Open Minds


Well It Worked On Her

The Washington Post publishes this morning an oped by a diplomat’s wife denouncing the Iraq war. “I am certain,” Joanne Grady Huskey writes, “that bombs only exacerbate anger and pain and confusion and terror.”

Why is she so certain? Because she herself was a victim of bombing – when Osama bin Laden attacked the U.S. embassy in Nairobi in 1998. “I remember the moment of impact when I was thrown to the floor in darkness, stunned by a phenomenon I had never before witnessed, just as Iraqi mothers and fathers are stunned today.”

A truly terrible experience. And what effect did it have on her?

“My conclusion after being attacked in Nairobi was that we Americans had every obligation to bridge the gap of misunderstanding and to try to communicate and learn about the anger directed at us.”

Mmmm. So being bombed doesn’t automatically transform people into terrorists – unless Mrs. Huskey has career plans she isn’t disclosing to her readers. In her case, in fact, it made her more sympathetic to the bomber’s motives and points of view. Who knows? Perhaps there are some Mrs. Huskeys in Baghdad.

The Other Side of the Story …

That is what Paul Harvey calls it on his famous radio show, but it is what we are not getting in the case of Pfc. Jessica Lynch. Ramesh Ponnuru sketched the story out yesterday in NRO, but there is still more to be said – and much to be thought about.

By all accounts, Jessica Lynch showed amazing courage and cool in a moment of terrible danger – and incredible endurance under torture. She has earned and more than earned the honors and decorations that the armed forces will now bestow on her.

But there is a real possibility that her example will now be used as the clinching argument for the removal of the final restrictions on the role of women in combat – and that in order to honor her, Congress and the military leadership may forget why those restrictions exist and indeed why we should be moving toward more restrictions rather than fewer.

Pfc. Lynch was not actually a combat soldier. She worked in a supply unit. Her experience exposes the increasing unreality of the army’s ever-shrinking definition of “combat.” Any troops near the front line of a battle can become combat troops at any moment if the front line shifts, whether they are assigned responsibility for urban assault or managing munitions inventories.

But the military’s determination to treat male and female soldiers more “equally” in practice expose them to very unequal degrees of danger. The enemies America now confronts seem to make a habit of treating female captives with special cruelty. They did it during the first Gulf War and there is reason to think they are doing it again now.

And it is disturbing, at least to me, that nobody much seems to think that this systematic abuse of American women in uniform is worth any special attention or outrage. As Ramesh points out, a strange official silence has descended on the whole subject of the sexual maltreatment of women prisoners of war.

And what makes this all the stranger is that we are becoming inured to the idea of women soldiers at exactly the moment that 9/11 taught us why the campaign for affirmative action for women firefighters was such a mistake. We can now see that it matters that the vast majority of female applicants for fire-fighting jobs can’t lift the hoses and can’t carry an injured person down a flight of stairs. Why can’t we see that it matters that the vast majority of female soldiers can’t throw a grenade the required distance or run as fast as the male soldiers in their units or carry a full pack?

Myself, I find the practical objections to women in combat less powerful than the moral objections. Stunningly, the moral objections no longer much move the American people, who now seem ready to shrug off the rape and sexual torture of young women as an ordinary part of the fortunes of war. But surely these considerations of efficiency ought to carry some pragmatic weight? If the Iraq campaign is teaching us anything, it’s that in the 21st century, sheer human strength and endurance still matter in the grunt work of war. Why would the armed forces willingly handicap themselves on those valences in pursuit of an ideal of equality that is no ideal at all?

The Rest of the Canadian Story

A reader responds to my item yesterday about anti-Americanism in Quebec with this story which claims that pro-war sentiment has risen to 75% in the province of Alberta.

All the Senator’s Words

James Taranto of is about the wittiest guy in cyberspace, but I was especially delighted by this item he posted Thursday:

In a Wall Street Journal essay a couple of weeks ago, Lawrence Kaplan noted that in the name of “anti-imperialism,” many Democrats stand in opposition to democracy in Iraq. Now one Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, has come out against democracy in America. “What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States,” Kerry told a New Hampshire audience, the Boston Globe reports.

Kerry didn’t say what kind of regime he wants to replace our democratic republic–a military dictatorship? a monarchy?–but he was very critical of the U.S. for having made what he called an “end run around the U.N.” So perhaps he favors replacing the U.S. government with a U.N. protectorate. Such a proposal seems unlikely to go over well with American voters, though.

Another possibility is that Kerry was misusing the word “regime,” and that what he meant to call for was a change of administration, which of course would come to pass in the unlikely event that Kerry were elected president. But could this be? After all, Democrats are supposed to be way smarter than Republicans, so you wouldn’t expect a guy like Kerry to go around making stupid verbal miscues.