May 19, 2005

Give Them Equality

Via CNN:
...In a nearly 15-hourlong committee hearing, the most contentious issue was the role of women in combat.

The language would put into law a Pentagon policy from 1994 that prohibits female troops in all four service branches from serving in units below brigade level whose primary mission is direct ground combat.

"Many Americans feel that women in combat or combat support positions is not a bridge we want to cross at this point," said Rep. John McHugh, R-New York, who sponsored the amendment.

It also allows the Pentagon to further exclude women from units in other instances, while requiring defense officials to notify Congress when opening up positions to women. The amendment replaced narrower language in the bill that applied only to the Army and banned women from some combat support positions.

The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps currently operate under a 10-year-old policy that prohibits women from "direct combat on the ground" but allows the services discretion to open some jobs to women in combat as needed.

"We're not taking away a single prerogative that the services now have," McHugh said.

Democrats opposed the amendment, saying it would tie the hands of commanders who need flexibility during wartime. They accused Republicans of rushing through legislation without knowing the consequences or getting input from the military.

"We are changing the dynamic of what has been the policy of this country for the last 10 years," said Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Arkansas.

Added Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the committee's leading Democrat: "There seems to be a solution in search of a problem."

The Democrats are right in opposing this bill, but more than likely for the wrong reasons.

Democrats rightly highlight that this could limit military flexibility, but I'd opine that their real reason for opposition to this bill is the inability of some of the American public to handle female losses in a combat zone. Republicans want women out of the combat zone for exactly that reason, as Rep. McHugh notes. It's about PR, not competency.

Nobody wants women coming home in body bags (or men, for that matter), but Democrats and Republicans alike are simply using this bill as a weapon in political infighting. Cynical anti-war Democrats want women in combat, because their deaths (and assured overblown media hype surrounding the same) can be used as political pressure against the war effort.

Republicans in Congress know this, and, being just as cynical as their foes across the aisle, seek to limit enemy contact so that women in the military so that can't be used as political pawns against them. The American public doesn't like the thought of women being wounded or killed in combat. Perhaps more importantly, we saw with the Jessica Lynch incident that the American public cannot stomach the depraved treatment that women face if captured alive.

Gang rape, sexual torture... these are some of the horrors that people do not want to directly mention by name, but flow through the dark recesses of our minds when we think of women in combat--and it is a risk. Yet while we prefer not to think of it, many of these same dangers are also faced by male American combat forces.

For how many years have we been told that rape is about power and domination more than sex? Women are perceived as being more at risk for this kind of treatment, and with just cause, but the fact remains that all of our soldiers know that this is a risk if they are captured, and yet they still lace up their boots, armor up, and do their duty.

And never, ever forget, women can fight.

For example, Raven 42.

On a Sunday afternoon in March, a convoy of 30 civilian tractor trailers ran into an ambush by an estimated 40-50 heavily-armed insurgents at Salman Pak, Iraq. Three armored HMMWVs of MPs from the Kentucky National Guard that had been shadowing the convoy, charged into the kill zone, upset the ambush, and turned the tables on the Iraqi forces despite intense return fire.

Seven Americans (three of them wounded) killed a total of 24 insurgents and captured 7 others. The ambush was completely routed; the vast majority of the attackers wiped out. Of the 7 members of Raven 42 who walked away, two are Caucasian Women, the rest men-one is Mexican-American, the medic is African-American, and the other two are Caucasian.

One female E5 claimed four killed terrorists killed directly with aimed shots, and the other sergeant claimed she killed another with an aimed M-203 grenade. Who wants to be the one to tell her that she did, "all right... for a girl." Not I.

And it isn't as if American women in combat are a brand-new phenomenon. They've been there, from the beginning. And women have ably served well in other countries, in other wars, both in support roles and on the front lines.

Large numbers of women served in the Soviet Army during World War II--nearly one million-- to great effect. Most did not see front line combat duty, but many did. They flew bombers, performed as snipers, and fought a guerilla war behind German lines. They served, and they served well.

But this isn't about other countries. This is about America.

American women want to serve. Some have died. More will die, whether we want them to, or not. If we've learned anything, it is that there is no frontline in modern warfare, and the enemy can strike a brigade-level base with mortar and rocket fire, as easily as they can a support convoy, or an infantry combat patrol.

My advice to Congress? Let them fight. America's female soldiers earned that right, even if you don't have the stomach for it.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at May 19, 2005 10:17 AM | TrackBack