"You attack and run away like women."

| Wed Oct. 19, 2005 10:32 PM EDT

It is bad enough that there is footage of American soldiers burning the bodies of members of the Taliban. Such an act is not only offensive to Muslims, but is a violation of the Geneva Convention.

But to literally add insult to injury, the soldiers also revealed both their misogyny and their homophobia in the insults they hurled at surviving fighters:

"You attack and run away like women." Americans are reported to have said. They are also reported to have said: "You are too scared to retrieve their bodies. This just proves you are the lady boys we always believed you to be."

If anyone even bothers to care about the underlying offensiveness of these remarks--and I doubt anyone in authority will--the spin is sure to be something like "We were just reflecting their cultural beliefs."

That may be true, but I'm afraid the remarks also reflect the cultural beliefs of the U.S. military. Some of the soldiers risking their lives in Afghanistan were women, and some were gay. In insulting the perceived cowardice of the Taliban, for whatever reason, the soldiers in the video were also insulting those who fought along beside them and supported them.

Over and over, women in the military are sexually harrassed and assaulted by their peers and by officers, and then punished when they try to report the assaults. In 2003, 28% of female veterans reported being victims of sexual assault during their careers, and that number does not take sexual harrassment into account. The Tailhook incident should have taught the military something, but it didn't. When then-Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura described the Tailhook scandal as insignificant, he was reflecting the views of the U.S. military.

Gays in the military haven't fared any better. Because of the inane "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, if a gay soldier reports sexual harrassment or assault, s/he can face expulsion from the mllitary. Gay soldiers, therefore, have no recourse.

It is hard enough to export democracy when the administration is tearing it down at home. It doesn't help when the U.S. military also exports bigotry toward women and gays.

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