Armed Services Committee Vice Chair Sees 31 Sexual Assaults as 'No Evidence of a Widespread Problem'
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), the vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, ought to be part of the solution. But when it comes to sexual assault in the military, he is a big part of the problem. Because he doesn't think there is a problem.
At Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, 31 women have been identified as victims of of sexual assault by their superiors. And there may well be more. Under investigation are 12 instructors, men charged with training these women. One has already been convicted. Another, who is charged with 28 counts of rape and sodomy with 10 trainees, faces a court martial. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) and 77 other members of Congress are calling for the Armed Services Committee to join the Air Force's investigation. But Thornberry is downplaying the issue:
[He] recently discussed the Lackland issues with Gen. Edward Rice Jr., commander of Air Education and Training Command.
“My understanding is there is no evidence of a widespread problem,” said Thornberry, a Republican from Clarendon. “It seems to be very limited, and he seems to be moving out very aggressively to deal with it.”
If the problem turns out to be limited, then the military system can probably best deal with it, Thornberry said.
No evidence of a widespread problem? Just the opposite is the case as any congressman with half a brain can plainly see. And not just at Lackland. Throughout the military. It's attitudes like Thornberry's that keep this criminal behavior from being aggressively dealt with. The filmInvisible War lays out the issue in a way that all but the most blinkered observer can get it. Perhaps the House Armed Services Committee should have its own showing, with mandatory appearance by Vice Chairman Thornberry. The Kossack angelajean, who has been hammering on this issue, recently described her difficult campaign to get more military people to see the film. Some people obviously think ignoring sexual assault in the military will make it go away. We have plenty of history to prove this denier approach is a devastating failure.
Congresswoman Speier has it exactly right when she says:
Some would tell you that the military has learned from their mistakes and they are largely now addressing this problem. The situation I’m describing to you today is happening right now and flies in the face of what we are being told by our military and the Members of Congress who believes that they have this problem under control.
The age old problem in the military is a broken justice system that delivers weak sentences, if any. [...]
What’s happening at Lackland Air Force Base should and needs to be a wake-up call.
This problem is happening now and it is systemic. Victims are still not coming forward because of what keeps happening.
Every time these assaults are downplayed and authorities argue that the military has the situation under control, it's a guarantee there will be more attacks, more victims, followed by still more denial. Congressman Thornberry and all the other elected representatives and Pentagon officials who think like him should wise the hell up, shut the hell up, and get the hell out of the way so people who actually care about this issue and demand that something be done about it will have one less set of obstacles in their way.