Anne K. Ream has an excellent Op Ed in the Los Angeles Times that examines whether a man who is convicted of rape in a civilian court should still be entitled to military burial with full honors because he was honorably discharged from the military prior to when he committed the rape.
“To be clear, changing the military burials policy would be a largely symbolic act. The Department of Justice conservatively estimates that fewer than 40% of all rapes are reported to authorities, demonstrating how infrequently sexual predators are held accountable. The military in particular has a long history of downplaying or decriminalizing the violence against women committed by men in its ranks. A 2003 Veterans Administration report on military sexual trauma estimated that 60% of women in the Reserves and National Guard experienced rape, sexual assault or sexual harassment while on active duty. Defense Department figures show that there were nearly 3,000 accusations of sexual assault in the military in 2006, up 24% from 2005.”
“It is tempting, and far too easy, to maintain that the military exists in a realm separate from the civilian world. We tell ourselves that the moral ambiguities demonstrated by soldiers who have gone to battle on our behalf cannot be understood by, or be subject to the laws that govern, the rest of us. But the policies our military establishes to respond to violence against women are not merely abstractions. They are expressions of the military’s values, and our own.
In the wake of mass violation of women and girls during the conflicts in Kosovo and Rwanda, rape and sexual violence were for the first time codified as distinct crimes under international law. How telling then, and how troubling, that our country’s policy on military burials is at odds with international standards the United States worked to establish.”
Ream is correct that barring full honor burials would be more symbolic than a deterrent, but it is nonetheless one more example of the misogyny implicit in military culture. Yesterday I posted a piece about how our children are being poisoned rather than protected by the military and as this piece reminds us, the military’s utter disregard and disrespect for the safety of women’s lives, both those serving in the military and civilian women in our own country and throughout the world, should make us wonder just whose freedom we are protecting.