Friday, May 13, 2005

Women Barred from the Battlefield

Panel Votes to Ban Women From Combat Army Leaders Strongly Oppose House Subcommittee's Action By Ann Scott Tyson Washington Post Staff Writer Thursday, May 12, 2005; Page A08 Brushing aside opposition from top Army leaders, a House subcommittee approved a measure yesterday that would ban women from serving in certain support units in a bid to keep them out of "direct ground combat." The vote is likely to escalate a political debate that has simmered in Washington since last fall over the role of women in war zones, as the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan have engaged women in battle and killed and wounded female soldiers. The legislation, backed by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), would require the Army to prohibit women from serving in any company-size unit that provides support to combat battalions or their subordinate companies. While not retroactive, the measure, if enacted, would block the assignment of women to thousands of positions that are now open to them, a committee staff member said. "The American people have never wanted to have women in combat and this reaffirms that policy," Hunter said in a statement. Army leaders strongly criticized the legislation in letters to Congress yesterday, saying women are performing "magnificently" in a wide range of units, working where battlefields have no clear front lines. "The proposed amendment will cause confusion in the ranks, and will send the wrong signal to the brave young men and women fighting the Global War on Terrorism," Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army's vice chief of staff, wrote in a letter delivered to the House yesterday. "This is not the time to create such confusion." He said that the Army is in "strict and full compliance with Department of Defense policies regarding women in combat," but that it continues to "study" the role of women in light of an ongoing reorganization of Army units and the complex, changing nature of warfare. Cody wrote that Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, concurred with the letter, an identical version of which was sent to the House by Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey. The legislation, an amendment to the 2006 defense authorization bill, was introduced with little advance notice yesterday after Hunter advised the Military Personnel subcommittee late Tuesday night to vote on it, congressional staff members said. It passed 9 to 7 along party lines. The latest debate over women in combat was kindled by an Army reorganization started last year, which created new mixed-sex "forward support companies." The companies were designed to be located together with combat battalions so they could provide them directly with supplies, maintenance and other support. Critics of the change, however, including some congressional Republicans, said it violates a 1994 Pentagon prohibition on women in units that "physically collocate and remain with direct ground combat units." The Army said it has adjusted its organization to comply with the policy on women. Subcommittee Chairman John M. McHugh (R-N.Y.) said the legislation is aimed at enforcing a "no women in combat" policy, and denied it is a "Neanderthal initiative to keep women out of the Army." Democrats on the subcommittee, however, criticized the amendment as unfair to women and warned that it could worsen recruitment a time when the Army is failing to meet enlistment goals. "You are sending a message that women can't do this job," said Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.). Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) asked, "Can we really afford to toss out 20 percent or more of the individuals who are serving so capably in these units?" Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) said the legislation amounted to "discrimination" barring women from "serving in the battlefield."
What the hell is this crap? Women shouldn't be allowed to serve their country in times of war? Why? The article doesn't cite and reasoning behind a move like this, no rationale as to why women facing Iraqi insurgents is something to be avoided. Maybe republicans think a sexist move like this is "common sense" -- but I can't comprehend it; it's total lunacy. Especially given how much the military has been missing their recruiting goals as of late. Why the army insists on being the last gentleman's club left standing is beyond me. In the end, this pig-headed and obstinant denial of women and openly gay recruits is going to be the downfall of the American forces. But the reason I post this is because almost immediately after this article was emailed to me via an old listserve, another person, student Jeffrey Lee Purcell posted this response:
hey all, of course, we knee-jerk and say 'but women are just as capable as men!' and look at these congresspersons as complete assholes. they are complete assholes. but i think there's a bigger question here. Gen rich cody said in response ""The proposed amendment will cause confusion in the ranks, and will send the wrong signal to the brave young men and women fighting the Global War on Terrorism," i don't think it's the 'wrong' signal at all. preventing women from forward combat positions saves their lives and might save a few lives of iraqis. women can be just as demonic as men (lynndie england's grin is proof to the house committee that women have all it takes to kill and be ruthless). but if the house armed services committee wants to give a pardon to 20% of the combat unit population - is that really something to oppose? again from the article..."You are sending a message that women can't do this job," said Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.). Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) asked, "Can we really afford to toss out 20 percent or more of the individuals who are serving so capably in these units?" WE know women can do the job, but this isn't a job we want anyone doing. we don't want anyone to be in a forward combat unit, gays, lesbians, women, men, anyone! though i think this committee vote is interesting, any progressive response must take into account more than just the feelings of rejection that some women are feeling at this point. in the end, this decision could mean fewer guns (that's good). women still have access to the largest provider of educational financing and most parts of the largest employer in the world. (that's good in some ways, awful in others). having a dumbass congress conjecture that females killing innocent iraqis isn't what Americans want in the "war on terror," doesn't degrade women. it's as if the ku klux klan voted to exclude women from lynching events. y'all don't have to see this the same way, but i encourage you to think beyond tim lim's facetious worry that next 'the army will exclude asians....' i think it would be a victory for humanity of the army started excluding women, asians, closeted homosexuals, etc etc etc, and suddenly there were fewer guns in Basra, and the fighting force was weakened. that'd be a good thing. instead of taking it personally when our group/bracket/status is singled-out for exclusion from combat, we should have a party that fewer women will be killing iraqis, and fewer women will be poverty-drafted into an early grave while killing iraqis. almost everything congress does is retarted. but here's a blessing in disguise. -jlp
As electroman sagely said when I showed this to him, it's because of stuff like this that no one listens to college students. I'm a pretty devoted peacenik -- I'm still fervently anti-war, I don't like the idea of sending the troops out to die, I still shudder at the sight of a real gun, even if it's not loaded, and I can't even stand the killing crickets. But this isn't about saving lives or support of the war -- this is about equality and justice. The bottom line is that I may not agree with the women who choose to go fight in the Iraq war, overseas, but that is their choice to make and, in my opinion, true feminists and gender equalists struggle to give both men and women equal access to choices, even if the advocate despises the choices that person makes. That's the fundamental stance of a pro-choicer -- not that pro-choicers want babies to die, die, die... but that as a political community, we are best served by having our ability to choose protected. Women in the military extend far beyond the current war, and it is myopic of Mr. Purcell to claim that preventing women from being ground troops should be supported because of the injustice of the Iraq War. The legislation being proposed wouldn't extend only so long as Osama Bin Laden remains at large and we have a Shrub in the White House; women would be "protected" and prevented from serving their country to the fullest extent -- institutionally discriminated against based solely upon their gender -- from now until some enterprising politician finally manages to get the law revoked. That could be a year, twenty years, generations from now, or never. I agree that the war is unjust. I agree that there shouldn't be ground troops invading the Middle East to strongarm other countries into following our system of government. I agree that the Shrub's war has been a frivolous misuse of the American military and the lives invested in it. But that doesn't mean we should look to the government to forcibly stop Americans from participating in the military -- we cann't look to the government to effect progressive social change by restricting the rights of some. Women being not allowed to serve as ground troops means that 1) the government will send the message that women do not belong in the army, making women who are serving subject to greater institutional and interpersonal discrimination. 2) you aren't saving a single life -- it's not as if the Army, finding they can't populate the front lines with women will take the 20% decrease in who they send to the front... they will simply send more men to replace the women who are being shunted backwards (and apparently into the kitchens... true women's work after all!) How many men, Mr. Purcell, have to die needlessly because a better-trained woman was prevented from doing her job because of this senseless reasoning? How close-minded, furthermore, to assert that "WE know women can do the job, but this isn't a job we want anyone doing" -- because obviously "we", as a country, don't, or this issue wouldn't even be coming up. Obviously "we" as a country feel women are too sacrosanct, too pristine, and therefore too sensitive and incapable of being ground troops. Lastly, as much as I'm a peace-loving free citizen who despises the idea of war, I could never advocate the complete dismantling of the military, which is exactly what Mr. Purcell is advocating. The Iraq War is unjust and should never have been started, but as long as there are countries in the world, there will be a need for a military. Sure, it may seem wrong to shoot people over oil, over border spats, over money -- but how many lives could've been saved had the US sent its military in to prevent the genocide in Rwanda? How many lives could've been saved if the army sent its army in, now, to stop the genocide in Sudan? How many Jewish lives were saved by the Allies in Germany during WWII? If we were to dismantle the American army, the American people would be left defenseless -- and you can be sure that there are other countries who would not, in good faith, stop their own war efforts as a result. War is rarely the most effective solution, and it has been the cause of countless deaths throughout history -- but it is not always unjustified. There are times when leaders must weigh the deaths of their soldiers -- men and women who have volunteered to put their lives on the line -- to achieve a greater good of saving innocent lives. The important thing to realize is that world leaders must never abuse that trust. And, for the sake of feminism, gender equality, and respecting a woman's right to choose, for heaven's sake, if you're going to give men the right to join the army and be treated as a soldier in every sense of the word, women absolutely must get the same right. If you don't like the way the army is being treated, Mr. Purcell, protest the way the army is being used, don't advocate institutionally sexist bigotry to achieve your desired result. In activism, the means is just as important as, if not more important than, the result.


Anonymous Matt said...

Let me try to clear the air a little bit on women in the army. The issue not only can they do the job as well as men , but what happens when you assign them to these combat units. What happens is that they quickly become a less effective fighting unit. The men begin tying to initiate relationships with the women which creates problems (sex, jealeousy, envy). This really breaks down unit cohesion. Believe me, things really change when a woman is assigned to live with a bunch of guys...the behavior is just basic human instinct.

Why do we want women killing people anyway?? From an OIF Vet

11/19/2005 03:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Also an OIF vet said...

It's not wise or effective to remove one gender from the equation because the other gender has issues. Allow the weakest few to weaken the whole. T-Instead the strong and solid majority need to check those who are so weak of character. The best gunner in our unit was a female and she chosen to be the CO's gunner - and she saved lives. In my experience only a small % of male/female soldiers stirred the pot downrange - same soldiers would have caused problem regardless of gender.

10/07/2006 10:43:00 AM  

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