Rallying for Suzanne Swift
Spc Suzanne Swift, now in a military brig in Oregon, inspired a rally at the Oakland Military Recruitment Center at Broadway and 21st Streets on Friday, June 23rd. Here's a report from the rally.
Today some creative people joined together in front o the Oakland Army Recruiting office to promote the nurturing concept of "Breasts Not Bombs" and to honor the courageous female GI, Suzanne Swift, who refused to return to Iraq because of the sexual abuse to which she was subjected by male army personnel.
About ten men and women carried signs with large print "TORTURE IS INDECENT." One fellow had a very beautiful 6 foot butterfly with words on the wings "Butterflies Not Bombs" Another sign read, "Dick Cheney and George Bush are indecent."
About five women captivated the pedestrian and automobile audience by baring their breasts, making the point that nurturing is closely connected to the human breast. One young woman had butterflies over her nipples which was both sensitive and artistic.
A young girl passed out copies of the Bill of Rights.
Where were the police? There were there about half a dozen. They noticed us, they did not intend to arrest anyone but to see that no violence ensure. This event called attention to the destruction of war and the need for ongoing mentally stimulating activity which brought us together today.
A young man, Laramie Crocker led us in song and performed a couple of his own which were truly inspired. Adding to his charm was his lovely bare chest with ivy leaves covering his nipples.
He was accompanied by a young maiden adorned with a spray of ivy leaves covering her nipples. An ankle length gracefully flowing skirt matching the ivy leaf color completed her costume.
Next week the group will meet in front of Bechtel in San Francisco.
June 23, 2006
(Pat Maginnis served in the Women's Army Corps in the 1950's)
the following article is from the Guardian, UK
WOMAN SOLDIER REFUSES RETURN TO IRAQ, CLAIMING SEXUAL HARASSMENT
The Guardian (London) Wednesday June 21, 2006
By Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
A female soldier in the US military has refused to serve in Iraq, accusing some of her superiors of using the war zone as a pretext for sexual harassment.
In what is believed to be the first case of a soldier refusing to serve because she feared sexual harassment, Suzanne Swift, 21, a specialist with the 54th military police company, told the Guardian she did not join her unit when it left for a second tour of duty in Iraq because it meant a return to a regime of harassment.
"It was like their goal to get someone to be their girl for their deployment and usually they wanted someone lower ranking so they could have the upper hand or control," Spc Swift said. "It's like some sick power trip."
Spc Swift's decision to go public in her charges against three of her superiors is rare in the US military where veteran advocates say women risk retribution if they complain of harassment. But she joins a growing number of US troops who are refusing service in Iraq. Officially, the Pentagon says there are 4,400 troops absent without leave. Soldiers' advocates believe the true number is far higher.
Spc Swift joined their ranks on June 11 when she was arrested at her mother's home in Oregon five months after her unit left for Iraq. She was returned to Fort Lewis, Washington, where she could face desertion charges. Her sexual harassment complaints are part of the investigation.
The soldier says the mistreatment began soon after she enlisted at 19, lulled by the assurances of her recruiters that she would never find herself in a war zone. Less than a year later, she was on her way to Kerbala, in southern Iraq, one of three women in her company.
Soon after her arrival in Kuwait in February 2004, Spc Swift said, she was propositioned, and the harassment became unrelenting.
Since the eve of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, some 508 women serving in the military have complained of sexual assault, says the Miles Foundation, a private advocacy group. "Sexual harassment and sexual assault is an epidemic in the army," said Larry Hildes, Spc Swift's lawyer.
Spc Swift says she reported the harassment to the unit's equal opportunities officer and no action was taken. She later began a sexual relationship with a superior. Spc Swift now says that that relationship, which lasted three months, was coerced, and that she was threatened with being sent on dangerous assignments. "They have absolute power of life and death," she said. "If someone has to run across a minefield, and they don't like you, guess where you are going."
Spc Swift did not report the harassment. The two were assigned to different units when they returned to Fort Lewis in February last year. A week later, she asked another superior where to report for duty. She says he replied: "In my bed, naked." She filed a complaint, and was treated, her mother says, like a "traitor."
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