Courage To Resist, which supports soldiers with the courage not to fight, just finished three days of events in cities all over the US. Iraq war resisters have very little visibility, and receive very little support. That's why I always revisit. Just to remind us.

One resister I've never blogged about is the one whose story touches me the most deeply: Suzanne Swift.

Swift served in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, where she was raped and sexually harassed by superior officers. Earlier this year, facing re-deployment - which would mean serving under the command of officers who were complicit in the assaults - and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Swift went AWOL.

Swift was arrested at her mother's home in June of this year. She faces court martial for being AWOL and "missing movement".

The army claims it conducted an investigation of Swift's charges and found them unsubstantiated. (What a surprise.) After members of Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace staged a sit-in at a congressperson's office, a congressional investigation was launched. Meanwhile, Swift is serving in a different unit while she awaits court martial.

The website for Suzanne Swift, unfortunately, is a bit of a mess, but perhaps you'll find it more useful than I did. There is a link for actions, and if you took a few minutes to write to your US representative or local newspaper, I'm sure the Swift family would be very grateful.

The first time I wrote about a female soldier who had been raped and sexually assaulted by "fellow" soldiers and officers, the post was picked up on a pro-military blog and wmtc was barraged with denial. Many people who claimed to be veterans were convinced the charges were false. The charges had to be false because, they claimed, women in the company "are like our sisters". I have no doubt that is true for many male soldiers. Does that mean it didn't happen?

Think of the logic here. It's unthinkable that a male soldier could have raped a female soldier in his unit. But it's perfectly all right to accuse the female soldier of fabricating a story of rape and making a false accusation? But isn't she your sister? Is that how you would treat your sister if she told you she had been raped? What if the rapist was one of your friends? None of your "brothers" could have committed such a crime, but your sister, well, she's just a lying bitch.

I really feel for Suzanne Swift. Here are some photos of actions supporting her, and here's a roundup of press about her case. Her "special court martial" - which gives the military the right to try her without a pre-trial hearing - is scheduled for January 8.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. Just thought I'd add, as someone with 22 years affiliation with the military, that anyone who denies that such things happen w/in the military, between unit members, is flat out lying.

At the extreme end of the spectrum is this case I'd like to share with you. In October, 1980, a SGT in D Co., 703rd Maintenance Battalion, Conn Barracks, Schweinfurt, West Germany murdered a fellow soldier, SGT Susan Miller. They had had, by all evidence/accounts, consensual sex and then, he alleges, she insulted him. His response was to strangle her until she died. He turned himself in, was convicted, and spent about 14 years in prison. Yeah, 14 years. As a former administrator at the Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth told me, "Life isn't life in the military." Her murderer was released in 1995. I knew her. I have the military documents. I've talked to Fort Leavenworth. A soldier murdered a soldier, leaving her dead and naked in his room in the barracks. True.

I also know firsthand the degree to which military personnel - mostly men - harass fellow soldiers - mostly women. I used to avoid the mess hall in order to avoid the harassment we women received just by walking in the door. E.g., "Hey, baby, can I taste some of that?" It's amazing what you can cook in an electric frying pan! Chicken cacciatore, anyone?

Sorry for the long comment, but this is one of the things that gets me going. Yes, my service was a whlie ago and, believe it or not, things have improved. But, they've still got a long way to go.

Again, thanks for bringing Swift's story to the attention of those readers who may not yet have heard about it.

L-girl said...

MSEH, thank you so much for sharing this with me and with wmtc readers. I really appreciate your first-hand perspective.

Never any need to apologize for long comments!

Thanks again.

L-girl said...

I also know firsthand the degree to which military personnel - mostly men - harass fellow soldiers - mostly women.

Anyone who doubts this is living on some other planet. A formerly all-male club now forced to admit women? And forced to treat them as equals? Come on. Why wouldn't there be harassment? It would defy all patterns of western civilization if it were any other way. Yet the women are still accused of lying, exaggerating, fabricating...

And of course there are those who blame "allowing" women in the military in the first place. Yeah, there'd be no racism if we just didn't let those brown people in...

I'm glad to hear there's been improvement. Thank goodness.

doug said...

the whole mindset of the U.S. military really disturbs me(I'm sure the Canadian one is no different)...not just in the manner of the male-female dynamic..but in it's ability to cover-up, close ranks...and the feeling that no matter what they do, it is right as long as it is in the name of the U.S. army..

I was watching 60 minutes last night and the soldier(military police) who blew the whistle on the torture his fellow officers where inflicting on Iraqui's in Abu Ghraib. Well this fellow can't go home to his hometown(due to anger from the majority of the town) had to have 24 hour police protection, and the sickening part was he was a anonymous informant until Donald Rumsfeld in a televised senate hearing divulged his name for all to hear...

He is a strong principled individual who says he'd do it again as what went on was wrong...but he had no support from the military at all, only way justice was done was due to the photos being exposed so the military had no choice...the military has a long history of covering-up, sweeping incidents under the rug...

so my question, concern is what has gone on that has been successfully covered-up, how many more rapes, sexual assaults, war crimes, besides these incidents we hear about have occurred...the answer to that is clear...many..

L-girl said...

but in it's ability to cover-up, close ranks...and the feeling that no matter what they do, it is right as long as it is in the name of the U.S. army..

Yup. That's what militaries do. Big-city police forces often operate under the same principles.

I'm glad to hear that was on 60 minutes. It was Joseph Darby, I assume? A hero.

L-girl said...

More about Joseph Darby

Mike said...

GREAT comment post about the 60 Minutes piece last night. I thought about it as I read this Blog entry.

It made me sick to my stomach the way he was treated in his home town. My wife and I were screaming at the TV, and railing about the "military mindset" after the story.

Don't think that Rumsfeld didn't know what he was doing by "outing" that guy. He knew exactly what he wanted to happen to him. It ended up happening.

Anonymous said...

Wish I would have caught the 60 minutes piece. I've posted on my blog about (I'm not kidding) driving to Fort Benning for Officer Candidate School listening to the great marches of Souza. I was so thrilled to be going. Seriously. There was a time when, no kidding, I LOVED the Army - the camaraderie, the physical challenge, the pomp and circumstance... Now it just disgusts me. I still try to be "pro-soldier" because so many people join for so many reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the military, per se. But, damn, it's getting difficult. The whole damn institution is just so f****d up!

Note: Sorry this appeared in a different comment thread! This blogger/blogger beta sign up thing is a real pain.

Jenjenjigglepants said...

Ya know MSEH, in a weird way your comment kinda fit into the other thread too (warped institutions, indoctrination, get 'em while their young, etc. etc)


L-girl said...

Ya know MSEH, in a weird way your comment kinda fit into the other thread too (warped institutions, indoctrination, get 'em while their young, etc. etc)

It's sad. Imagine a young woman so excited about a future in the military, so spirited and gung-ho. And now so disillusioned.

I know we all have our disillusionment growing up, but this one seems particuarly cruel, in light of the positive image of the military, and the darkness underneath.

And to top it off, the US's rejection of gay servicepeople, so MSEH, you're not even welcome if you are out. (Maybe that aspect is easier for women than men, I don't know.) Still, it's sad.

They don't deserve you!

doug said...

in terms of disillusionment, and the "blue wall" in police forces...I remember when I was younger and I was recruited to play on this travelling "all-star" Coors Light baseball team that played in the states, Canada etc. and on the team was a fellow who was a police officer in London, Ontario a really smart, down-to-earth genuine guy who I became friends with. Well over beers we would talk about his experience as a police officer and in confidence he told me things I could see he was having trouble grasping, coming to grips with. It was in respect to the actions of fellow officers and how to deal with them, and how to not undermine his own future in the force. It was a losing battle, he ended up resigning a few years later, the force lost a good man, as his decision to not conform showed...but to me it was a shame, as it was his dream, but at the same time it turned into his nightmare...

FormerOwl said...

Anybody who missed the "60 Minutes" program about Darby and wants to see it, go to
Link Exposing The Truth Of Abu Ghraib

Lots of other intersting items on the site.