Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Women in the Military in Iraq

Women have their place in the military. But they can also cause problems. Here's one problem that would likely never have occurred had women not been there.

I was eating lunch with co-workers the other day, and one of them asked me if I would encourage my daughters to join the military. After what I saw in the US army females in Iraq, I would not encourage my daughter to join. If they wanted to, I responded, I would warn them about a plethora of problems that they would face, the greatest of which is the likelihood that most male military members would think my daughters were there to provide comfort to the male soldiers, if you know what I mean.

When I served in Iraq, it was pretty obvious that a fair number of the females (there were probably 25 in the brigade) were there for more than one purpose. I was embarrassed by a couple of them one time in the base PX as they asked each other loudly in front of me if they would look better in this bra and panty set or that one. I was naive enough to wonder why such outlandish underwear was even available in a war zone.

There are certain situations in which males and females should not serve together. Combat is one of them. I was reading in A Deficit of Deficiency by Zell Miller tonight, when I came across this paragraph on pages 143-144:

Also in Spring 2004 came the unbelievable stupidity of a few American soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison. Again this proved highly divisive. The sadistic sex games and torture pointed out what many of us have long believed, but most are hesitant to talk about because of political correctness. The truth is that there are certain kinds of military missions that male and female soldiers should not serve together.

I will admit that until now this conclusion not once had crossed my mind, but I think it remarkably true. If there had been no women prison guards at Abu Ghraib, would there have been torture? Probably, because there were not enough guards there and because at the time a lot of division and brigade policies were to round up huge swaths of men as insurgents and dump them off at Abu Ghraib. What makes the torture so demeaning and angering to Iraqis, though, was not that it was run of the mill torture.

It was sexual. This is perhaps the worst form of degradation for a Muslim man--to be sexually tormented in front of a woman.

Military men pride themselves (at least in public) as being as heterosexual as the day is long. It is not to me conceivable that the sexual torture to which these Iraqi prisoners were put would have happened if only male prison guards had been at Abu Ghraib.


Rich Warnick said...

I don't know about your conclusion. The torture methods used at Abu Ghraib were not made up on the spot, but imported from Guantanamo and approved at the level of SecDef. BG Janis Karpinski is the highest-ranking officer to be blamed (for not being aware of what was going on in her command), however she was not directly involved in approving torture as far as I know.

Dana said...

Although I don't think that women belong in combat, I'm not certain that I agree with your logic on Abu Ghraib. The problem was just plain stupidity as much as anything else.

There were no orders to treat the prisoners in that fashion, none at all, and anyone with an IQ above room temperature should have known that what they were doing would be frowned upon (to say the least!) if it ever became public. And not only did they do it anyway, they took pictures of themselves doing it!

That's the part that really baffled me. I can understand the urge to humiliate the prisoners, even if I don't think it's wise or proper. But I'll go to my grave wondering how anyone could be so stupid as to have pictures taken of this.

No, not anyone: everyone! Out of all of those guards, not a single one of them had enough sense to say no, put away that camera and destroy the film.

Frank Staheli said...

I think they let their stupidity get the best of them by their trying to impress a female.

Dana said...

Possibly -- at least at the moment.

But photographs survive the moment, and at some point, someone ought to have thought, "Hey, wait a minute, this wasn't such a good idea," and destroyed the photos before they ever got out.

Elizabeth said...

Frank, I guess those female soldiers thought you were hot! But if you thought it was inappropriate you should have said something to them, like, "I'm married, and I'd appreciate it if you didn't say things like that to me."

We need better people in the Army and if we had better people, it wouldn't make any difference if they were male or female.

Frank Staheli said...


I'm confused. You seem to be advocating demeaning behavior so long as no one finds out about it. I hope I'm 'reading' you wrong.


The two females understood by how quickly I got the heck out of dodge that I was having nothing to do with it.

I wholeheartedly subscribe to your last statement that "We need better people in the Army and if we had better people, it wouldn't make any difference if they were male or female."

Frank Staheli said...


As I mentioned in the Guantanamo post: show me evidence and I will believe. For now I will have to accept your statement that Abu Ghraib got its ideas from Guantanamo as an inaccurately cast aspersion.