Jewish World Review May 10, 2004 / 19 Nissan, 5764

Bernadette Malone

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At least we know that in America's military there really is 'on job equality' | Three cheers for Western-style equality between the sexes and full integration of women into the U.S. military. Photos of the actions of our soldiers at the Abu Ghraib military prison captured worldwide attention last week. A disturbing piece of what happened to their prisoners is distinctly American: women are among the alleged perpetrators.

The most surprising and upsetting aspect of the photos is not that U.S. soldiers were "softening up" detainees to get them to cooperate. We should hope our military is doing just that when American lives are jeopardized by terrorist plots.

Aside from the suspicious deaths of some prisoners, it is most troubling that many photographs feature a 21-year-old female soldier named Lynndie England, a clerk in the prison. She is pointing to the genitals of a naked and hooded detainee; tugging a naked detainee by a leash fastened around his neck; enjoying a cigarette while pointing at naked Iraqi detainees, etc. And we were worried about how Iraqi men would treat U.S. female soldiers if captured.

The Department of Defense can wring its hands and claim what happened at Abu Ghraib was not standard operating procedure, but assigning women to inappropriate roles so they can achieve "on-the-job equality" with their male peers is par for the course in today's politically correct military. Feminist tunnel-vision often drives its personnel decisions.

It's par for the course, and it's unwise. There are excellent positions for women in our high-tech, intelligence-driven military, but in some places women just don't seem to belong. On the front lines of battle. In the same living quarters as men. And in situations charged with cultural and sexual landmines — say, playing the role of "bad cop" in a wartime prison in the Middle East where the separation of genders is an important part of life.

The presence of Lynndie England and other female personnel makes the Abu Ghraib abuse sexual in nature. If these prisoner "activities" had taken place in a facility operated only by men, they would not be sexual, per se. They might instead resemble debasing fraternity pledge stories from American college towns, and they might violate certain military and international laws.

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Heck, if the events of Abu Ghraib took place without the sexual component, Iraqis used to Saddam's barbaric military justice would probably shrug and say, "Come on. That's hazing. That's not torture. Let us show you how it's done."

If female soldiers had not been present to denigrate the Iraqi captives sexually, would their male counterparts have even bothered to make these detainees strip, masturbate, and so on? Sexuality was apparently used as a weapon against the prisoners, and that was only possible because the Department of Defense routinely inserts women into inappropriate situations. Don't blame 21-year-old Lynndie England; blame the Pentagon.

Imagine male Iraqi soldiers pointing and laughing at the exposed genitals of U.S. servicewomen who are hooded and forced to masturbate, piled on top of each other naked, and bound together on the floor at the feet of their captors. Imagine a picture of a naked U.S. servicewoman on a leash held by her male Iraqi captor. All's fair in love and war, isn't it?

If this is how American women want to act, more than a few Islamic militants are probably thinking, this is how they should be prepared to be treated when we capture them.

Finally, what kind of lesson about "gender equality" is Uncle Sam teaching the Iraqis, whom we are supposedly educating, civilizing and democratizing?

The events of Abu Ghraib confirm Iraqis' worst impression of American women: in the United States, we behave just as badly as men. It shouldn't be surprising if the Iraqis reject us not only for what is un-American about the scandal, but also for the part that is feminized (with a unhealthy injection of testosterone) and therefore, in their eyes, American.

Comment on JWR contributor Bernadette Malone's column by clicking here.


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© 2003, Bernadette Malone