Friday, May 25, 2007

Other Items

Moqtada Sadr, the radical Iraqi Shia cleric, has appeared in public for the first time in months.
US officials said he had gone into hiding in Iran in January, ahead of the US troop surge in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. This was never confirmed.

The above is from the BBC's "Iraqi cleric back in public eye" and note: "This was never confirmed." Yet the New York Times, see previous entry, builds an entire front page article around nothing else.

From Garrett Therolf's "Attack kills 30 Iraqi mourners" (Los Angeles Times), we'll note this:

The U.S. military also announced that eight U.S. soldiers had been killed in the last three days. On Thursday, a soldier died when his vehicle struck a bomb in north-central Iraq, and another was killed by small arms fire in Diyala province. Later, the military said a roadside bomb killed two more soldiers here in the capital.

And, as to the headline, the death toll has climbed again, from 27 (see yesterday's snapshot) to 30.

Keesha notes Melissa Sanders' "A Military Mother Speaks Out Against the War -- An Interview with Sara Rich" (Socialist Alternative):

Suzanne Swift joined the military during her junior year of high school as a way to pay for college. Despite what she was told by her recruiters, she was sent to Iraq. While stationed there, Swift endured command rape and harassment at the hands of her fellow soldiers. Swift continued to experience sexual harassment once she returned to the U.S., and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Swift's case is not unique -- over 70% of women in the military report sexual harassment at some point in their careers.
When Swift was told she was going back to Iraq, she went AWOL. She was court-martialed in December 2006, found guilty of all charges, stripped of her rank, and sentenced to 30 days in jail. Her attackers went free. Justice’s Melissa Sanders interviewed Swift's mother, Sara Rich, a leading antiwar activist, to find out more about her case and her ongoing struggle with the military.
Now that the trial is over, has Suzanne been allowed to come home?

Oh no! They just won't let her go. She’s in the military until January 2009. They're sending her to Fort Irwin, which is in California between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and it has the highest rate of suicide of all the bases in the United States.
[. . .]
What do you think it is about being in the military that's resulting in so much sexualized violence against female soldiers?
We're teaching guys about 18 to kill, and that killing's ok, before they are even allowed to legally drink. If you do that, I mean, who's going to tell them that raping isn't ok?

Keesha wanted this from "National Briefing" (New York Times yesterday) noted again:

A former soldier was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for sexually abusing five female soldiers in their barracks at Fort Hood and in Iraq. The defendant, Clenard M. Simmons, 26, pleaded guilty on April 5 to four counts of abusive sexual contact and one count of aggravated sexual abuse for five attacks from February 2004 to May 2005. Prosecutors said Mr. Simmons attacked the soldiers in their barracks, groping and threatening them. He was discharged from the Army in May 2005. (AP)

And Keesha also suggests "Women and the military." Suzanne Swift's case is not going away. The US military can kid that they've 'handled' it and they can pretend that people have lost interest. But the reality is completely different. As with most cases like this (or with Anita Hill's testimony before Congress), this is something that continues to build. At the height of her case, Swift was someone I would have to talk some students through. Now they bring up her case on their own. This isn't over. And Congress' decision to abdicate their responsibility in oversight (for Swift and so many other women serving in the military) doesn't mean the public's going to let it go.

Suzanne Swift needs to have her rank returned, be given an honorable discharge (with full benefits) and receive an apology from the institutions that betrayed her. As attention continues to build around her, I don't think the first two of the three are as unlikely as they seemed months ago. Swift had a huge outpouring of support while she was going through the process to see whether or not she would receive justice.

The mistake the military's made is in assuming that because they've handed out 'justice' the issue is over. To the contrary. People who were unaware or waiting to see if the military could handle this matter are now outraged by what was done to Swift in the name of 'justice.' She has more supporters and interest now than she ever did and the military can thank themselves for that because their inaction, their punishing of Swift, created an even greater sense of outrage.

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