Around the World

A Question of Command: Allies Break with U.S. Over Military Sexual Assaults

A video has gone viral but it’s not the latest hit from Justin Bieber or a cute cat.

The Australian Army has posted a strongly worded, three-minute message from its chief, Lt. Gen. David Morrison. It’s gotten over a million views.

“Those who think it's okay to behave in a way that demeans or exploits their colleagues have no place in this Army,” said Morrison in the video, reacting to an alleged sex scandal involving inappropriate emails and images. “On all operations, female soldiers have proven themselves in the best traditions of the Australian army. They are vital to us, maintaining our capability now and into the future. If that does not suit you, then get out.”

The video message came not only as Australia was dealing with its own scandal, but as an epidemic of sexual assaults was revealed in the U.S. military. According to the U.S. Defense Department, 26,000 service members said they experienced unwanted sexual contact last year. But only 3,374 cases were actually reported to higher-ups. Many U.S. allies – the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Germany, Norway and Israel – have removed the system of reporting such cases from the chain of command. This is a move that U.S. military brass strongly resists.

“U.S. military position has always been that the discipline is a tool of the commander, and the commander needs to have that tool at his or her disposal if they’re to ensure discipline,” said Victor Hansen, a professor at New England Law Boston and the vice president of the National Institute of Military Justice. “So what you see is this reluctance to take the command out of that. Because they see this as a command problem, and if we take this tool away from commanders then they’ll have the inability to fix it.”

Indeed, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was clear on that position in testimony to the Senate Budget Committee last week.

“I don't personally believe that you can eliminate the command structure in the military from this process,” he said. “Because it is the culture, it is the institution, it's the people within that institution that have to fix the problem.”

Though a proposal to remove the chain of command from decisions about prosecuting sexual assaults was offered by Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and 27 co-sponsors, neither the House nor the Senate included that in their defense spending bills.

Critics said the system not only stops men and women from reporting incidents that may involve fellow service members or superiors, but that the prosecution of those cases could also be derailed, because the chain of command is involved. Hansen, who served a 20-year career in the Army, mostly as a JAG Corps officer, said that military leaders are concerned that removing commanders from sexual assault issues could be a “slippery slope” of removing commanders from military justice issues altogether.

“I think it’s important to understand that these cases are difficult cases regardless of where they’re prosecuted,” said Hansen. “And to assume necessarily that if they are taken out of the chain of command and put into some other authority that that’s necessarily going to make these cases easier to prove, I’m not so sure I would believe that. There are all kinds of reasons for why these cases are difficult to prove that have nothing to do with fact that the chain of command is primarily responsible.”

Hansen said the military “needs to do a better job at ensuring the victims have the ability to make complaints and make those complaints without the fear of retribution or inaction without the chain of command. And that undoubtedly and unquestionable is a very difficult balance to strike.”

Just as U.S. followed its allies in repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” should it follow suit in responding to the epidemic of sexual assault? Hansen cautioned that though U.S. allies have removed the chain of command from military justice issues, he has not seen any analysis to prove that they are more successful in prosecuting sexual assault cases.

Instead, Hansen advocated greater accountability.

“They need to do a better job to hold commanders accountable criminally,” said Hansen. “That’s where more work needs to be done. It’s not to take commanders out of the system but to hold them more accountable when they fail.”

Loading...
  • Business Highlights

    ___ Alibaba prices IPO at $68 per share Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce powerhouse named after a fabled, poor woodsman who discovers a thieves' den full of treasures, is ready to strike it rich on the ...

  • Historic 'Ghost Ships' Discovered Near Golden Gate Bridge
    Historic 'Ghost Ships' Discovered Near Golden Gate Bridge

    The waters just west of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge hide a graveyard of sunken ships. By some estimates, there are 300 wrecks in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area alone. Marine archaeologists and researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have set out to document those lost vessels. "We're looking at an area that was a funnel to the busiest and most important American port on the Pacific Coast," said James Delgado, director of Maritime Heritage for the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. The wrecks in the Gulf of the Farallones span a huge chunk of history, from 1595 to the present.

  • Instead of QE, the Fed Could Have Given $56,000 to Every Household in America
    Instead of QE, the Fed Could Have Given $56,000 to Every Household in America

    The Federal Reserve has been conducting a grand experiment since the U.S. economy tumbled into the Great Recession. After the housing market collapsed in 2008, the Federal Reserve lowered interest rates ...

  • It's not a small world after all: world population will soar

    By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Contrary to some earlier projections, the world's population will soar through the end of the 21st century thanks largely to sub-Saharan Africa's higher-than-expected birth rates, United Nations and other population experts said on Thursday. There is an 80 percent likelihood that the number of people on the planet, currently 7.2 billion, will increase to between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion by 2100, the researchers said. They also saw an 80 percent probability that Africa's population will rise to between 3.5 billion and 5. ...

  • New al Qaeda wing in South Asia claims major attack
    New al Qaeda wing in South Asia claims major attack

    By Maria Golovnina ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Al Qaeda's South Asia wing has claimed responsibility for hijacking a Pakistani naval ship and trying to use it to fire rockets at U.S. vessels in the Arabian Sea, in the first major assault by the newly created group. The SITE monitoring service quoted its spokesman, Usama Mahmoud, as saying a group of militants had succeeded in seizing control of the Pakistani frigate PNS Zulfiqar and tried to use it to attack nearby U.S. vessels. ...

  • Fed and TWTR Overvaluation, Evidence of Looming Market Crash: Stockman
    Fed and TWTR Overvaluation, Evidence of Looming Market Crash: Stockman

    Former Director of the Office of Management and Budget and author of the new book, The Great Deformation, David Stockman, says the Fed has created "the greatest bubble in human history."

  • Scotland referendum: Live Report
    Scotland referendum: Live Report

    Edinburgh (AFP) - 23:47 GMT - Turnout figures - First turnout figures for a couple of areas have just been announced at the count centre in Edinburgh.

  • Toronto Mayor's Rare Cancer: What Is Pleomorphic Liposarcoma?

    Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been diagnosed with an extremely rare and fast-growing cancer, called pleomorphic liposarcoma, one of his doctors announced yesterday (Sept. 17). Dr. Zane Cohen, one of the physicians treating Ford, said the tumor is about 2 to 3 years old, and described it as "very rare" and "very difficult," according to the Associated Press. The cancer is spreading and the mayor will soon receive intensive chemotherapy, said Cohen, who is a colorectal surgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. Liposarcoma is one type of "sarcoma," which are cancers that arise from soft tissue such as fat, joints, muscle, nerves or blood vessels.

Loading...