Friday, January 25, 2013








Today at the US Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, held a press conference to formally announce that women's role in the US military had been expanded as the Pentagon began down the road of ending the exclusion rule which refused to allow women to (officially) serve in direct combat roles. 

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta: One of my priorities as Secretary of Defense has been to remove as many barriers as possible for talented and qualified people to be able to serve this country in uniform.  Our nation was built on the premise of the citizen soldier.  In our democracy, I believe it is the responsibility of every citizen to protect the nation and every citizen who can meet the qualifications of service should have that opportunity.  To that end, I've been working closely with General Dempsey and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  We've been working for well over a year to examine how can we expand the opportunities for women in the armed services?  It's clear to all of us that women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military's mission of defending the nation.  Women represent 15 percent of the force, over 200,000.  They're serving in a growing number of critical roles -- on and off the battlefield.  The fact is that they have become an integral part of our ability to perform our mission.  Over more than a decade of war, they have demonstrated courage and skill and patriotism. 153 women in uniform died serving this nation in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Female service members have faced the reality of combat, proven their willingness to fight and, yes, to die to defend their fellow Americans.

Iraq War veteran Jessica Lynch released the following statement:

The announcement by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to allow women to enter combat roles is good news for our military. For years, women have been integral to our successes in the fight for freedom throughout the world. We as Americans must continue to not only support our men and women in the military but also become their advocates,  pushing our leaders to ensure those individuals have proper training and equipment.  The total support of our military - those in combat and those here at home -protects every American.

I want to make it very clear I am sick to hell of people bashing Jessica Lynch.  We have covered this repeatedly.  Jessica Lynch didn't lie to anyone.  She said she wasn't a hero, she poked holes in the Bush administration's story.  She did so at a time when he was riding high in the polls and she was attacked for it.  I find it disgusting that today I've already seen two women attack Jessica in columns.  She did not lie.  She has repeatedly stated that her friend Lori Piestewa was the hero and she has done every thing she can to honor her friend.  I believe Jessica's wrong, she is a hero.  Maybe not in Iraq, but when she came back to the US, she could have lied.  It would have been so easy.  Just go along with the White House's official story.  Instead she stood up to a popular White House and said, "This story is not true."  That took real bravery and character.  It's a real shame that anyone would feel the need to attack her.  And let me add to one of the attackers that maybe these sort of ill-advised attacks, for example, are why you lost your radio show.  And why no one listeners mounted an effort to save your show.

Kristen Moulton (Salt Lake Tribune) spoke to women veterans in Utah such as Iraq War veteran Tara Eal who states, "We went through the front lines and I was in combat.  I didn't have to knock down any doors and, thankfully, I didn't have to shoot anybody.  But I was shot at and my truck was shot at."  Dennis Hoey and Kevin Miller (Press Herald) speak with Iraq War veteran Angela Baker who states, "There are no front lines anymore.  When I was over there, every single one of us, man or woman, got shot at multiple times.  We saw combat because we were in a combat zone."  Bill Briggs (NBC News) speaks with a number of veterans including Afghanistan and Iraq War veteran Julie Weckerlein who states, "There is definitely a sense of 'it's about time.'  This decision means the military is finally removing that useless 'attached, but not assigned' verbiage that meant absolutely nothing on the field, with the boots on the ground."  Jake Tapper and Jessica Metzger (CNN) report on Afghanistan War veteran Candace Fisher and her reaction, "It's a formalization of what we've been experimenting with the last ten to twelve years in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I think that those two conflicts have probably given the Army a pretty good idea of whether or not an actual policy change was warranted."  US House Rep and Iraq War veteran Tulsi Gabbard spoke with News Nation (MSNBC -- link is video) today.

US House Rep Tulsi Gabbard:  . . . it is a moment of great significance.  It's very personal for me, obviously, not just for myself, but for all of my sisters who I've had the honor of serving with, for all the women who've ever worn the uniform, this change, this policy change from the DoD really gives an official recognition to jobs, sacrifices and service that women in uniform have been making for generations.  [Responding to comments that women aren't suited for the job] I have to smile a little bit when I hear you say those things that the critics are talking about.  I've heard people cite studies talking about how women are not well-equipped to serve in these different capacities and what goes through my mind as you're saying that are the incredible women that I've had the honor of serving with and those who I've heard great stories about.  Women like Sgt Leigh Ann Hester who was the first woman since WWII to earn a Silver Star.  She was a Military Police Sgt serving in Iraq in 2005 and she led her squad of MPs against a very, very hot insurgent attack, flanked the enemy, assaulted two trench lines and, at the end, saved American lives.  And it's stories like Sgt Leigh Ann Hester's and countless women who throw out every argument that the critics have said because it's real, these are patriots who are putting their lives on the line for our country selflessly and, guess what, they happen to be women.

Staff Sgt Kimberly Fahnestock Voelz died while serving in Iraq, killed December 14, 2003 in a bombing just outside Falluja.  Matt Miller (Pennsylvania's Patriot News) speaks with her mother Carol Fahnestock who states, "If they're up to it and they can do the work, why not?  I know that at the time few women were doing what Kimmy was doing.  She excelled at it.  She loved it." 

The Feminist Majority Foundation issued a statement today:

For Immediate Release:
January 24, 2013
Miranda Petersen

Statement of Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation On the Decision to Remove Combat Restrictions on Women Serving in the Armed Services

The Feminist Majority Foundation applauds the long awaited decision to remove the combat restriction on women in the military. This is a historic milestone in the fight for women's equality. The combat restriction has been a sham. Women have been and are currently serving in combat positions, but have received neither the recognition nor the chance for promotion that men have enjoyed. We urge in its implementation that all barriers based simply on the gender of members of the armed services be removed, and that they be judged simply upon their capabilities.
For years women in the military have been discriminated against because of a cultural war that has finally ended on the position of women in the military. The reality on the ground has finally become the reality of public policy.
In 1980, when I was the President of the National Organization for Women, I released the following statement: "Discrimination against women...produces in the armed services exactly what it produces in the society as a whole-wasted skills, talents and potential..." At that time, we also addressed the false position that women do not serve in combat roles, saying "The first myth to be dispelled is that women have not been in combat...Women have served and will continue to serve in combat environments under the same conditions, suffering the same risks and injuries as men." Finally, our nation is recognizing this basic fact and correcting this outrageous injustice that has denied women just benefits and recognition for far too long.
In the fight for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment it was frequently argued by opponents that women cannot have equal rights without sharing equal responsibility. We have had more than our share of responsibility. Now, because of the courageous service of women in the armed services, women in the military are finally getting the recognition they deserve.

Cindy Sheehan takes another side.  She rejects the inclusion arguing that it's going the wrong way.  Instead of opening roles to women, they should be restricting men out of combat as well (thereby ending military adventures and wars).  She writes:

As a woman and mother, I dismay on a daily basis that I didn’t better protect my son from the gore-soaked claws of the US Army; and more importantly, as a woman and mother (and now grandmother), I could NEVER, EVER in a million years kill another woman or her child (or, innocent man, for that matter--and all of the oppressed/occupied peoples are innocent).

The US military has long been a malevolent force in the world and war jackals like Leon Panetta sit safely ensconced in their ivory towers ordering the poor and disadvantaged children of others to go and do their filthy work. In my experienced opinion, adding more combat-able demographics is nothing to celebrate in a sane world.
In Bizarro-USA (the opposite of the USA we have currently), access to education; fulfilling employment with a decent wage; healthcare; a clean environment and sustainable energy (with foods free of GMO’s and other toxins) should be our basic human rights—not the one where the establishment confers the dishonorable right to murder, or be murdered for the Evil Empire.

To be really clear, Cindy's position is a feminist position.  It's "a" not "the."  My own position is just one position as well.  For myself, I've done dozens of things that probably many women wouldn't want to do (and that's just in bed! drum roll please) and other women do things I have no interest in.  I would never serve in combat, it's not something that interests me.  I do feel if it's something that interests another woman, she should have every shot at achieving that.  That doesn't make Cindy wrong and it certainly doesn't make me right.  Cindy raises serious issues and I'm glad she does that. I'm also glad that she's willing and able to present another feminist take.

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 302 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.  AFP's Prashant Rao Tweets AFP's count:

218 dead, 650 wounded from violence so far this month in Iraq - tally:

Remember AFP has done a really great thing under Rao, they've put their count online.  The link goes to their count and you can check that out and pull it up.  They're being more open than anyone would expect so good for AFP and for Prashant Rao.

Today's violence includes the discovery of a woman's corpse in Dhi Qar.  News Network Nasiriyah report that she was 34-years-old and stabbed to death -- she is the third corpse discovered in three days to have been stabbed to death (a 20-something woman was discovered earlier this week and a 30-year-old woman). All Iraq News notes a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and injured three people, and a southwest Baghdad roadside bombing left two people injured. Xinhua reports a Balad sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left five people injured, an Ishaqi bombing claimed 1 life (a man) and left "his mother wounded," 1 male corpse was discovered in Edheim (Diyalal Province) and two Diyala Province bombings left six people injured.  Alsumaria reports an armed Baghdad attack has left 3 police officers dead and that the assailants then set fire to the police car.

Today's violence also saw Nouri al-Maliki's thugs -- a thug's thugs -- fire on the peaceful demonstrators in Mosul -- fired yet again.  January 7th, Nouri's forces assaulted four protesters in Mosul.  Today All Iraq News reports that they sent two protesters to the hospital.  Alsumaria notes that journalist Sama Mosul Waddah Badrani was injured as he covered the protest and he, like the two protesters has been taken to the hospital. 
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