[FoRK] Fwd: Other Priorities
Joseph S. Barrera III
joe at barrera.org
Tue Sep 21 16:06:11 PDT 2004
-------- Original Message --------
By David H. Hackworth
By April 2004, rapes and assaults of American female soldiers were epidemic
in the Middle East. But even after more than 83 incidents were reported
during a six-month period in Iraq and Kuwait, the 24-hour rape hotline in
Kuwait was still being answered by a machine advising callers to leave a
phone number where they could be reached.
“Nobody had a telephone number, for crying out loud,” says Brig. Gen.Janis
Karpinski, then commanding general of the 800th Military Police Brigade,
who was in Kuwait preparing to bring her unit home after running the
military prisons in Iraq.
Military stupidity at its finest, or senior male brass who chose to shrug
and look the other way?
Karpinski believes the latter. “Reports of assault ... were mostly not
investigated because commanders had other priorities,” Karpinski says. “The
attitude of Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez,” then the ground commander in Iraq,
“permeated the entire chain of command: The women asked to be here, so now
let them take what comes with the territory.”
According to Karpinski, Brig. Gen. Michael J. Diamond, then commander of
the 377th Theater Support Command in Kuwait, followed Sanchez’s lead and
refused to take any proactive steps toward stopping the rapes.
“When I tried to discuss the gravity of the situation with him, he
responded, ‘It’s not always easy being me, you know,’ ” Karpinskisays. “My
recommendations for some easily implemented actions to reduce this serious
problem fell on deaf ears.”
It’s an essential priority of a leader, from corporal to four-star general,
to look after the troops. In today’s military – like it or not – that
includes females as well as males. And in relatively safe Kuwait, Karpinski
notes, women were frequently assaulted on the way to the latrines. There
were no lights near any of their facilities, so women were doubly easy
targets in the dark of night.
“I reminded BG Diamond he was in Kuwait, not the middle of Iraq,” Karpinski
told me, “and there was no excuse for not lighting up the walkways to the
showers and latrines. He said he had other priorities, and he didn’t want
to call attention to the locations of the facilities.”
Meanwhile, the male latrines were well-marked and well-lighted.
“A female soldier coming off night shift took a shower and was standingat
the sink brushing her teeth,” Karpinski says. “A male soldier enteredthe
tent brandishing a long blade knife. He had a scarf ... over his head. He
threatened her, and she tried to run. Another female soldier heard her
scream and nearly bumped into the would-be attacker as he was running out
of the tent. They actually cornered him, but CID (military cops) released
him the next day because the intended victim was not certain she could
“I told BG Diamond to post notices everywhere alerting women to this attack
and reminding them to take a buddy everywhere after dark. He refused. He
once again didn't want to call attention to the attack! These were male
soldiers attacking female soldiers.”
Only after abused soldiers started calling home and contacting the press,
their parents and Congress, did the secretary of defense finally appoint a
Sexual Assault Task Force last February to “undertake a 90-day review of
all sexual assault policies and programs.”
The Pentagon report – wrapped up in thousands of words of butt-covering
politically correct double talk – contains sentences like the following:
“It must develop performance metrics and establish an evaluation framework
for regular review and quality improvement.” And probably nothing much will
come out of this exercise in bureaucracy except the creation of yet another
costly, ineffectual head shed. But it does confirm that in the past two
years alone, there were more than 2,100 sexual assaults throughout the U.S.
Karpinski says: “There were countless such situations all over the theater
of operations – Iraq and Kuwait – because female soldiers didn’t have a
voice, individually or collectively. Even as a general I didn’t have a
voice with Sanchez, so I know what the soldiers were facing. Sanchez did
not want to hear about female soldier requirements and/or issues.”
Of course, this problem would go away in a drill-sergeant minute if the
guys wearing eagles and stars had the proper incentive - such as promotions
based on who has the lowest rape numbers.
-- Eilhys England contributed to this column.
Col. David H. Hackworth (USA Ret.) is SFTT.org co-founder and Senior
Military Columnist for DefenseWatch magazine. For information on his many
books, go to his home page at Hackworth.com, where you can sign in for his
free weekly Defending America. Send mail to P.O. Box 11179, Greenwich, CT
06831. His newest book is “Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts.” © 2004 David H.
Hackworth. Please send Feedback responses to dwfeedback at yahoo.com.
More information about the FoRK