US Marine head takes fire over nude photo-sharing scandal
WASHINGTON, United States — Senior US lawmakers on Tuesday blasted the leader of the Marine Corps over a “repugnant” scandal involving the nonconsensual posting of nude photos of women Marines online.
The scandal has rocked the Marines, which tout their “core values” of honor, courage and commitment, and have built a proud legacy in the American psyche of iconic moments such as the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.
General Robert Neller, the Marine Corps’s commandant, faced withering criticism from the Senate Armed Services Committee over his handling of the case that saw pictures of female Marines in various stages of undress shared via a secret Facebook group called “Marines United.”
Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said it was a “serious problem” that there had been “no response” from Marine leadership.
“Your answers today are unsatisfactory. They do not go far enough,” said Gillibrand, who highlighted that the Corps had been aware of the “online exploitation” of other Marines since 2013.
“Who is being held accountable for doing nothing since 2013? Who? Which commander?” she asked.
During a hearing before the panel, Neller offered what he described as a “lame” answer and accepted responsibility for a “problem” within Marine culture.
“I’m responsible. I’m the commandant, I own this and we are going to have to … change how we see ourselves and how we treat each other.”
Senator Jack Reed said the matter was “repugnant and just plain wrong and inexcusable.”
Women have long been part of the US military, and last year under former president Barack Obama, all branches opened up all jobs to women, including combat units.
Of all the services, however, the Marines have been most resistant to accepting women in combat roles.
In an opinion piece in USA Today on Monday, Rachel VanLandingham, a law professor and retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, called for Neller’s head.
“Not only does Neller’s dereliction of duty warrant his firing, subordinate Marine Corps leaders need such an unequivocal signal that failure to exercise their command to safeguard their female members will not be tolerated,” she wrote.
“This latest Marine Corps nude photo scandal — not the first — demonstrates the lamentable misogynistic culture that still exists in the Corps.”
Membership in the “Marines United” group was restricted to current and former Marines, but it had as many as 30,000 members before it was taken down.
The story was first reported by The War Horse, a news group run by Marine veteran Thomas Brennan.
He said some of the photos were taken surreptitiously, while others had been taken by the women themselves but shared without their consent.
The pictures, often accompanied by lewd commentary, gave the women’s names and units in some cases.
Another report last week, said hundreds of pictures of naked women from all the military services were being shared on another image-sharing site, AnonIB.
Because the Marine Corps is part of the Navy Department, the scandal is being investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
“We will prosecute the matter of Marines United to the full extent of our abilities,” Acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley told lawmakers.
He said “every resource” would be made available to victims, and vowed to “eradicate this cancer” via a task force working on the issue. CBB
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