Sunday, July 1, 2012

Breaking the Cycle of Sexual Assault in the Military – Washington Post OpEd printed on the 1 Jul 12 Sunday Opinion Page

In this OpEd piece, the Tag Team of cartoonist Garry Trudeau and U.S. Army Medical Corps Retired Brigadier General Loree Sutton teamed up to write a scathing indictment of the entire Armed Forces Chain of Command accusing them of failing to enforce certain provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ); specifically Article 121: Rape and Carnal Knowledge, Article 125: Sodomy, and Article 92: Failure to Obey Orders and Regulations. Just because recently someone at the very TOP of the Chain of Command, namely the Command-in-Chief, may have conveniently elected to suspend enforcement of certain provision of Federal Law does not mean that everyone in the Chain or even a majority are doing likewise.

As a 30 year Soldier with multiple line commands from Company to Brigade levels, I strongly agree rape is a problem that must be dealt with in the harshest possible terms and I have NEVER “looked the other way” once becoming aware of a violation so I do take personal exception to a lot of what is passed off as “fact” in this Opinion piece. Also, much of the piece is devoted to promoting a new Hollywood film being released this week about military sexual assault – “The Invisible War” – a pseudo-documentary that takes great lengths to show the U.S. Military in only the most derogatory light.

Garry Trudeau of Doonesbury fame is no friend of the Military dating back to his anti-Vietnam days bashing Soldiers. Although Loree Sutton may be a retired Army Brigadier General, she was a Medical Corps psychiatrist and thus prohibited by law from commanding any Line formation in the entire Army. Hence, I would maintain neither of the authors has any first hand experience commanding a real Military unit and are therefore unqualified to criticize SECDEF Panetta’s initial corrective action of transferring authority to act on rape accusations further up the chain of command but keeping the responsibility within the Chain of Command. Although Rape is a terrible crime, so is murder and no one has suggested that the normal military Chain of Command is incapable of dealing with murder charges or any other capital crime for that matter.

One need look no further than to this quote in the OpEd piece for proof of both authors lack of understanding of military structure: “The many victims who have looked in vain to majors and lieutenant commanders for justice can be forgiven for a little eye-rolling at the suggestion that they will receive it from colonels and captains in the future… In our view, the only credible solution is to create an independent special victims unit completely outside the unit chain of command, under civilian oversight.”

A minor point but in the Army and Marine Corps Command Structures, the lowest level of actual command is the Company which is commanded by a Captain. The next level is a Battalion which is comprised of several Companies and is commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel. There are virtually no commands for an officer in the grade of Major. Majors serve as Battalion executive officers (XO) and Operations Officers (S-3) and are NOT commanders. Hence, almost no victims should be looking to a Major for justice. A minor point but one that serves to illustrate how totally unqualified and ignorant of the Military that Trudeau and Doctor Sutton are to suggest that the Military Chain of Command is incapable of dealing with Rape while can be trusted to handle murders and other serious crimes.

Bottom line, the Tag Team of Trudeau and Sutton should not infer that all members of the Chain of Command can not be trusted to enforce the Federal Law just because the Commander in Chief at the very top of the Chain of Command has decided he will selectively not enforce some Federal Statutes.