Ending a culture of rape

Hilary Clinton is in Kinshasa, Congo, today, calling for an end to rape as a weapon of war. She blamed an unprofessional military and a trade in minerals that fuels violent militias. She was passionate and stirring as she talked about human rights abuses, and ending a culture of rape.

Unfortunately, it’s hard for the US to stand as a role model on this one. The mantle of American leadership on this issue was distressingly undermined by its own military’s use anal penetration as a method of torture. According to a 2008 report from Physicians for Human Rights, US interrogators used rifles and broomsticks to sodomize detainees. Their conclusion about one detainee’s story of abuse:

“This is highly consistent with the events Amir described, including a traumatic injury and subsequent scarring process. Examination of the peri-anal area showed signs of rectal tearing that are highly consistent with his report of having been sodomized with a broomstick.”

I am glad to see Secretary of State Clinton calling attention to the issue of sexual violence in times of war. It’s an insult to human dignity and a violation of human rights. But rape and torture aren’t crimes that are only committed by other nations. The US needs to get its own house in order, not just condemn the crimes of others. Rape – and torture – need to be treated as crimes, no matter where they occur.