This is why I don’t “support the troops”
This is Private First Class LaVena L. Johnson. On July 19, 2005, Pvt. Johnson was found dead of a single gunshot wound to the head at her base near Balad, Iraq. Though her body bore evidence of an assault and rape, including a broken nose and chemical burns around her genitals, and there was no evidence that Pvt. Johnson was suffering from emotional distress, the Army classified her death as a suicide.
Even in light of the coverup behind Army Ranger Pat Tillman’s death, Pvt. Johnson’s death has been largely ignored by the mass media. Bloggers such as Kate Harding are making an effort to bring her story to the public, in the hopes that a proper investigation of her death will take place. Pvt. Johnson’s story is not unique. In this startling article, it is revealed that out of 94 female soldiers killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom, over a third were killed by “non-combat related injuries.” Some of these were vehicle accidents, but most have either been classified as suicides or unknown circumstances. In many of those cases, the deceased had recently reported being raped. This includes PFC Tina Priest, another victim of an alleged self-inflicted gunshot wound, though evidence suggests it would have been physically impossible for her to turn her service weapon against herself and PFC Hannah McKinney, who supposedly accidentally fell under the wheels of a military vehicle. Not only had these women reported being raped before their deaths, the accused were their fellow soldiers.
It’s no great surprise that a woman’s chances of being sexually assaulted increase exponentially upon joining the military. There are no reasonable explanations as to why the military either outright covers up these incidents or continously fails to investigate them in a proper manner. Many believe that those in higher ranking are still unable to get over “their” Army (or Navy, or Corps) being infiltrated by women, and thus have little at best regard for how they’re treated. Others believe, of course, that if the Army develops a reputation as a breeding ground for rapists, enlistment rates will continue to fall. Then there are those that believe that if a woman wants to be treated on equal terms as a man, she shouldn’t let a little thing like a beating and forced sodomy get to her. The Army wants tough people, after all, not whiny, self-centered complainers.
Why are so many American soldiers turning on each other with callous disregard? It’s suggested that military training techniques may have a lot to do with it. Contrary to popular opinion, humans aren’t necessarily naturally hardwired to kill–a survey of incoming soldiers during World War II revealed that less than half of them believed they were capable of killing another person, even someone they perceived as an enemy. Ever since then, a large part of pre-combat military training is designed to beat down all evidence of conscience and emotion in a soldier, to get him to think of killing someone as merely a job he has to do, a solution to a problem. As far as the ever increasing number of rapes being reported, I can only assume it’s fallout from living in an aggressive, volatile environment, and needing to exhibit your power and strength over someone weaker than you in one way or another.
These are the people we’re supposed to be hailing as “heroes,” folks. They’re going to get parades when they get home.
If you’re as revolted by this as I am, here’s what you can do: write to your state’s representatives on the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, the contact information for which can be found here, requesting that a new investigation into PFC LaVena Johnson’s death be opened. If you have a blog, link to the articles I’ve included here. If you know anyone who has connections to newspapers or other media outlets, let them know about LaVena’s story. The United States Army is protecting rapists and murderers. What’s going to happen when they’re discharged?