Thursday :: Feb 2, 2006

Would You Go All The Way For The USA?

by pessimist

From Betty Grable to GI Jane, women and war have been presented as a glamourous mix:

Sex-War Synergy at AOL
By Blair Golson

Over 40 years after writer Paddy Chayefsky brilliantly eviscerated popular culture’s romanticization of war in the film The Americanization of Emily, the mass media remains unbowed in its pursuit of exploiting war as a sexy, romantic profit center.

There is plenty of blame to spread around here, but this Jan. 26 offering from AOL is pretty egregious. Appearing in the top-billed “Entertainment” slot of the site’s hugely-trafficked main page, the “Babes in Arms” feature displays a photo slideshow of Hollywood starlets portraying soldiers whose busts are nearly busting out of the uniforms.

The first slide, picturing Jordana Brewster in a bra-peeking scene from the movie Annapolis, has a caption that reads, “As James Franco’s superior at the Naval Academy, the gorgeous Jordana Brewster gets to order him around in basic training and elsewhere, if you know what we mean. And we think you do."
The next, showing Jessica Biel in a breast-squeezing flight-suit from the 2005 movie Stealth, reads, “Sure, she can rock a flight suit, but it’s the scene in which a bikini-clad Jessica cavorts in a Thai waterfall that made some folks want to run off and enlist.”

It’s not the sex that’s so incensing: it’s the subtext--that enlisting in the armed forces is a sexy, glamorous thing to do.

Apparently the thousands of real-life women and men coming home from Iraq in body bags or wheelchairs have done nothing to dampen the appetites of behemoths like AOL-Time Warner to exploit bloody strife for its sexual and economic potential.
Of course, that’s not the way AOL sees it.

“The ‘Babes in Arms’ editorial feature on is simply a light-hearted profile of actresses who notably portrayed military roles in Hollywood films,” a Moviefone spokesperson told Truthdig. “It certainly is in no way intended to disrespect the women, and men, currently serving our country.”

Perhaps. But it’s still pretty tone deaf to be saluting fictional female soldiers for their sex appeal when so many of their real-life counterparts are facing quite different realities in Iraq.

Especially when you’re only doing so to hawk movie tickets.

AOL's lame repose to the criticism

One of our readers first brought this real-life military female 'different reality in Iraq' to our attention in a recent comment thread - one outrageous reality that you can be certain AOL isn't likely to address any time soon:

The Fear That Kills
By Marjorie Cohn
Appalling new evidence reveals that female soldiers serving in Iraq made fatal decisions in their attempts to avoid rape.

Last week, Col. Janis Karpinski, the former commander of Abu Ghraib prison, told a panel of judges at the Commission of Inquiry for Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York that several women had died of dehydration because they refused to drink liquids late in the day.
They were afraid of being assaulted or even raped by male soldiers if they had to use the women's latrine after dark.
Karpinski testified that a surgeon for the coalition's joint task force said in a briefing that "women in fear of getting up in the hours of darkness to go out to the port-a-lets or the latrines were not drinking liquids after 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and in 120 degree heat or warmer, because there was no air-conditioning at most of the facilities, they were dying from dehydration in their sleep."

The latrine for female soldiers at Camp Victory wasn't located near their barracks, so they had to go outside if they needed to use the bathroom. "There were no lights near any of their facilities, so women were doubly easy targets in the dark of the night," Karpinski told retired U.S. Army Col. David Hackworth in a September 2004 interview.

It was there that male soldiers assaulted and raped women soldiers.
Sexual assault in the U.S. military has become a hot topic in the last few years, "not just because of the high number of rapes and other assaults, but also because of the tendency to cover up assaults and to harass or retaliate against women who report assaults," according to Kathy Gilberd, co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild's Military Law Task Force. This problem has become so acute that the Army has set up its own sexual assault web site.

So the women took matters into their own hands. They didn't drink in the late afternoon so they wouldn't have to urinate at night. They didn't get raped. But some died of dehydration in the desert heat, Karpinski said. "There were countless such situations all over the theater of operations -- Iraq and Kuwait -- because female soldiers didn't have a voice, individually or collectively," Karpinski told Hackworth.

In a startling revelation, Karpinski testified that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, former senior U.S. military commander in Iraq, gave orders to cover up the cause of death for some female American soldiers serving in Iraq. Sanchez's attitude was: "The women asked to be here, so now let them take what comes with the territory," Karpinski quoted him as saying.

"Even as a general, I didn't have a voice with Sanchez, so I know what the soldiers were facing. Sanchez did not want to hear about female soldier requirements and/or issues."
For example, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, Sanchez's top deputy in Iraq, saw "dehydration" listed as the cause of death on the death certificate of a female master sergeant in September 2003. Under orders from Sanchez, he directed that the cause of death no longer be listed, Karpinski stated. The official explanation for this was to protect the women's privacy rights.

"[W]hat they told the surgeon to do is don't brief those details anymore, and don't say specifically that they're women. You can provide that in a written report, but don't brief it in the open anymore." Karpinski told me that Sanchez, who was her boss, was very sensitive to the political ramifications of everything he did. She thinks it likely that when the information about the cause of these women's deaths was passed to the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld ordered that the details not be released. "That's how Rumsfeld works," she said.

"As a leader if that's not shocking to you, then you're not much of a leader."
Sanchez is no stranger to outrageous military orders. He was heavily involved in the torture scandal that surfaced at Abu Ghraib. Sanchez approved the use of unmuzzled dogs and the insertion of prisoners head first into sleeping bags, after which they were tied with an electrical cord, and their mouths were covered. At least one person died as the result of the sleeping bag technique. Karpinski charges that Sanchez attempted to hide the torture after the hideous photographs became public.

Sanchez reportedly plans to retire soon, according to an article in the International Herald Tribune earlier this month. But Rumsfeld recently considered elevating the three-star general to a four-star. The Tribune also reported that Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, the Army's chief spokesman, said in an email message, "The Army leaders do have confidence in LTG Sanchez."

Karpinski was the highest officer reprimanded for the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, although the details of interrogations were carefully hidden from her. Demoted from brigadier general to colonel, Karpinski feels she was chosen as a scapegoat because she was a female.

Physically, women tend to be weaker than men. This fact is abused by the modern Neanderthals (who give all of us men a bad reputation), who see the relative weakness in others as authorization to abuse and dominate. Such power is a corrupting influence - and that power has come under assault from forces it cannot conquer:

Terrorist Males Fear Losing Status and Power to Women

[F]undamentalism is 'all about men, their status and their power.' According to this op-ed article from France's Le Monde newspaper, disrupting the balance between the sexes 'could end religious totalitarianism and the power of its promoters.'

Modernity has always been a synonym of norms, values and a lifestyle imposed by a dominant civilization on others. Nowadays, modern Western civilization is the greatest influence on the planet, thanks to the means of communication that exist.
The values brought by globalization could remove religious totalitarianism and at the same time, the power of its promoters.

But there is much worse in store for them: according to Sharia and tradition, three categories of people cannot benefit from the Muslim principle of judicial and religious equality: non-believers, slaves and women. Conditions for the latter were always the worst. A slave could always be emancipated and a non-believer could always convert, but a woman couldn't, and still cannot, change her status or her condition. She is condemned to remain as she is, like the word of God and the Koran, she is fixed for all eternity.

This isn't just a Muslim sexist prejudice. There is the Jewish prayer, the Birkat HaShachar, that originally stated "Blessed are You, YH*H, Our God, King of the Universe, Who Did Not Make Me a Woman", although that specific wording is no longer used. It is considered archaic, with the more PC phrase of "Who Made Me According to His Will" being the one used today.

And the extremely anti-female attitudes adopted by Christian fundies over the morning after pill open up the debate to the hypocrisy of denying women access to remedies caused by not denying the right to manufacture date rape drugs.

Blame the victim. She should know better and not dress that way / be in that area at that time. Viagra. Cialis. More 'synonyms of the norms, values and lifestyle' imposed by dominant males in our civilization on all others.

But I digress.

Saving patriarchy is at the center of the uneasiness, and the fundamentalists exploit this unease. There is a contradiction between a patriarchy and a modern state. The patriarchy places the natural and political order side by side, in other words the familial and tribal order, establishing the supremacy of men over both.

[T]he emancipation of women is an incitation to immorality and debauchery, but it is also seen as a black mark on the family, the foundation of society. By offering women a different role, by disrupting the balance between the sexes, modernity jeopardizes male power.

From this perspective, the resort to terrorism [i.e.: rape - ed.] is understandable.

Maybe. But hardly justifiable. It isn't right for a man to rape a woman, be she his wife, a stranger, a co-worker, or another soldier. It isn't right for any authority - religious, military, political, whatever - to condone or cover-up such aberrant behaviors. I am outraged that our society allows things like "Babes in Arms" to promote the idea of women entering military service being a sexy thing to do, and then hear about assholes like General Sanchez, who appear to tacitly suppport rape as an expression of male dominance.

Besides being an embarrassment to men in general, General, you also violate your traditional Hispanic cultural norms of defending the females in your charge.

No military woman in your command should have to suffer dehydration and risk death because your men lack discipline and respect for women.

I remember during the Vietnam war that some woman complained about the USO shows being bad for the GIs [I've looked for the quote, but can't locate it. Readers?]. She felt instead that recruiting American hookers to service the men would have been a better choice.

I'm beginning to wonder if that idea shouldn't be taken under consideration today.

A while back, the federal government took ownership of a major brothel in Nevada as payment owed for back taxes, so the idea of the government providing 'personal services' has a precedent. A willing particpant has to be more fun than one that has to be dominated and coerced - and those who are not willing won't have to be bothered by those who wouldn't take 'No!' for an answer.

Dying for one's country should not be due to the hands - or other body parts - of a fellow citizen.


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