Saturday, November 15, 2003

The Campaign to Lynch Jessica Lynch

In one of it's most scurrilous moves yet, the right wing has rushed to blackball former POW Jessica Lynch after it became common knowledge that the details of her capture and imprisonment were manufactured to boost support for the war. Subsequently, several important things have been revealed:

1. Lynch, while she did not behave inappropriately, did not engage in the heroic battle initially described in the media
2. The Bush administration planted these stories, knowing they weren't true, and then made no effort to correct them despite overwhelming evidence
3. Her rescue was a carefully staged media event
4. It seems probable that she was beaten or tortured and raped during her captivity
5. There may be topless pictures of Lynch floating around
6. Random house will apparently do anything to sell a book, including publishing lurid descriptions in the new Lynch biography (penned by Rick Bragg, who is a damn fine writer, but is known for dubious ethics - you'll remember him from the NY Times attribution scandal) of Lynch's rape, despite her discomfort with these revelations

What can we surmise from this? According to the right, it all means that women shouldn't be in the military. Because women are childbearers. For the record, let me explain that I'm going to be equally distraught if any of my children are injured or killed. It won't be worse somehow if it's my daughter. Please spare me the patronising "women and children first" attitude - it takes two people to make a baby, unless the woman is actually pregnant at the time, her role is no more essential than the man's.

In the article linked above, author Amber Pawson makes some audacious claims on behalf of the right, e.g. "Leave it to feminists to drop a girl when she doesn’t fit their agenda. Leave it to conservatives and soldiers to still remember her." Oh yes, I'm sure it was an honor for Lynch to have her ordeal used as one of the most cynical manipulations of public sentiment in recent memory. She's being remembered and honored when her rape and her status as a potentional childbearer are used to justify excluding other women from military service. She's being honored when conservatives discuss in disgusted tones the possibility that she allowed topless photos to be taken of her.

I've discussed this before, but one more time, for those of you who are slow: Men can be raped too. Male prisoners of war are raped, although cultural attitudes towards male rape contribute to this rarely being discussed. Rape is awful. Being beaten and tortured is also awful. To act as though rape is a "fate worse than death" is to perpetuate outdated and insulting ideas about women's sole worth being sexual and procreative - oh wait, that's exactly what Pawson is insinuating stating.

Pawson also claims that she couldn't find any feminists who publically supported Lynch. Obviously she doesn't read my blog.

I'm a pragmatic pacificst. I realize that war is sometimes necessary, although I will never support a war of aggression. I also realize the importance of a standing military, and I appreciate the sacrifices our military personel make to defend the American Way of Life (especially our right to disagree with our government).

To exclude women from the military is to weaken our armed forces by eliminating many people who want to serve and who have skills and intelligence which would enhance our military. Brute strength, which is the primary physical difference between men and women, is no longer essential for most military jobs. Even in those where it is, there are many women who are stronger than many men, in every other area women and men are equally qualified to serve. If you remove all the women from the military, it will be necessary to fill those positions with less qualified men. Let's think about that for a moment, shall we? The right is advocating that we weaken our standing military and make it a considerably less effective force.

On a more personal level, there are many benefits which acrue to those who choose to serve in the military (and rightly so). Pawson mentions that Lynch joined up for the tuition benefits, historically a huge factor in allowing lower income men and women to move up the socio-economic ladder. Military service also serves to forge connections and contacts which former soldiers take into civilian life, and which can prove beneficial in myriad ways, from hiring and promotion to politics. To deny these benefits to women is to raise the bar for women in a significant way.

Lynch is a hero. There should be no debate about that point. The way she's been used is shameful and disgusting. The next time some conservative claims that only the right supports the military and military personel, remember their treatment of Lynch and take it all with a great big grain of salt.

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