As war comes home
Violence grows against women
Ft. Bragg murders recall Vietnam era
By Minnie Bruce Pratt
In a pattern chillingly familiar to those who remember the
Vietnam War, four soldiers stationed at Ft. Bragg, N.C., have
killed their wives in the last six weeks. Three of the soldiers
were members of the Army's Special Operations unit, veterans of
the U.S. war against Afghanistan.
Ft. Bragg is the Army's headquarters for Special Forces and
Special Operations units. Hundreds of soldiers have been
deployed to Afghanistan from there.
The public has suffered a barrage of articles, photographs,
opinion pieces and interviews claiming that President George W.
Bush's so-called war on terrorism would liberate the women of
Afghanistan. The message has been that one aim of Bush's
"endless war"is to "rescue" women abroad--and protect families
Now the men who have fought this war are returning home--and
the brutal consequences of this aggressive imperial war are
coming home with them.
Army officials have expressed surprise at the murders;
headlines read, "Slayings of four soldiers' wives confound Army
leaders." Sgt. Brian Sutton of the U.S. Army's Special
Operations Command said, "This is something strange for the
community of Fort Bragg. ... This does not happen." (Knight
Ridder newspapers, July 27)
But activists who live in Fayetteville, N.C.--Ft. Bragg's
civilian community--find nothing surprising in this onslaught
of violence against women.
Rallies were held in more than 20 cities across North
Carolina on July 25 to protest the fact that eight domestic
violence murders had occurred in the state within 22 days.
The year had begun with the January murder of Shalamar
Franceschi, who was stabbed to death on one of the busiest
streets in the town by her soldier husband. He had recently
held her, her mother and child hostage. He committed the murder
after a local judge released him from jail on bond.
Organizer Roberta Waddle, of the local chapter of the
National Organization for Women, said, "Terrorism is being
perpetrated right here in North Carolina ... on women by the
very men who 'love' them." (Fayetteville Observer, July 24)
With each U.S. war of aggression, violence against women
climbs to epidemic proportions in military towns.
In the 1970s, local people called Fayetteville "Fayettenam"
as the level of abuse ratcheted up with the return of Vietnam
veterans to Ft. Bragg. Murders of women by their soldier
boyfriends and husbands were a common occurrence, sometimes
taking on the aspect of public executions. A well-known example
was the killing of a woman who fled from her husband to a
counseling center, only to be shot there by him in front of the
Women in the downtown area were subjected to a storm of
catcalls and harassment, and some "literally became a type of
war refugee, leaving town as soon as they became adults and
never going back." (Catherine Lutz, "Homefront: A Military City
and the American 20th Century")
According to the Miles Foundation, the rate of domestic
violence is two to five times higher in the military than in
the civilian population. The foundation is an advocacy group
for victims of domestic violence in the military. (New York
Times, July 20)
The North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence
estimates that a domestic homicide occurs every four days in
that state. (Fayetteville Observer, July 19)
Local activists are working to stop this epidemic of
violence against women. Shortly after Shalamar's brutal
killing, activists took their protest to the steps of the
Cumberland County Courthouse, chanting, "Stop the violence!
Stop the murders!"
In addition to NOW, groups attending included the Women's
Center of Fayetteville, a Black women's coalition, and members
of a breast cancer resource center where Shalamar had
The human cost of war
Virtually every day, articles and news broadcasts openly
report on the Bush administration's bellicose threats to
militarily invade Iraq. With this threat of the opening up of a
new front in the "endless war," the Bush administration is
calculating how much a new U.S. offensive will cost. News
accounts speculate that it might run as much as $80 billion.
(New York Times, July 29)
But the real cost will be wrung out of the lives of the
Iraqi people at ground zero if the bombs fall and the troops
attack. And U.S. GI lives will be lost, too. And there will be
other unseen casualties as well, like Shalamar Franceschi and
her husband and family.
The human cost will include abused or murdered women--and
the broken lives of U.S. soldiers who come back shattered to
the core after "following orders" and killing for their
country, only to find they are unwittingly protecting the
interests of big money and big business.
The real cost will be the public education funds cut,
hospitals closed, summer recreation programs cancelled--and the
lives lost or stunted--because the money is being spent on
The real cost will be the men, women and children of Iraq
dying, again, in a country whose roads, hospitals and schools
have been ruined--by yet another U.S. war of aggression.
Yes, stop the violence--the violence against women--and the
violence done to humanity by U.S. imperialism. It's time to
stop the war against women--and to stop the war against Iraq
before it starts.
Pratt was active in women's liberation in Fayetteville
from 1975 to 1981.
Reprinted from the Aug. 8, 2002, issue of
Workers World newspaper
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