Like many Minnesotans, I spent my Monday night watching the Vikings on TV. The gods were shining on the Vikes, and they pulled out a 30 to 27 victory. But in between the action were teaser ads from the station, KSTP Channel 5, about an interview with a Army PFC who alleged mistreatment by the Army, and a massive cover-up. What was the mistreatment? What was the cover up? Tune in after the game for details.
Needless to say, I tuned in. And it's a good thing the Vikings won, or I would have been disgusted the entire night, not just with the story.
The crux of the 'special investigation' was an interview with a Minnesota man who had signed up for active duty after 9/11. (That the network showed a short clip from the 9/11 footage was, I thought, a good sign.) He said he expected to be sent to Iraq (since in the media's mind, 9/11 and Iraq were connected by Pres Bush) but was instead assigned to a unit in Korea. While stationed there, he was drugged by his squad leader and sexually assaulted. His squad leader was (as is mandatory in an infantry unit) a man, so I give the guy full points for having the guts to report the crime. Consequently, 3 other soldiers came forward with similar allegations, and the squad leader was court martialed, sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The story then moves briefly to the 'military wide epidemic of sexual assault'. A local doctor was interviewed, and he said that in his professional opinion, the aggressive hard charging attitude in the military is responsible for many of these assaults. He cited 2,164 assaults in the military last year.
Then the story quickly jumped back to the soldier, who said he was discharged from the Army for PTSD. He gave no facts about his discharge, and no input was given from the military side.
So flip back to those commercials that got me to watch. The soldier said the 'Army is good at covering things up', and the voice over said ' a soldier victimized by his sergeant and by the military', and
Now, according to the military, the number of sexual assaults in fiscal 2007 was 2,688. By any reasonable standard of military discipline, this is a terrible and serious problem. But lets put it into context. The military has nearly 2 million troops in uniform, and over 200,000 civilian contractors. That works out to 0.44 assaults per 1000. On the civilian side, there are 0.4 rapes per thousand. Please note that I am comparing sexual assault in the military, i.e unwanted physical touching, to the civilian reports of full fledged rape.
So despite the lurid teasers about the military cover-up, the military has about the same rate of sexual assault as the civilian population at large. No concrete statements, let alone concrete evidence, were given for the soldiers contention that he was discharged from the Army as part of a big cover-up. On the contrary, the Army prosecuted and convicted his attacker and sent him to jail.
Well, I guess better a blurry story than no story.
I'll add the video as soon as it becomes available.