I think it’s very good technically and aesthetically. It just doesn’t make any sense.

Go ahead and read the rest.

Zuzu is also on the case.

Namecalling and Women in the Military
March 19, 2007, 3:42 pm
Filed under: feminism/s & gender, news, tongues, war

I blogged the other week about Salon.com’s coverage of women in Iraq. The article, which focused on the sexual abuse of women soldiers, was a must-read, though it was painful at times.

One quote, particularly, in the Salon article caught my attention:

There are only three kinds of female the men let you be in the military: a bitch, a ho or a dyke,” said [Mickiela] Montoya, the soldier who carried a knife for protection.

Today on the plane home I read yesterday’s NY Times Magazine article covering much of the same territory as Salon’s. The Times article also discusses the various forms of PTSD from which many women who have seen combat and/or been sexually assaulted while enlisted suffer. Once I got past the strange, seduction-style photo that accompanies the story online, I was intrigued (the story is long, but it’s worth reading the whole thing).

And then I read this:

‘You’re one of three things in the military – a bitch, a whore or a dyke,” says Abbie Pickett, who is 24 and a combat-support specialist with the Wisconsin Army National Guard. ”As a female, you get classified pretty quickly.”

The statement struck me, and left me with a strong sense of deja vu. And then I realized: it is almost exactly the same thing the Salon article quotes another woman soldier as having said. How could it be that these two women, who presumably don’t know each other and assumedly did not serve together shared not only the same idea, but even in the same words?

The only think I can think of is this: that this problem — this harassment of women sexually, verbally, and physically — is so deeply entrenched and so broadly experienced that women hear those three words often. Bitch, whore, dyke. Bitch, ho, dyke. These three words must be so strongly associated with women in the military and so commonly used to describe peers and lower-ranking female soldiers that women expect to be a bitch, a ho, or a dyke depending on the day.

The name calling might be the least of it, but it’s pervasiveness is, I think, probably representative of the respect — or lack thereof — for women in the military. The woman a soldier calls a bitch, a whore, or a dyke one day might save his life the next.