Today is our 4,335th day in Afghanistan.
We'll start this morning as we always do; with the latest casualty figures from our ongoing war, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 2,258
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1,100
We find this morning's cost of war
passing through: $ 1, 465, 749, 900, 000 .00
Well, let's dive right in. Sometimes the military can be chowderheads in some regards. While a vast effort has been made of late to try to address the ongoing scourge of sexual assaults throughout all the military, sometimes you have to wonder what's going on. Despite their best efforts, there are still many fails to report...like the story about a "blame the victim
" anti-violence poster that's surfaced at Wright-Patterson AFB (Ohio).
A civilian employee upset over a poster in a women’s restroom at Wright-Patterson about tips to avoid sexual assault posted a letter over the poster because she objected to what she described as a culture that blames victims.
Her letter got her some attention on national websites including The Huffington Post and MSNBC.
The poster, headlined: “Preventing sexual assault is everyone’s duty!” listed several tips to “avoid becoming a victim.”
“It upset me,” Jennifer D. Stephens, 32, a contract specialist said in an interview with the Dayton Daily News. “It probably angered me a little bit and I felt like it just speaks to all the wrong things.”
The poster in Building 1 listed eight tips such as try to avoid areas that are secluded, be prepared to get yourself home, don’t leave a group situation with someone you don’t know well, and socialize with people who share your values.
“I think that’s just the wrong emphasis to put for curbing sexual assault,” said Stephens, also a captain in the Ohio Army National Guard. “That immediately makes the victim feel maybe I did something wrong because I was walking to my car by myself and I did get assaulted.”
The note over the poster said, in part: “Posters like this only contribute to alienating victims by making them feel as though they will be blamed for what happened to them. This type of rhetoric only serves to promote the current rape culture that is entrenched in the military today by putting the spotlight on the victim instead of nailing the perpetrator to the wall.”
The note was removed within a day of being posted.
Base spokesman Daryl Mayer said someone posted the tips poster on the base’s Facebook page July 29, which set off a debate online.
“If someone’s got an objection (to the poster), they’re within their rights to express their objection to it,” he said.
Facebook commenters debated, among other issues, a culture of blaming the victim versus telling perpetrators of the criminal consequences of their actions.
Mayer sent a statement on how the Air Force handles sexual assault in response to a request to interview the base sexual assault response coordinator. The prevention and response program tries to prevent assaults through “focused education, compassionate advocacy, and accountability to promote respect and dignity throughout our Air Force,” the statement said in part.
“The Air Force takes a multi-faceted approach to dealing with sexual assault, which includes not only holding sexual offenders accountable and supporting victims, but also by preventing sexual assault from occurring in the first place,” the statement said. “The poster in question is hardly the sum total of our attempts to prevent sexual assault.”
In her response to the poster, Stephens said she listed advocacy groups victims of military sexual trauma could find help.
“Every survivor of military sexual assault, that has seen the poster has said the same thing,” she said. “It’s victim blaming.”
“A lot of victims don’t trust the military because the military is the one that failed them in the first place,” she said.
But of course, it's not just women. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was repealed recently after a long struggle. A wounded veteran, who just happens to be gay, was recently booed out of a city council meeting
in San Antonio simply for pointing out that while he went to war, he might not find a job now.
As a gay U.S. Marine veteran who advocated for the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, Eric Alva has grown accustomed to being in the spotlight.
But the San Antonio native said he never expected the boos and hisses directed at him Wednesday night while he addressed the City Council on proposed changes to the anti-discrimination ordinances at a Citizens Heard hearing.
"I said that if this ordinance doesn't pass, I could be fired from a job and even thrown out of a restaurant, and people started to boo me," said Alva, 42. "I was real hurt by that. It was unbelievable."
Alva was the first American injured in the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He received a medical discharge and was awarded the Purple Heart. His prosthetic leg was visible Wednesday, under his khaki shorts. News of Alva's 3-minute speech spread via social media that night.
"To all you people that preach the word of God, shame on you, because God loves me, like the day I lay bleeding on the sands of Iraq," Alva said to the crowd. "And that's why he saved me."
Mayor Julian Castro's senior policy adviser reached out to Alva on Thursday, when he "wanted to see how I was doing, and even apologized, saying that the mayor was disappointed that I went through all that," Alva said.
While getting coffee on Friday morning, shortly after he read about statements that Councilwoman Elisa Chan made on a secret recording that bashed gay people, Alva heard from U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro.
"The intolerant views expressed by Councilwoman Chan and the deplorable actions of those who booed a wounded warrior do not represent the sentiments of most San Antonians," the mayor's brother said in a statement. "Our city celebrates diversity and prides itself in supporting our veterans as Military City, USA."
Of course, even a little bit of good news is polluted by the atmosphere. The Department of Defence recently authorized up to a 10-day leave so same sex military couples could travel to those states where it's legal for them to marry if they choose to do so while in uniform. Of course, this makes sense. look at this map
; if I happened to be at Eglin Air Force Base (Florida), it's quite a hardship. Predictably, the right is outraged.
WASHINGTON — Conservative critics are blasting the Defense Department for giving gay troops an early wedding gift: up to 10 days uncharged leave time for same-sex marriages.
Pentagon officials say it’s about fairness, not generosity. Only 13 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriages, creating a hardship for U.S. servicemembers stationed in many parts of the world.
The policy change came last week as part of Pentagon plans to extend spousal benefits to all married couples, gay or straight, in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling in June knocking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. For the last two years, defense officials have said that law barred them from offering any military benefits to legally married same-sex couples.
Along with housing stipends, health care coverage and separation pay, the new rules allow commanders to grant free leave time — up to 10 days for troops overseas, up to seven days for U.S.-based troops more than 100 miles from a state that recognizes same-sex marriages — for gay troops to marry.
Members of the Family Research Council, which opposed the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal, labeled the uncharged leave policy government-endorsed “homosexual honeymoons.” Peter Sprigg, FRC’s senior fellow for policy studies, said the move goes well beyond simply recognizing same-sex couples in the ranks.
“It could well be argued that the new policy actively discriminates against opposite-sex couples, who receive no special leave for their weddings,” he wrote in a FRC news release on Thursday.
DOD officials dismissed those arguments, saying that military life presents extra difficulties for gay troops looking to get married. Travel to the states that allow same-sex marriages is a significant problem for troops stationed in places such as Texas or South Korea.
“(The uncharged leave) will provide accelerated access to the full range of benefits offered to married military couples throughout the department and help level the playing field between opposite-sex and same-sex couples seeking to be married,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman.
It's still the irony of it all; shouldn't the troops be getting the same rights that they ostensibly defend? I suppose that's an ongoing argument for military rights lawyers and constitutional scholars.