How Allen West Uses the Military and Ignores Its Biggest Problems
|What used to be a uniform has become a political prop.|
That he is no longer on the battlefield does not appear to have affected his continued refusal to act as a statesman, resorting instead to stunts like calling fellow Florida representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz "the most vile, unprofessional, and despicable member of the U.S. House of Representatives." And people love him for it.
He "tells it like it is." He fights the "patriotic" fights and doesn't couch his language to appease the media, which are conspiring against him by quoting him accurately.
But for all his flag-waving bluster, West has remained utterly silent on some of the most important issues plaguing our modern military. He sent out an e-card for D-Day and tweets regularly about Our Great Constitutional Republic, but he hasn't used his massive social media presence to bring attention to actual military issues: suicide, sexual assault, domestic abuse, and gross incompetence, just for starters.
Suicide in the military has risen to an all-time high: In the first 155 days of 2012, 154 servicemembers killed themselves, according to Pentagon figures. In contrast, 136 were killed in Afghanistan during that same time. More American troops are now being killed by their own hand than by the enemy.
This news broke on June 7. On that day, instead of advocating for increased suicide prevention measures or mental-health services or cultural shifts in the military's shaming of mental illness, West took to Facebook to rant about a 72-year-old liberal talk show host's statement that he doesn't like "The Star-Spangled Banner."
West, with all his influence and visibility, failed. Rather than trying to protect the troops he makes such a big deal of having led, he attacked some guy who thinks the national anthem doesn't sound so pretty.
He has likewise failed to address the growing, urgent problem of rape in the military. An estimated 20,000 servicemembers were raped in 2010. The Invisibile War, a documentary about sexual assault in the military that debuted at Sundance earlier this year, included stories like this, from Time magazine:
When Andrea Werner reported her rape to her Army superiors, she was charged with adultery, though she wasn't married (her assailant was) and the sex was nothing like consensual. The investigation into rape charges brought by Lieutenant Elle Helmer against her Commanding Officer at the elite Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C., was closed due to "lack of evidence" (he denied it); a new case was opened, charging Helmer with conduct unbecoming an officer and public intoxication.It goes on and on. Where is West on this issue? He hasn't been sounding any of his patriotism alarms over the statistics or over the stories of servicewomen being classified insane after reporting assaults or over the Shaheen Amendment, which would give women in the military access to health care already available to all other government workers.
What the military denied in public, it suppressed in the field. Soldiers who had been raped had no recourse outside the chain of command. Ariana Klay was told to do "what a Marine officer should do, and that's to ignore it and move on."