Afghanistan: A Free Country – For Invaders and Rapists

By Debra Sweet

How can the US military save Afghan women, when 1 in 3 of its own female members are raped by their fellow soldiers and Marines?
 
I was in Times Square today as Sandra Lee, her voice shaking, and with great courage, told what she's gone through since being raped in Iraq in 2004.  She is an Army staff sergeant, and the attacker was a fellow soldier.  She spent years not knowing what to do, and wanting to die, but somehow found her voice and spoke publicly about the attack for the first time today. 
 
 
Her story is much more common than the military admits. Veterans for Peace today launched a week of events to raise the issue, quoting a former soldier, "There are only three things the guys let you be if you're a girl in the military - a bitch, a ho, or a dyke." Ann Wright & Leah Bolger of Vets for Peace, and Eve Ensler, who has dedicated her life to stopping violence against women, joined Sandra.
 
Elaine Brower wrote today, "Sexual assault and rape of women and men in the US military increased so dramatically during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that in 2005 then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld formed a task force on sexual assault; however, the task force did not meet until 2008. Nearly one-third of a nationwide sample of women veterans who sought health care through the Veterans Administration said they experienced rape or attempted rape during their service. Of that group, 37 percent said they were raped multiple times and 14 percent reported they were gang-raped.
 
"The Department of Defense has been reluctant to release statistics on sexual assault of men in the military, but anecdotal evidence indicates that the statistics are alarmingly high. Over the past 10 years, more than 700 US Army Recruiters have been accused of sexual misconduct or rape. Sixty years of US military studies and task forces since women began entering the military in larger numbers have not lessened the incidents of assault and rape."
 
One can't talk about the rape of American soldiers without looking at the war crimes perpetrated on Iraqi and Afghan women in the course of these occupations. Veterans report that pornography is encouraged in the war zone; women are de-humanized. 
 
There's speculation that the photographs of detainee abuse the Obama administration now refuses to release include images of rapes.  The rest of the world knows this is an integral part of the US occupations.  It's the American people who are largely blind to it. The fact is that rape of Iraqi women by U.S. soldiers is a grim component of the ongoing U.S. occupation of Iraq.
 
Remember that George Bush, and Laura, Hilary Clinton and feminist leaders sold the invasion of Afghanistan to the world as a mission to "save" the women of Afghanistan from the Taliban and the burka.  I heard Zoya, from the Revolutionary Association of Afghan Women, speak last week.  She said that under the Americans, Afghanistan is a "free country...a free country for rapists, opium runners, warlords and foreign troops." She spoke bitterly of the Taliban years, but said that Hamid Karzai's government has notorious warlord ministers he pardoned for notorious rapes, and that people hate the US occupation and Karzai so much they are going back to support the Taliban.  "In the past few years, only some cosmetic changes have been made regarding women's rights," Zoya said, critiquing eight years of occupation by U.S. and NATO troops. "The burka is not any more in the papers, in the law, but because there is so much insecurity, so much rape and violence, many women still wear the burka."
 
PBS is showing a Frontline episode called Obama's War on the fighting this summer in Afghanistan.  As I write, I'm watching US troops meeting with Afghan men twice their age, in a culture they don't begin, or try, to understand, instructing them in how to "cooperate" in stopping the Taliban, "for their own good." Occupying imperialist, armies can't do any good.  The shame is that there are people justifying such immoral, unjust occupations, and that Peace Prizes are given for expanding them.
 
Washington Post: Details Emerge in Alleged Army Rape, Killings
 
Guardian UK: We Have Been Silent About Many Things But We Will Not Stand Rape
New York Times: Soldier to Plead Guilty in Iraq Rape and Killings
 
Time Magazine: A Soldier's Shame
 

 

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