Sexual Abuse in the Military: (Some in) the GOP on the Wrong Side – Again

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Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert, delivers his opening statement during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on military sexual assaults, June 4. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp)

We have all expressed outrage, in articles and in comments, at the rampant sexual abuse scandals in the military — almost an “epidemic.”

Last year alone, the Pentagon estimated a disgraceful 26,000 cases of sexual assaults in the military, of which 6.1 percent were estimated to be on women and 1.2 percent on men.

The President said

I don’t want just more speeches or, you know, awareness programs or training — but ultimately folks look the other way…[When] we find out somebody’s engaging in this stuff, they’ve got to be held accountable; prosecuted, stripped out of their positions, court martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period. It’s not acceptable.

We are all demanding that something be done about this despicable trend — perhaps take the military commander out of the process and let independent military judges handle such cases.

Well, almost all.

While some Republicans, such as Senators Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Deb Fischer of Nebraska — both members of the Armed Services Committee — have taken a lead on pressing the Pentagon for answers, according to the Washington Post:

Others, however, have railed against this attempt to shed light on the problem. Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, for example, took to the Senate floor yesterday to argue against the idea that sexual assault cases should require a different approach from other criminal behavior in the military. He is the ranking Republican on Armed Services.

“To take the commander out of the process will invite failure,” Inhofe said Monday. ”These commanders have to make decisions to send our brave troops into battle. How ludicrous is it that we would say to our commanders, you’ve got to make a decision to send one of our kids into battle where they may end up losing their lives. But however, you can’t participate in the justice system of the troops. It doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Texas Senator John Cornyn sounded a similar note. “The problem is the military is a little different than other institutions and if you take accountability and responsibility out of the hands of the commanding officer, we shouldn’t do that lightly.”

The Post notes that in opting for the status quo in this matter, these two Republican senators face “a substantive problem — the status quo has been a detriment to women in the military — and a political one,” and expands:

In addition to its opposition to abortion and expanded contraceptive services, the GOP will be on record as unwilling to take steps to deal with sexual assault in the military. When you combine this with rhetoric from activists like Erick Erickson of Redstate.com, you have an overarching approach that promises to further alienate women from the GOP. It’s as if some Republicans are actively trying to take the party’s weaknesses, and amplify them.

What are such “party’s weaknesses”?

The Republican Party is on bad terms with a long list of voters. It has no credibility with African Americans, almost none with young voters, little with Hispanics, and is on the rocks with women. The latter is partially a result of positions taken by GOP politicians — in particular, the nationwide push to restrict abortion access and the fight last year over Planned Parenthood, Sandra Fluke, and the administration’s contraception mandate.

And, while, since the election, “Republicans have made small rhetorical moves toward repairing their standing with women voters, by emphasizing proposals meant to improve life for mothers and children,” and while “[t]here’s no evidence — yet — that this has been effective,” the rhetoric of these two GOP senators on the sexual abuse scandal in the military, threatens to undo any gains — if there have been any — according to the Post.

Read more here

Edited to add image

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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