Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Sex Abuse by Chaplain

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Questionable Conduct

Chaplains, sexual abuse and what the military knows.

Jacquelyn Martin / AP
Breach of Trust: Lee (second from right, under jacket), a Navy chaplain, led from his court-martial

Ensign P. recalls struggling during his third year at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. His mother was dying of an illness back home, and his grades dropped so low in 2004 he was put on academic probation. Raised a Roman Catholic, the 20-year-old cadet started counseling with a military chaplain, Navy Lt. Cmdr. John Thomas Mathew Lee. When Lee invited him to dinner off campus, Ensign P. thought it was an honor—officers don't usually socialize with Academy students. In fact, it was an ambush. Lee took the cadet to his apartment after dinner, poured him rounds of beer and Scotch, then began undoing the man's pants. Testifying softly in a military court earlier this month, Ensign P. said the chaplain engaged him in oral sex. Though he asked Lee to stop, for a few dreadful moments he felt too stunned to move: "This is a guy who knows all my darkest secrets."

More than 2,700 military chaplains minister to U.S. servicemen and cadets on bases around the world. Like that between psychologists and their patients, the dynamic between chaplains and the men and women they counsel tends to be marked by an imbalance of power. Chaplains often outrank the people who go to them for help and exert a spiritual authority that, as in Lee's case, can be exploited. During 11 years in the military, Lee sexually abused at least three men, according to his own admission (all three were identified in court only by their ranks and an initial). A judge at Marine Base Quantico in Virginia this month sentenced him to 12 years in prison and discharge without pay or benefits (under a plea agreement, he will serve only two years). In a disturbing twist, Lee is HIV-positive and admits to withholding that information even from men with whom he had consensual sex.

But while the vast majority of chaplains minister dutifully, Lee isn't the only sinner. According to court filings and an archive recently published by the group Bishop Accountability, up to 60 military chaplains have been convicted or at least are strongly suspected of committing sexual abuse over the past four decades, sometimes against the kids of military personnel. Their cases are a side act to the broader scandal of sex-abusing priests in the Catholic Church. But there may be a correlation. In a number of the cases reviewed by NEWSWEEK involving Catholic chaplains, complaints of sexual abuse were made to their churches well before they joined the military, but were never brought to the military's attention. "I've seen many instances where men were encouraged or allowed to go into the military and their own bishop did not disclose that they had something suspicious in their past," says Thomas Doyle, a Dominican priest and former Air Force chaplain.

Doyle might be the country's most knowledgeable source on the priest sex scandals. In the mid-1980s, he coauthored an internal report for the church on its molestation problem, and has since served as an expert witness in dozens of cases, including that of Michael Miglini of Dallas. Miglini describes being raped when he was just 14 by a military chaplain who had previously served as the pastor in his church and remained friends with the family. After getting therapy in college, Miglini brought a civil suit that was ultimately settled against the Dallas Diocese, the Military Vicariate and the chaplain. In the process, his lawyer uncovered complaints made against the chaplain by other church members that the military says it never saw.

For some victims, it can take years to realize they were exploited. Susan Loomans was a troubled cadet at the Air Force Academy in Colorado when she sought help from a Catholic chaplain. In their first session in 1985, he had her sit on his lap. (Loomans and Miglini are among only a few victims who talk publicly about their ordeals; most aren't named in court filings.) Within weeks, she says, he'd compelled her to engage in a sexual relationship that lasted nearly two years. Most of the time, Loomans thought what they were having was an illicit relationship. It wasn't until she returned to the Academy as faculty, and saw how vulnerable first-year cadets are, that she realized he'd manipulated the power differential.

So far, there's no suggestion that Lee, 42, engaged in sexual abuse before going on active duty in 1996. Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., where he served as an associate pastor, says no church would knowingly refer sexual abusers to the military. "Under the policies of virtually every diocese, they would have to attest that someone is in good standing and can serve as a priest," Gibbs tells NEWSWEEK. In court, Lee said little about his past but explained why one of his victims, Cpl. M., succumbed to his advances. "He felt intimidated by my rank and position," the chaplain said. But Cpl. M. also felt mad. Within weeks, he reported the incident to officers at Quantico, who carted Lee to jail.

© 2007 Newsweek, Inc.



25,000 Dead or Wounded

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From Newsweek.com
25,000 Dead or wounded
Narrated by Glenn Kutler, iCasualties.org

Dec. 11, 2006: Three years and nine months after the U.S.-led Coalition began its war against Saddam Hussein, researchers have quietly recorded another grim milestone in the cost of the conflict. American military casualties have now exceeded 25,000.

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Taliban Attacks Rise

US reviews plans for Afghanistan as Taliban attacks rise

by Daphne Benoit Mon Dec 17, 10:29 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The Pentagon confirmed that the US military and its NATO partners were reviewing plans for Afghanistan, rocked by its bloodiest year since 2001 amid a fierce Taliban resurgence.

The sharp rise in violence in Afghanistan contrasts strongly with the improvement in security in Iraq, where some 160,000 US forces are concentrated.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates "encouraged NATO to take a longer range view on Afghanistan" during talks with ministers from eight NATO countries in Edinburgh last week, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters.

"As a result of that Centcom (US Central Command) will tell you they are reviewing their own Afghanistan plan," he said, adding "these are things that complement each other."

2007 was the bloodiest year in Afghanistan since the extremist Taliban were ousted from power in late 2001. The US has just 26,000 troops deployed there.

There were 77 suicide attacks just in the first six months -- about twice the number for the same period last year and 26 times higher than from January to June 2005, according to a United Nations survey. Toward the end of this year that figure had risen to around 140.

The New York Times reported Sunday that the United States had launched a thorough review of its military, economic and diplomatic strategy amid worries about the lack of progress.

Pressed by the US to contribute more to Afghanistan, NATO, which runs the 40,000-strong International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, is also reviewing ways to confront rising Taliban attacks, an Al-Qaeda resurgence and a bumper opium crop.

Asked about the reported US review, State Department spokesman Tom Casey downplayed the idea that a fundamental strategy review was underway.

"Look, my understanding is the administration is continuously reviewing its plans and efforts to implement our strategy for Afghanistan," Casey said.

"But I'm not aware that there is any effort to devise a new strategy as opposed to simply a continuing effort to implement the strategy that exists."

"There's an ongoing effort at implementing our strategy. And that certainly includes looking at our full range of diplomatic tools that are available, including reconstruction support and other kinds of efforts," he continued.

"But, again, that is different than at least the assertion I saw, which was that somehow there was a fundamental rethinking of the strategy or a review of the strategy with an eye toward changing it."

At the end of the Edinburgh talks, Gates told reporters the ministers agreed unanimously to draft a three- to five-year "strategic concept" laying out goals and benchmarks for the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

The United States would lead in formulating the plan with inputs from other countries in hopes that it will be embraced by the alliance as a whole at a summit in Bucharest early next year, he said.

Britain, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Denmark, Romania, Estonia and the United States all have troops with ISAF's 11,000-strong command in southern Afghanistan, where insurgent violence has increased sharply over the past year.

But NATO has so far failed to provide three infantry battalions, some 3,000 trainers and 20 transport and attack helicopters promised by allies.

"There is no secret that some of the capabilities have been lacking and that we have been wanting to fill in, in order to achieve greater progress at a faster rate," a Pentagon spokesman said privately, before noting: "I don't know that I would call it a review of strategy."

The United States is also reportedly searching for an international coordinator to help synchronize all the efforts on Afghanistan.

Persistent rumors say British diplomat Paddy Ashdown, the former UN representative to Bosnia-Hercegovina in 2002-2005, could be tapped for the job.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said: "I can assure you that there are many people considering the situation in Afghanistan on an ongoing basis. They're constantly reviewing our posture."

But she denied that the same kind of major review was underway as happened over Iraq, which led to the deployment of an extra 30,000 troops to the country at the beginning of the year.

In this picture taken in July 2007, a US soldier from Bravo Company 1-508 Parachute Infantry Regiment 82nd Airborne Division takes a break during a search for Taliban insurgents in the village of Biabanak in Kandahar province, some 400 kms south west of Kabul.  The Pentagon confirmed that the US military and its NATO partners were reviewing plans for Afghanistan, rocked by its bloodiest year since 2001 amid a fierce Taliban resurgence.(AFP/File/Nicolas Asfouri)
AFP/File Photo: In this picture taken in July 2007, a US soldier from Bravo Company 1-508 Parachute...


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