MUHAMMAD: What Kind of an 'Officer and a Gentlelady' Can She Become?

Askia Muhammad | 9/11/2013, 3 p.m.
What appears to be a moral vacuum among U.S. military personnel is painfully obvious in the proceedings recently at the ...
Askia Muhammad

At 19, I literally burst into tears after I learned that my imperfect vision meant that I failed my physical exam, disqualifying me from admission to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. I believed then that becoming a Naval Officer was about the noblest career path a young man could follow.

But now, as I look at the conduct of commissioned and non-commissioned U.S. military officers – from Lt. William Calley in Vietnam; to the Navy “Tailhook” scandal; to the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq; to Marines urinating on corpses, and others desecrating Holy Qurans, the Muslim holy text in Afghanistan; to medical officers painfully forcing oversized feeding tubes down the noses of hunger-striking prisoners at the Guantanamo prison camp – coupled with the disgraceful behavior of their civilian commanders who order U.S. forces into unholy, and immoral, and illegal wars, over and over again; I fail to see any honor whatsoever among them, even in the brave ones who display valor above and beyond the call of duty for this country’s wicked political objectives.

What appears to be a moral vacuum among U.S. military personnel is painfully obvious in the proceedings recently at the U.S. Navy Yard in Washington. There, three former Naval Academy football players faced the military equivalent of a grand jury, to determine if they should face court martial charges for allegedly raping a fellow midshipman at an off-campus party in April 2012.

This case is literally just the tip of an iceberg. The Pentagon revealed that there are about 26,000 sexual assaults in the uniform ranks every year, but only 3,374 of them were reported during the year of the study. What’s more, nearly half of the purported victims are males. These are the soldiers and sailors and marines this country is sending to help “improve” the lives of people in other countries. Physician, first heal thyself!

What these men – at least one of whom had had consensual intimate relations with the victim prior to the night of the assault – are accused of doing – was described in my rowdy ghetto high school as “running a train” (as in multiple train cars passing through a station) on the assault victim. That’s the kind of conduct I once dreamed of leaving behind, when I pictured myself becoming a naval officer, not joining.

Apparently, drunken bacchanals, where lewd and lascivious conduct such as happened that night at the so-called “Toga and Yoga” party, along with rampant under-age binge drinking, a practice, which remains commonplace among midshipmen at the Naval Academy. Is it safe to imagine that such behavior also takes place at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point? Let’s talk about the Air Force Academy in Colorado? Not to mention, the Merchant Marine Academy, as well? The fruit rarely falls far from the tree.

Whether these Navy men will be court-martialed or eventually convicted remains to be seen. But I wonder if any U.S. military “officer and gentleman” should get to wear bars or stars on his or her shoulder and command others in battle, if he or she knows that other officer candidates are “running a train” on a classmate and he or she failed to try to stop it, or at least report the offense to academy authorities later! Where is their moral compass if these future officers ignore a gang rape as if nothing happened, even if they didn’t participate in it personally?

And, as to the victim – who like, two of the men she reluctantly accused of raping her, is still a student at the academy – what kind of an officer and a gentlelady will she ever be? She testified in the so-called Article 32 hearing that she initially tried to stop authorities from investigating because she was petrified. Even after she reluctantly filed a complaint, she withheld information from investigators. Rumors had shamed her all over the academy and via social media. But she testified that she didn’t want her mother to find out.

If rumors about this incident spread throughout the Naval Academy, what will be said of her when she goes into the fleet as an ensign? Will her “rap sheet” of “being easy” follow her when she graduates into “real” military life? After all, she testified, she had sex with another midshipman who wasn’t accused of the rape, the day after the alleged assault.

Maybe the young woman has learned her lesson. Maybe she’s discovered her true identity and will rise to the high moral standard that’s required for leading armed men and women in the uniform services. Maybe.