[Vision2020] 05-20-05 NY Times OP/ED: Chauvinism at the Battlefront

Art Deco deco at moscow.com
Fri May 20 07:00:57 PDT 2005

From:  New York Times OP/ED  05-20-05

May 20, 2005
Chauvinism at the Battlefront
Female soldiers are barred by national policy from direct ground combat in Iraq, but that has not saved the lives of 34 American women killed so far in that lethal battlefield bereft of front lines. In a remedy steeped more in misplaced gallantry than wisdom, House Republicans ran into Pentagon opposition this week with a sudden proposal to protect women by cutting back the jobs they could hold in support units stationed to the rear of ground combat soldiers. The net effect, Army leaders properly warned, would hurt women's careers by shutting them out of more than 20,000 vital support jobs in a military effort that is already hard-pressed to keep its ranks filled with fresh volunteers. 

Fighter aircraft and surface warship postings were opened to women a decade ago in a heated but progressive national debate after the Persian Gulf war. The overall policy entrusted to the Pentagon provided larger job opportunities for women in the services. Right now, with a war raging, female soldiers vital to the effort need no demoralizing intrusion into the gender issue by impulsive lawmakers. 

As it turns out, the job cutback proposal created such a furor from military professionals and opposition Democrats that Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee had to retreat at the last minute, but not entirely. They approved a face-saving substitute that is less sweeping but would still give Congress excessive power to control future advancements for women in the military. 

The amendment would hobble service commanders and deserves to be stricken next week in the House floor debate on the defense authorization bill. 

The gruesome truth remains that war is hell, even as its front lines become viciously vague. The daily car bombings, suicide atrocities and insurgent raids show that no area of Iraq, from Humvee patrols to chow halls, is a safe haven for the occupation troops, male or female. Women have volunteered for the full range of opportunity and risk implicit in their military careers. They are proving their valor in Iraq and need no demeaning protections from Congress.
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