There are around 300,000 women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces (both active duty and reserves) today. As of October 2012, 152 women died as a result of serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 800 have been wounded as a result of our operations there. Over 100 military women have been held as prisoners of war during this nation’s history.
And yet David Frum, one of the silver tongues who cajoled this nation to war during the George W. Bush Administration believes that officially allowing women in combat roles, as outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced he would yesterday, would be detrimental to the military because they will get raped by Iranians, Pakistanis and Afghanis.
Every year in the U.S. military, an estimated 16,150 women soldiers are sexually assaulted by their colleagues. And Frum is not exactly involved in the years-long fight to get the military to acknowledge and deal with sexual assault in the ranks.
The military current restricts to men certain jobs that are considered combat roles and which, notably, are considered de rigueur for most high-level command positions. That is not to say that those rules prevent women from seeing combat — as noted above, nearly 1,000 women soldiers have died or been injured in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — but that the now-old rules simply prevented women from obtaining jobs that are defined by combat, and from obtaining the respect and promotions that flow from taking such roles.
Despite the official restrictions that kept them from career-defining roles, women have been on the front lines of these last two wars from the get-go, and fought and died for their country — and for politicians like Frum, who helped send them and their colleagues to those front lines for considerations now widely considered more political than security-related. That Frum now sees fit to denigrate their service and continue their second-class status within the military because he fears that they’ll be raped by Iranians (with whom, notably, we’re not even at war, though plenty of Frum’s conservative friends would like for us to be) even though he has done little to castigate the military establishment for their recalcitrance to address and prevent rape within the ranks or advocate for reforms that would help the women (and men) who are assaulted is paternalistic and disingenuous at best, and disrespectful and outright insulting at worst.
Frum should try reading the words of Shoshana Johnson, the first African-American woman POW who, unlike Frum, served her country in uniform and fought in a war, was injured, captured and survived to come home and demand that the military allow women soldiers to officially serve in combat roles — and bash folks like Frum, who couldn’t beat her in an arm wrestling match or a foot race who claim that women are too weak (and prone to getting raped) to serve in the combat she survived.