I did not pop any champagne corks when I heard the announcement by former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that lifted a 1994 ban on women serving in combat by 2016. Women having the opportunity to die in U.S. endless wars is not my idea for a big celebration – especially when one out of three women soldiers are sexually assaulted.
It appears that the push to lift the long-standing ban against women in combat has come from the inside – from women themselves. Apparently getting combat experience opens up promotions to higher service grades. In short, women must be willing to kill (literally) for more rank, higher salaries and bigger pensions.
I am unapologetically in the minority on this issue. According to a recent Gallop poll, nearly three-quarters of the public supports allowing women to serve in combat roles. Now women can kill as many of the “enemy” as male soldiers. Along the way, people in this country seemed to have gotten confused about what real equality is. I saw this confusion when women started fighting against sexually exploitation of their bodies. The industry said, “No problem, we can exploit men too.” Now we have equal opportunity exploitation of both sexes.
My opposition to imperialist wars is a long held view and my opposition to black folks in the military is no secret. It is the ultimate hypocrisy for citizens who don’t have full civil and human rights to be required to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Yet people of color, women and gays are forever trying to prove their allegiance to the flag, and therefore, their right to full citizenship.
Women, like African Americans, have been in U.S wars since the beginning. You may remember that Crispus Attucks, a black seaman, was the first person to be killed in the Boston Massacre in 1770. In 1775, a group of Groton, MA women put on their husbands’ clothing and defended the Nashua River Bridge with muskets and pitchforks. Both blacks and women have been fighting for this country ever since – although not exactly with open arms by military leadership.
I’m pretty sure that LGBTQ people have proudly served as long as blacks and women; the historical documentation is just lacking to back it up. Up until last year gays had to stay in the closet in order to don a military uniform.
While there are some who were patriotic in their sentiments about the military, over time serving in the military came to be a rung in the ladder of economic mobility. The GI B bill of 1944 provided a range of benefits for World War II vets including low-cost mortgages, low-interest loans to start a business or farm, cash payments of tuition and living expenses to attend college, high school or vocational education. Vets were able to buy a house and to get a college degree or training that got them a good-paying job to ensure a solid place in the middle class.
The benefits of military service don’t always stack up against the ugly realities facing current personnel and vets. According to the Pentagon, last year the suicide rate among the nation’s active-duty military personnel surpassed the number of troops being killed in battle. In addition to the skyrocketing suicide rates, post traumatic stress and neurological effects are epidemic. The state of their mental health puts veterans at risk of being homeless.
It doesn’t seen like a righteous career path to me so I wonder how the military will market their new and improved program to women: “Kill to Climb” or “Success comes in Numbers – How many can you kill today?” The new policy forces women to take on aggressive, macho behavior in order to be recognized and promoted. This is counterintuitive and anti-feminist.
I’m saddened that any woman would join the U.S. military where a female soldier is more likely to be sexually attacked by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire. Maybe the sight of a female soldier with an automatic weapon on her shoulder will be a deterrent to military rape.
Sunday, 3 February 2013