“The Invisible War” is a gripping description of the epidemic of rape within the American military, as documented in the new Sundance-acclaimed film by director Kirby Dick and producer Amy Ziering. If the horrors depicted in this documentary reveal the extent of hidden sexual violence within the military, one can only shudder at the scale of rape inflicted by American troops in the field on Iraqis and Afghans but rarely if ever reported.
At the very least, the film is a challenge to the liberal assumption that the American military is capable of “humanitarian” interventions with only a minimum of accidental or collateral damage to civilian populations.
According to official studies, there were 3,158 sexual crimes reported within the military last year, as against another 19,000 cases of sexual assault that went unreported. The Department of Veterans Affairs has estimated that one in three women experience sexual trauma during active service, double the rate for civilians calculated by the Department of Justice. Of the 3,158 cases reported, only 104 convictions were sustained.
“The Invisible War” has been viewed by members of Congress and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who in response promised to reform the military’s inbred culture of prosecution. Several scandals have erupted over the military’s culture of abuse and cover-up since the 1991 Navy Tailhook scandal.
The film is playing in Los Angeles, New York, Washington DC, Boston and San Francisco.