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Rape as a weapon of war

July 14, 2006

The recent rape and murder charges against a discharged Army private have sparked an inquest, an apology from the Bush administration, and plenty of media coverage. On the surface, it seems like this incident is being taken seriously. Not so much.

The planned attack on a woman and her family by 21 year-old Steven Green is not being discussed in the larger context of rape as a weapon of war or the problem of militarization and masculinity.

A recent LA Times article describes Green as a loose cannon, someone with a “personality disorder” who was “drinking alcohol” that night. A NY Times piece describes Green as a “troubled young man” who was upset over a tough tour of duty. Another article says he was troubled “long before Iraq.”

Come on, this wasn’t just some crazy guy–three other soldiers were involved and it was a planned attack.

After the decision was made to rape the woman, according to the FBI affidavit, three of the soldiers changed out of their uniforms and into dark clothes. One soldier told investigators that Green covered his face with a brown T-shirt. One of the soldiers told investigators he changed clothes so he “wouldn’t be seen.”

And this isn’t an isolated incident. Alternet has an article up today about how the rape and abuse of Iraqi women has become par for the course:

…the invasion and occupation of Iraq has had the effect of humiliating, endangering, and repressing Iraqi women in ways that have not been widely publicized in the mainstream media: As detainees in prisons run by Americans, they have been sexually abused and raped; as civilians, they have been kidnapped, raped, and then sometimes sold for prostitution; and as women — and, in particular, as among the more liberated women in the Arab world — they have increasingly disappeared from public life, many becoming shut-ins in their own homes.

The rape of women–often systematic–is a war tactic. Unfortunately, wars being fought over women’s bodies is nothing new. For more information on women, war, and militarization, check out Cynthia Enloe’s work.

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