The current prime objectives of the U.S. armed services are to defend United States territory and fight terrorists.
Nowhere on the Pentagon’s list of public objectives can one find a commission to spend taxpayer money to sexually exploit female servicemembers, bully “fags,” lampoon transgender civilians, or engage in sexually suggestive behavior.
Yet those are the behaviors of the executive officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise, in a series of slick and professionally produced “entertainment” videos that this leader commissioned in 2006 and 2007 while he was leading sailors in support of U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, executive officer Owen Honors scripted scenes in which his subordinates “parade in drag, use anti-gay slurs, and simulate masturbation and a rectal exam. Another scene implies that an officer is having sex in his stateroom with a donkey.” Yet another scene depicts female servicemembers in a shower and suggestively hinting at a same-sex liaison. After elaborate and time-consuming editing by Honors and the ship’s public-affairs office, the videos were shown shipwide to 6,000 sailors and Marines with the undeniable knowledge of then-captain Larry Rice.
When sailors complained about the violent and pornographic themes of the videos, they were initially ignored by Navy superiors; Honors continued to produce the videos. Honors was later promoted to commander of the ship, and Rice was promoted to the rank of rear admiral in Norfolk.
When the videos were exposed this weekend by the Virginian-Pilot this weekend, the Navy affirmed the videos:
“The videos created onboard USS Enterprise in 2006-2007 were not created with the intent to offend anyone,” the statement said. “The videos were intended to be humorous skits focusing the crew’s attention on specific issues such as port visits, traffic safety, water conservation, ship cleanliness, etc.”
The Navy contended that production of the videos ended in early 2007 when superiors belatedly intervened — but the Virginian-Pilot notes that “[a]t least one video that includes anti-gay remarks and officers pretending to masturbate was made after July of that year, according to Honors’ comments in it.”
When news of the videos reached CNN, however, the Navy’s story suddenly changed:
The Navy issued a statement Saturday, saying in part “production of videos, like the ones produced four to five years ago on USS Enterprise and now being written about in the Virginian-Pilot, were not acceptable then and are still not acceptable in today’s Navy. The Navy does not endorse or condone these kinds of actions.”
The statement also said, “U.S. Fleet Forces Command has initiated an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the production of these videos; however, it would be inappropriate to comment any further on the specifics of the investigation.”
The videos were not an entertaining diversion from the stress of combat; they were an affront against subordinates. They contributed to a climate of sexual harassment — and such a climate within an organization all too often fosters disrespect and harassment toward the organization’s clients. In this case, the “clients” are civilians here and abroad who count upon the United States for protection.
The Virginian-Pilot notes that crew felt threatened by the videos — and that the XO responded to personnel complaints by accusing his would-be victims of cowardice:
A female sailor who was assigned to the Enterprise at the time said she and a number of other women on board were offended by the videos. She said some crew members complained about them, and in fact, Honors acknowledged it on camera. In one movie, he says, “Over the years I’ve gotten several complaints about inappropriate materials in these videos, never to me personally but, gutlessly, through other channels.”
Since news of the shipboard softcore porn-and-harassment operation broke, some have leapt to Honors’ defense in comments on the web sites of the Virginian-Pilot, CNN, and MSNBC. They contend that Honors is a hero upholding free speech and male troop morale in an era of political correctness.
In this view, sexual harassment in the armed services may be considered a prerogative, and soft-core video produced at some cost to taxpayers in wartime qualifies as patriotic. It would seem that some of America’s military leaders and patriots have allowed male lust and political vanity to distract them from the basics of human decency, human rights, military law, discipline, honor, focus upon wartime objectives, and responsibility to taxpayers.