Serving Up The Lives Of Soldiers, All For A Jessica Lynch Photo Op

By Lowell Phillips, April 8, 2003

Even before the reports of "heroics" by former POW Jessica Lynch began to surface the calls were sounding for women to be put in frontline combat. As the days pass and Hollywood reps looking to make a buck and pundits and politicians with an agenda latch on to her, the volume will increase, truth will fade further, the goal may be achieved, and more people will die that need not.

In reality, the yet to be confirmed accounts of Pfc. Lynch's participation in the firefight that ensued when the Army's 507th Ordnance Maintenance company was ambushed outside of Nasiriyah were not necessary to make her a poster girl for placing women in combat. Her mere presence in the U.S. military, by whatever standards, was all that mattered. Had she been in a tent, well within the borders of Kuwait, and killed in her sleep, it would have been just as good. After all, it has happened before.

A decade ago 13 women died in what was labeled "America's first coed war," Desert Storm. According to media reports, five were said to have died "in action," while eight were killed in "combat related accidents." In truth, no women were assigned to direct combat. The eight were killed in traffic and other type accidents having nothing whatsoever to do with fighting. The "combat deaths" included two women killed by a Scud in their barracks in Saudi Arabia. One died after stumbling over unexploded U.S. ordinance. Another was killed when the helicopter she was piloting collided with a tower the day after the ceasefire. The last died when her supply helicopter was shot down near the Iraqi border. But the circumstances mattered little to those seeking to capitalize politically. To feminists, the demonstrated ability to die was reason enough to open combat support and direct combat roles to women. We could also roll a wheelchair-bound grandmother into a war zone. She could easily be killed. But her death would be of little relevance in measuring fitness for combat duty.

Flippant? Blasphemous?

Perhaps when judged by the prevailing politically correct standards, but writing this is far less a crime than that committed by those who distort reality, peddle falsehoods, and thereby trivialize human life in order to further a selfish agenda. For the readers who found the preceding sentences too much to bear, I suggest that you bailout now. Even more foul-tasting honesty follows.

Commenting on social and political trends can often be challenging, but never more so than when fundamental truths have been corrupted. It's easy to envision ostensibly learned people engaging in a serious debate about the rates paid out by the Tooth Fairy, if the fact that she doesn't exist is ignored. In a time of war, with terrorists possessing shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles, we could talk about providing Santa Claus with fighter escorts, if we believe he's real.

On any given day, for decades, discussions have gone on about the extent to which homosexuality should be mainstreamed in Western society. Locally, the thought-to-be conservative newspaper, The Detroit News, employs columnist Deb Price who writes about nothing but the "achievements" of, and "obstacles" before the "gay community." It all sounds fair and perfectly reasonable, once you've internalized the false premise that sex is an expression of love and an indicator of "lifestyle," and not the reproductive mechanism that it obviously is. Similarly, objections to the restrictions placed on women in certain military occupations seem well-founded if you believe that men and women are interchangeable and that they meet the same performance standards, neither of which is true.

The degree to which these demonstrable untruths have been accepted is a testament to the success of the radical feminist movement, with help from Hollywood and from within the field of psychology. Thankfully I grew up in the late 1970's and early 80's just before natural male competitiveness and aggression were seen as symptoms of mental or emotional illness. The social chasm between then and now is nearly incomprehensible. Even so, I can still vividly recall those prehistoric days at Priest Elementary School, when misbehavior would result in a rather unpleasant wallop with a wooden paddle, with snickering classmates looking on. I also remember watching, and participating in, a few impromptu boxing matches, when Mr. Smith would clear the gym floor and allow boys to "work out" their mutual hostility in a supervised setting. The same method today would result in press conferences, grief counselors, lawsuits, our beloved Mr. Smith in handcuffs, and the mass distribution of Ritalin.

In the time since then, typical and fully normal male behavior has been condemned, ridiculed, portrayed as predatory and medicated in every corner of our society, including the military. The phenomenon gained steam in the late 80's and was doused with gasoline in the highly charged environment that spawned the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill fiasco and Tailhook.

The 1991 convention of the United States Navy's Tailhook Association was a nuclear explosion on the battlefield of gender politics and became both a metaphor for the propagandized, rapacious male nature, and a rallying cry to change our military culture. Like everything that's manipulated to serve a political purpose, the truth of the now infamous convention bears little resemblance to the popular perception. There was plenty of bachelor party-type debauchery, a tradition going back decades. But intentionally omitted from the history is that the females present were largely active and eager participants.

What followed is beyond debate. The Navy was rocked to its foundations, with the fallout contaminating the whole of the U.S. military. Hundreds of naval officers who were in any way connected to Tailhook had their careers destroyed and the warrior culture throughout the armed forces was given a crash course in "sensitivity." Training became secondary to creating a force that "looks like America." Guarding against "recruit abuse" became more important than readiness, and responding to the enemy less important than responding to any hint of "sexual harassment." On the political front, the scandal became a wedge issue for feminists, and politicians seeking to entice female voters, to push women closer to combat. Whether you accept the factual version of Tailhook, and the chain of Tailhook-like scandals since then, or not, how one concludes that women who cannot withstand groping and tasteless comments from their comrades should, as a remedy, be aligned against enemy soldiers intending to kill, torture and rape them is a mystery.

Sadly it's no surprise at all that this P.C. rationale is a problem to almost no one. And why should it be? Variations of it are all around us. We're inundated with pictures and discussions of the frailty of women and calls for more measures to be taken to protect them from men, all of whom, if you believe the rhetoric, are or soon will be abusers. Simultaneously, we're bombarded with images of butt-kicking women and assertions that they are just as able to put a hurting to a man as they are to receive one. As with everything connected to the omnipresent feminist agenda, the definitions and frequency of "abuse" are wildly exaggerated, but it's clear that women are sometimes victimized by males who mistakenly think of themselves as "men." I firmly believe the victims should be protected and the victimizers dealt with severely. I do have a question, however. Just where are all these butt-kicking women?

It's amazing to me the degree to which people have absorbed the Hollywood portrayal of strong and aggressive women, who swat men like flies. Perhaps I shouldn't be, considering how widespread the emasculation of men is. We are well into our second generation of males who are far more accustomed to "conflict resolution" and "getting in touch with their feminine side" than having their nose bloodied. When asked about female formidability, almost universally they will reply, "one time I saw this girl," or "there was this one women I knew" who could or did beat the snot out of a guy. The feminist dogma aside, most men would rather cover-up, or gouge their own eyes out than strike a woman. There are surely scattered examples of women besting men, but you're about as likely to find one as you are to come across real life versions of Charlie's Angels, who needn't concern themselves with gravity.

Revolting? Insulting? Obviously a closet abuser?

Take it however you like. I'm simply a man who has yet to have his masculinity shamed out of him. As noted above, I am partly, and gladly, the product of a different time. Oh, I have my "modern" attributes. I adore my children. I change diapers. I cry at sad movies. I happily massage my wife's feet. And more often than not, defer to her wisdom in financial and other matters. Moreover, she is strong-willed and physically tough. Such women are always more attractive in my book. But I am under no illusions that she is my physical equal, in spite of that elbow to the ribs I once receive for attempting to rescue her from a jar with a lid that was too tight.

I take no pride in admitting that I'm a veteran of more brawls than I can count, who has had every one of his limbs broken at least once, a nose that's been redesigned numerous times and the recipient of stitches 30 times or better. A masochistic brute? Hardly. Such were the results of being raised in Detroit, being a skinny "bookworm" who refused to smoke, drink, take drugs or join a gang. Add these to an ingrained inability to stand by and watch someone else get victimized and scars are not altogether surprising. I won some. I lost some. But have never seen "that one girl." Had I met her, odds are she would have won, but due to the one thing pounded into my head by my mother, above all others, that "the lowest thing a man can do is to hit a woman."

But there was that one time.

No, it wasn't that at all. Some twenty-years-ago, as a 160-pound, beginning martial arts student, I found myself lined up against one of my instructors. She was a second-degree black belt, roughly my height, nearly my weight, muscular, and an aerobics instructor by trade. Not knowing how to reconcile the situation with my chivalrous upbringing I stood there with my hands down. She promptly delivered a firm kick to my chin. The technique was good, and it landed flush. I was surprised, but not the least bit hurt. In a reflexive action, I responded with a moderate hand to her midsection, and she crumbled. Two decades later, I remember the feel and sight of it and am nauseated. I eventually acquired a couple black belts of my own, and did my time as an instructor, and though knowing a few talented female martial artists, have never seen one with the power to knock down a man who did not want to be knocked down. The act, however, went on everyday.

I also workout regularly, and have throughout my adult life. I've been to countless gyms, across many states, Canada and the Caribbean and can confidently say that strength-wise, I am firmly in the middle among men. There are plenty stronger than I am, and a good percentage that are weaker. I can also say, and illustrate on any given day, that the strongest of women will be no stronger than the weakest of men. There are, of course, those who are so infused with steroids that they have gone through the equivalent of male puberty. Counting them is optional, but questionable. Are there some who are at a higher level naturally? Sure. But, I've never seen one.

What does any of this have to do with Jessica Lynch and women in the military? Everything. I'm simply stating openly what is known, but intentionally ignored by feminists and their allies, and only whispered about by men. Women are, on average, five inches shorter than men, with lower aerobic capacity, lighter bones, higher fat content, more complex internal organs, 60 percent less upper body strength and are far more susceptible to injury. This is supported by the lower physical standards applied to female "soldiers."

Across all branches of the military, women carry lighter weights, are given more time to run designated distances, do about half the pushups and do a timed "dead hang" in lieu of pull-ups. The consistent difficulty that women have in throwing a grenade outside of the blast radius, the distance needed to avoid killing themselves, has resulted in the task being made optional. Changes in physical training to focus on "team work" rather than individual effort mask clear gender differences. An experimental, 14-week strength-building program designed to improve the performance of female soldiers validates my personal observations. And a study of 1,000 recruits by the military in the early 80's showed all males meeting the requirements for heavy military occupations, but only 15 percent of females. The limited dollars available to the military makes such a failure rate untenable, unless the standards are lowered, which they have been.

None of this is of particular importance to activists who see the military as a works program, rather than an organization that deals in life and death and measures success in inches. When the inconvenient issue of gender differences manages to clear the rhetoric and the military's public relations officers, it is cast off with talk of "technology" and "pushing buttons." But as this war, and every other, has proven, strength, speed and endurance do matter. If they didn't, the armed forces could save considerable time and money by doing away with physical standards altogether. The fact that boot camp is the first step establishes that the underlying job of every recruit is to be a foot soldier. Technology will never be a certain buffer.

Thanks to changes during the Clinton Administration, women now serve in combat support rolls, on frontline naval vessels, and fly combat aircrafts. But as we see by the moment, even against an enemy that is starved, poorly trained, and with no appreciable airpower, American aircraft malfunction or are shot down. Anti-armor missiles take out tanks and frontlines are indefinite and less than airtight. Mogadishu taught us that helicopter pilots are one rocket-propelled grenade away from being an infantryman. If that pilot does not have the strength and endurance to "escape and evade," if that helicopter crewman is incapable of dragging another out of the smoldering wreckage of a Black Hawk, if a tank commander is unable to pull a comrade from a burning Abrams, if that supply clerk can't fight hand-to-hand, soldiers will die needlessly.

Pfc. Lynch has become the face of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Her story is almost bigger than the war itself. MSNBC admitted they could not confirm whether she "fought to the death." The fact that she's alive suggests otherwise. This is not to say that women cannot be courageous, and even fierce, they certainly can. But Ms. Lynch's 5ft, 4in, 110 lbs frame places doubt on how far that could take her and how much good it would do the people around her. She may well have fired until she was out of ammunition, she may have "killed many Iraqis." She may have been raped. Recent history in such cases says we won't know for certain for years, if ever.

For all of her pain and sacrifice, Jessica Lynch's value is not as war fighter, but as tool in what Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness describes as, "the perpetuation of a lie." The damage caused to our national security and the flag-draped coffins this will produce are far-and-away more revolting than this author's antiquated masculinity could ever be.