High rates of sexual abuse among US military children stems from culture of dehumanization

Richard Sudan
Richard Sudan is a London-based writer, political activist, and performance poet. His writing has been published in many prominent publications, including the Independent, the Guardian, Huffington Post and Washington Spectator. He has been a guest speaker at events for different organizations ranging from the University of East London to the People's Assembly covering various topics. His opinion is that the mainstream media has a duty to challenge power, rather than to serve power. Richard has taught writing poetry for performance at Brunel University.
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Recent figures obtained by the Associated Press have revealed the grim reality of child sex abuse as an epidemic among the US military.

According to the report, hundreds of children of US service members are abused each year, most of them being the children of enlisted service members.

The information also suggests that more than half of those serving time in US military prisons, or whose cases are working their way through the so-called military justice system, involve child sex abuse.

It should be noted that the full scale of the problem is unclear and remains shrouded in secrecy; according to the Department of Defense, which issued AP the shocking figures after a FOI request, "information that could unintentionally uniquely identify victims was withheld from release to eliminate possible 're-victimization' of the innocent."

Although more information of the crimes is needed to unearth the full scale of the reality, the breakdown of the information gathered to date paints a chilling picture.

The AP’s findings so far show that between fiscal years 2010 and 2014, there were at least 1,584 substantiated cases of military dependents, or children of US service members, being sexually assaulted.

Enlisted US service-members were found to have abused children in 840 cases, while most of the enlisted service personnel involved were male. Most of the victims were said to have been female.

In 2015, US service members were reported to have abused children in 133 of 301 sex crime victims. The information suggests that child sex abusers make up the biggest group (or gang) currently held in military prisons.

Needless to say, there is a wide scale problem of child sex abuse that exists among the US military.

Senators and political figures have called for more transparency in the wake of the reports published by AP. But what if the reports were never published?

And furthermore, should we really be surprised at these findings when we examine the wider culture of the US military and its function around the world?

In the aftermath of the neo-liberal wars of aggression launched since 2001, reports of crimes carried out by US soldiers and their allies, including rape among civilian populations, have been well documented. We know that rape is used as a weapon of war and is part the legacy of industrial scale genocide inflicted against countries like Iraq, for example.

But the problem of rape and child abuse by service members cannot be viewed as an isolated problem among the US military. It is an inevitable and tragic consequence of a sick and twisted psychology, one which underpins a foreign policy which does not view the civilians of countries occupied as human.

To view them as human would make it much harder to kill in the name of democracy, freedom, and human rights.

The recent AP investigations show that many of these sex abuse crimes, including crimes against children are in some instances committed by soldiers in senior positions.

It’s perhaps not controversial to suggest, therefore, that the psychology encouraged and exported to other countries by the US military has effected the very children of military personnel themselves.

Over the years, the problem of abuse was revealed as a problem with many instances coming to light in recent years, most notably perhaps at Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Pictures eventually leaked to the media inside of the complex show US soldiers engaged in abuse of prisoners, including sexual abuse and humiliation, which it was claimed was common practice.

And of course, it is not just the US military which has a growing problem of abuse among its ranks. Take the case of a British soldier jailed last year for raping a 6 year old child in Austria for example. In what universe can we imagine that these kind of criminal acts are separate from the wider culture of the armed forces which is simply to colonize and conquer?

But when we begin to learn of the same behaviour at home and among children, we start to see how the psychology underpinning wars of aggression is not something drilled into the heads of soldiers overnight, nor is it confined to the so-called battlefield which is usually other people’s countries.

The psychology which these soldiers are encouraged to adopt during war, is something which they are bringing home with them, and which is now destroying the lives of many of their own children.

Those who fought in wars of aggression and conquest continually end up with PTSD, commit suicide and end up living on the street. The epidemic of abuse which is now coming to light, is also the result and simply a continuation of the violence of war impacting the families of soldiers at home. The brutality encouraged during war is not simply left at the doorstep when soldiers return home.

It’s easy for some to dismiss the folly and insanity of war under the banner of freedom and liberty etc. When the effects of unbridled aggression manifest at home and blight the lives of children it will be less easy to bear.

The growing problem of child abuse and rape among the US army, and other forces is a direct symptom of the diet of de-humanization being force fed to soldiers sent to other countries to kill and rape entire nations, literally and figuratively.

Questioning the US army and other armed forces in the wake of wars of pure aggression is important especially when the psychology behind it reduces the capacity of soldiers to view others as human-even their own children.

In 2016, 15 years or so following the initial invasion of Afghanistan, its becoming more and more evident that the basis for wars of occupation have no legal foundation nor any moral foundation. These wars are about anything other than human rights. The startling report from AP in fact shows that the human rights of many of the children of the soldiers sent to ‘liberate’ countries have had their own human rights trampled on. The government has tried to conceal these revelations for as long as possible.

But these reports must serve as a wake-up call. Soldiers have testified and given accounts time and time again of how they were trained to not see civilian populations as human in order to fight. This is not a mind-set which can be discarded overnight. It is one which should never have been taught in the first place and one which must now be tackled head on.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.