Tuesday, February 22, 2011

They call it a plan






Today confusion reigns surpreme. Most thought Kaye Whitley, the Pentagon's Director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, was an employee of the Pentagon whose salary was paid by the tax payer and, therefore, answerable to the public. Turns out Kaye Whit-whit is a star-star. Her concert rider hasn't reached Van Halen proportions yet (presumably, she will not cancel an appearance if brown M&Ms are in the green room) but give her time, give her time.
On today's Tell Me More (NPR), Michele Martin explained that they had contacted the Pentagon and Kaye Whitley had agreed to appear on the show for a discussion Martin was moderating on sexual harassment in the military provided -- pay attention -- that she speak first and only to Michele Martin (no one else appearing could question her or comment to her). That's a bit extreme for a government employee. Especially one whose ass should have been fired when she refused to testify to Congress in July 2008. But provided she could get these conditions, the star-star would appear. Except she wouldn't. Even after agreeing to Whitley's conditions and her stating she would appear, at the last minute Kaye-Kay backed out. Usually when a diva backs out at the last minute, the rumors are pills or booze. Let's hope Kaye's not hitting the hard stuff. Who knows what the reasons were for Kaye's backing out but it's past time that the Pentagon started explaining what world they're living in that they have an employee who thinks she can testify to Congress only when she wants to and whose MAIN JOB is to do media outreach but insists upon star treatement or she won't agree to it.
Michele Martin: I should also say that we called upon the Pentagon's sexual assault prevention response office for a comment and the director of that office, Kaye Whitley, first agreed to appear on the program but although we assured Ms. Whitley, per her request, that she would speak directly to me in a one-on-one conversation, we were subsequently informed that she would not be appearing.
Panayiota Bertzikis was Martin's guest and apparently,, unlike Kaye Whitley, had no special demands. Panayiota's part of the group, fifteen women, 2 men, who are suing former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates over their lack of leadership and response on the issue of sexual assaults and rapes. Susan Burke is the lead attorney for the plantiffs. Penayiota Bertzikis is the executive director of Military Rape Crisis Center. She explained what happened to her.
Penayiota Bertzikis: I enlisted in the Coast Guard in 2005. In 2006, I reported a rape to my commander, Coast Guard Station Burlington, Vermont. And my executive petty officer told me to shut up about the rape and to leave his office. After it was reported to his supervisors, the executive officer, I was forced to continue working with my perpetrator for over a month, living on the same floor as him in military housing and being reprimanded and abused further by pretty much the entire station who knew what was happening. After being transferred to Coast Guard Station Boston, the abuse continued to happen and eventually in May 2007, I was involuntarily discharged from service on the basis of a misdiagnosis.
Michele Martin: What does that mean?
Penayiota Bertzikis: The Coast Guard told me that I was having problems adjusting to being raped and therefore I can no longer serve in the military. They told me I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and from there, because of that, I can no longer serve in the Coast Guard.
Michele Martin: Wait a minute. So they're saying you can no longer serve in the Coast Guard because you had Post Traumatic Stress after suffering a rape but they never investigated the rape.
Penayiota Bertzikis: Well it was so-called investigated but they found there was no so-called credible evidence that a rape occurred even though my perpetrator has confessed to what he has done.
Miichele Martin noted some of the claims of improvement Robert Gates has made publicly and Penayiota Bertzikis didn't see those improvements and she specifically pointed to the hotline, "And those 24 hour hotlines that you're supposed to call? I have cases where survivors called those hotlines where you're supposed to call and talk to a victims advocate after an assault and those phones are not being picked up by anyone. The e-mails and phone calls are not answered so I haven't seen any difference since the Dept of Defense have done this Sexual Assault Prevention Office. There hasn't been much difference between now and what happened to me in '06."
Last week, CBS News announced that Lara Logan was attacked and sexually assaulted while on assignment in Egypt. today Michele Martin addressed many issues regarding that topic with ABC's Martha Raddatz, Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh and Women's Media Foundation's Liza Gross (link has audio and transcript). Nir Rosen, of course, attacked Logan on Twitter after the news broke, explaining how he had no sympathy for her and, like many abusers, insisting she got what she deserved. Sunday, Maureen Dowd (New York Times) weighed in, "He apologized in a whiny way, explaining that he 'resented' Logan because she 'defended American imperial adventures,' and that she got so much attention for the assault because she's white and famous. He explained in Salon that 'Twitter is no place for nuance,' as though there's any nuance in his suggestion that Logan wanted to be sexually assaulted for ratings." Noting Rosen's 'apology,' Phil Bronstein (San Francisco Chronicle) observed, "But that started yet another debate about whether Rosen himself was a scurrilous troll or the victime of anti-free speech forces. I vote the former. An Esquire writer actually claimed both Rosen and Logan were 'attacked by the same thing . . . mob mentality.' That's a big stretch." And today Rosen won the not highly sought after "Dick of the Week" award: "Amazingly though, Rosen was only getting warmed up. It's his apologies that really set the standard. Rosen made several attempts at an "apology" that range from whining and petulant to flippant and dismissive. It becomes very clear very quickly that Rosen feels absolutely no remorse whatsoever for his inappropriate, insulting tweets." You can also refer to "The Damned Don't Apologize (Ava and C.I.)" that Ava and I did for Third.

Around the world, the attacks on women never end. Today Human Rights Watch issued [PDF format warning] "At a Crossroads: Human Rights in Iraq Eight Years After the US-led Invasion." Despite Barack Obama's pretty lies that Iraq is 'progress' and puppy dog tails, Human Rights Watch studied seven cities over last year and found reality is very, very different. Take this from the section on women:

Women and girls also suffered from increasing restrictions on their freedom of mobility and protections under the law. In an attempt to attract support from conservative and religious groups and tribal leaders, the government introduced decrees and legislation negatively impacting women's legal status in the labor code, criminal justice system, and personal status laws. Security forces subjected female political activists and relatives of dissidents to gender-specific abuses, including sexual violence.
The insecurity created by the US-led 2003 occupation of Iraq, followed by sectarian strife that engulfed the country, further eroded women's rights.
In the months following the invasion, Human Rights Watch documented a wave of sexual violence and abductions against women in Baghdad. At the time, women and girls told Human Rights Watch that insecurity and fear of rape and abduction kept them in their homes, out of schools, and away from work. Although assailants kidnapped many men as well, the consequences for women and girls were worse due to concerns of family "honor," which is predicated on the moral standing and behavior of female members of the family. For women and girls, the trauma of an abduction continued well after release -- the shame associated with the event was a lasting stigma because of the presumption that abductors had raped or sexually assaulted the woman or girl during her ordeal, regardless of whether she was actually raped.
After 2003, militias, insurgents, Iraqi security forces, multinational forces, and foreign private military contractors raped and killed women.
[. . .]
Today, armed groups continue to target female political and community leaders and activists.
This threat of violence has had a debilitating impact on the daily lives of women and girls generally and has reduced their participation in public life. It has had profound consequences for women's economic participation, as many female professionals, including doctors, journalists, activists, engineers, politicians, teachers, and civil servants are forced to cease working fearing for their safety.
On November 12, 2009, an assailant shot Safa 'Abd al-Amir, the principal of a girls school in Baghdad, four times. The attack happened shortly after she announced that she was running in the national elections as a Communist Party candidate. After al-Amir left her school in the al-Ghadir district at about 1:30 p.m., a maroon-colored BMW approached her vehicle from behind to the side; an assailant shot her three times in the face and once in the arm. She did not immediately realize what had happened to her since the gunman used a silencer.
Despite her injuries, al-Amir managed to leave her car and walk barefoot for about 20 meters.
When police arrived at the scene, they initially feared she was a suicide bomber because she was drenched in blood. "I couldn't answer the questions because they had shot my mouth -- I just kept pointing to my mouth," al-Amir related.
That's a reflection on many things including the US occupation and the US government's chosen puppet Nouri al-Maliki whom they reinstalled. He's now been prime minister since 2006. But in the 2011 State of the Union address, Barack was lying about "a new government being formed" and how great that was. Would that be Nouri's Cabinet? He can't seem to find women to appoint, can he? Even the minister over women's affairs? A man. But that's progress to Barack. Let's remember, on the shooting of a candidate, that most of the violence targeting candidates before the election benefited Nouri's political slate. Covering the report, IPS notes:
Forced marriages and prostitution and domestic and sexual abuse are frequent occurrences in Iraq, according to the report. In one case HRW investigated, a 14-year-old Baghdadi was kidnapped in 2010, drugged, taken to a residence that held other Arab and Kurdish girls and was forced to "sleep with one or two men daily" -- a story familiar to many victims of forced prostitution in Iraq.
The report found that because "victims of sexual violence and trafficking have well-grounded fears of reprisals, social ostracism, rejection or physical violence from their families, and a lack of confidence that authorities have the will or capacity to provide the support or protection required," many cases go completely unnoticed by the Iraqi government. Even those cases that are referred to authorities are met with investigative reluctance.

According to Human Rights Watch, the 2003 invasion caused a chaos that has exacted an enormous toll on Iraq's citizens as the deterioration of security has resulted in a return to some traditional justice practices and religiously inflected political extremism, which have had a deleterious effect on women's rights, both inside and outside the home. It has been reported that militias promoting misogynist ideologies have targeted women and girls for assassination, and intimidated them to keep them from participating in public life.

"Increasingly, women and girls are victimised in their own homes for a variety of perceived transgressions against family or community honor. Trafficking in women and girls in and out of the country for sexual exploitation is widespread", Human Rights watch said.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Ahmed hopes he's back"
"Why is the US still in Iraq?"
"Protesters assaulted, 1 dead"
"The Culture of Silence and Cover Up"
"And the war drags on . . ."
"On speaking and being booed in a democracy"
"Iraqis wonder if Nouri's government will be topple..."
"Another US service member dies in Iraq"

"A classified chef's salary"

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