Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), Veterans for Peace, and Oregon constituents achieved a victory on the road to ending military sexual violence today with a pledge from Congressman Peter DeFazio's (D-Ore.) office that he will be initiating a congressional investigation into the case of Army Specialist Suzanne Swift.
The group from Camp Democracy delivered a letter containing the phone numbers of Swift's chain of command and refused to leave the office until the Congressman acted appropriately on behalf of his constituent and all women in uniform. In unison with the direct action in Washington, constituents in Oregon and Rep. DeFazio's district flooded his offices with phone calls, emails and faxes in support of SPC Swift. Rep. DeFazio also scheduled a personal meeting with Sara Rich, Suzanne's mother, and members of IVAW for September 21, 2006.
Suzanne Swift is a veteran of the Iraq war who is now held in custody at Fort Lewis, Washington. Swift had completed a tour of duty in Iraq, where she was sexually harassed and assaulted at the hands of three of her commanding officers - continuing over the course of her entire deployment. Her efforts to report her treatment were met with disrespect and dismissed. Finally, Swift suffered a breakdown due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and went absent without leave. She was apprehended in Eugene, Oregon, in June 2006, and instead of seeing her rapists investigated, Swift herself is facing court martial and prison time.
Organizers of the action released the following statement: "Congressman DeFazio has taken an important step toward ending military sexual violence despite the military's unwillingness to follow its own procedures and regulations. This a good first step toward making sure there is never again another Suzanne Swift."
Veterans looking out for their own. No one else is going to do it, least of all the good-ol'-boy chain of command.
Those officers better do some serious time.