[posted at Huffingtonpost, where I have been playing the provocateur]
This afternoon while I was driving home from my job, I was listening to All Things Considered, a radio-magazine program on National Public Radio. The story that caught my attention was one on female combat veterans who were suffering post-traumatic stress disorder from both combat and sexual assault by fellow (male) soldiers.
I’ve spoken with many female vets from our current imperial adventure, one as recently as last night, and worked for a time as a kind of organizational development adviser to Iraq Veterans Against the War. I have written a book on gender and militarism, called Sex & War, that devoted a sizable section to just this topic (sexual assault in the military). I have a lengthy exploration of the same posted on Feral Scholar, a blog co-moderated by DeAnander and me.
Two days ago, I entitled a blog entry here at Huffpo as simply “Limbaugh,” in which I attacked Democrats for making such a to-do about some offhand comment the dipshit made about antiwar veterans.
I didn’t attack Rush (he is no longer even satirizable); I attacked prominent Democrats and their flaks for making the big deal out of it that they did (including some brain dead resolution introduced on the floor of the House of Representatives (they too have now transcended satire). Their attacks on Limbaugh were motivated by political opportunism and fueled by militarism’s cultural taboo against speaking ill of soldiers. I then described the institution of the US armed forces as “an imperial employment program steeped in the culture of machismo and misogyny.”
Misogyny: hatred or strong prejudice against women.
Machismo: prominently exhibited or excessive masculinity.
Anyone who has spent time in the military knows that my comments about the military culture are dead accurate, and will tell you so unless they are bald-faced bullshit artists.
My own tracts on masculinity, which are numerous and easily available to anyone with a search engine, have been as clear as they are repetitious: in our general society, masculinity is constructed around the notion of conquest — sexual, colonial, and over Nature. That masculine violence and the threat of it is directed against women as a means of social control, and it is the basis of a sexual protection racket in which women are socialized to seek the protection of one male (often in exchange for obedience) against males generally.
This is not rocket science, since the evidence for it is reiterated in our daily experiences almost from birth. It is controversial not because it is not obvious — it is — but because it calls into question male power and male prerogative. That the US armed forces are an imperial instrument is also as obvious as the nose on our collective face to anyone who can find it in themselves to confront the facts; but again, the kapu against speaking ill of the military — like the kapu against naming patriarchy for what it is — is controversial because it questions the status quo.
The Miles Foundation, that tracks violence against women in military communities, found that “prevalence of adult sexual assault among female veterans has been estimated as high as 41%.”
My own conversations with women vets supports this estimate, and they report the fear of sexual assault to be a constant.
So I was surprised that National Pentagon Radio did the story, and glad that they did.
The majority of these assaults are punished with administrative wrist-slaps… because boys stick up for boys as a general rule, and boys are still 85% in the armed forces.
Machismo. Misogyny. Iraq and Afghanistan.
The US military is an imperial employment program steeped in the culture of machismo and misogyny. Easy, right?
HuffPo Hates the Troops
John Hawkins at Right Wing News makes a great catch. He notes that even when the HuffPo tries to pose as a defender of the troops, they can’t help impugning them:
This quote from Huffington Post columnist Stan Goff is so ironic that it’s almost funny (emphasis mine),
“Right-wing buffoon Rush Limbaugh takes a swipe at Iraq veterans who oppose the war… who can defend themselves quite nicely, if they even feel inclined to respond to this kind of schoolyard boy-baiting.
“Democrat flaks jump on this like ducks on a June-bug, and in the process themselves reproduce the sick militarism of this culture that automatically valorizes anyone who wears a uniform. How dare you insult a soldier! Like its some sacred calling instead of an imperial employment program steeped in the culture of machismo and misogyny. (And you can gasp as theatrically as you want… I spent more than two decades wearing a uniform… that is exactly what it is.)
“So Goff thinks that the military is an, ‘imperial employment program steeped in the culture of machismo and misogyny.’”
Goff can’t even claim to be taken out of context, or misinterpreted. He graciously removes doubt about his intent by asserting ‘that is exactly what it is, but he ‘supports the troops,’ right?
How fortunate our troops are, to have veterans like Goff ‘defending’ them from folks like Limbaugh!
The reason I couldn’t resist this, given how the NPR piece today simply reinforced exactly what I was saying is that I don’t want to let anyone off the hook like the wing-nuts have.
Huffpo contributors have frequently engaged in military ass-kissing as craven as any jingo scriptwriter; and I want to ensure that I am differentiated properly. I do not support the troops. And I have two sons in the Army. This whole support-the-troops meme is asinine. It is a meaningless loyalty oath.
The wing-nut bloggers knew I wasn’t attacking Rush Limbaugh or calling for supporting the troops, as did Ahmed Chalabi’s favorite mag, TWS.
That’s why they didn’t put the whole text in their excerpts; because it demonstrated I was not attacking Rush Limbaugh — sorry, but I need to trim my ear-hair. My invective was leveled at chicken-shit Democratic elected officials who refuse to defund the war, but will waste their time trying to pin the troop-support tail on the shock-jock donkey.
This story of rape in the military is one of the legion of reasons why we cannot scrape quietly by and ignore these taboos… or as many do, participate in their perpetuation. They protect power.
The veterans with whom I have collaborated to stop the war do not need to be supported as troops — quite the contrary — they need to be supported as human beings. The women featured in that devastating NPR segment need to be supported as women in a male-dominant world.
There is a reason neither the blogofascist nor the Weekly Neocon addressed the content of my claims about the military. It is because those claims are categorically true.