The Real Military Scandal

It started with Gen. Petraeus and Paula Broadwell as a straightforward allegedly exposed affair.  Twitter exploded last Friday night.  News organizations salivated, and pundits conspiracy theorized.  It then crossed wires with Jill Kelly and Gen. Allen and a FBI agent that with a awkward shirtless photograph sent to Kelly and all of the sudden it was a cluster of gossip more akin to Melrose Place than government.  Gawker was the first to put it on a flow chart in an attempt to get some clarity.  Its been 5 or 6 days and its all anyone can talk about.  Everything is hearsay, nothing confirmed, but already Gen. Petraeus resigned, Gen. Allen’s next steps are on hold, and Paula Broadwell’s name is dragged through the mud.

As far I am concerned, the mess is with the individuals, not the country.  Go back through history and you will see adultery and affairs thick as mud throughout the careers of great leaders.  It didn’t make them bad leaders, bad husbands perhaps, but not bad leaders.

Fact is: I don’t care.  Not one iota.  The amount of time and fodder put into this is insane, and proof that we are a gossip and controversy hungry nation that cares more about reality tv style news than news itself.  There is a reason I don’t watch Jersey Shore, Survivor, or any other Big Brother-style reality tv.  It turns my stomach.  When I hear that these affairs may have a larger ramification on the view of  Obama’s choice of leadership in the military due to an apparent military culture I want to scream.

If we want to talk about military scandals and a disturbing trend in military leadership culture let’s talk about the 19,000 sexual harrassment and rapes in the US military last year.  Because no matter the train wreck that Gen. Petraeus and co have made in their personal relationships, or the mudslinging that is going on in the media – these were consenting adults of equal stature making personal choices.  That’s not news, other than for People magazine.

Meanwhile, rape within the US military has become so widespread that it is estimated that a female soldier in Iraq is more likely to be attacked by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire.  To make matters worse, there is little recourse.  Rape is a criminal offence, but in the US military it’s often considered  a breach of good conduct. Regularly, a sex offender in the US system goes unpunished, so it proliferates.  The Guardian covered the abuse in depth last December and reported that in 2010, 3,158 sexual crimes were reported within the US military. Of those cases, only 529 reached a court room, and only 104 convictions were made.  104 convictions out of a reported 3,158?  Combined with the estimated 19,000 unreported cases of sexual assault and harassment last year and you get an estimated 21,000 military soldiers that have been sexually assaulted or raped within the US military.   That’s not news?

Victims of military rape can share their experiences on mydutytospeak.com, and there are no end to the shocking tales of violence and brutality.  Since the movie The Invisible War came out more people are becoming aware of the brutalities happening within our military to women and men alike, a dark stain on the integrity of the military that goes up through the highest levels in all four branches of service.   Rape happens everywhere, but in a system where you cannot go outside of your chain of command to report a crime, where rape is trivialized and victims ridiculed, and victims are not able to simply quit their job to avoid continued contact with their attacker.

The fact that THIS story isn’t being tweeted, blogged, and commented on daily in the mainstream media is more shocking than a sex scandal involving consenting adults, no matter how powerful the people are that are involved.  Our priorities as a society are severely off kilter when actual crimes of rape are rarely discussed or prosecuted, but moral lapses of adultery cause resignations and endless conversations and moral outrage throughout our congress, media, and public arenas.

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