Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Corporate Media Does Heavy Lifting For Perpetual War

The news that the Pentagon plans to send women into combat dominated two consecutive front pages of my local newspaper the Waterville Morning Sentinel. The Sentinel is one of a group of papers bought last year by the billionaire husband of Rep. Chellie Pingree, who "serves" on the House Armed Services Committee. The group includes the paper of record in our state capital (Kennebec Journal) and of Maine's largest city (Portland Press Herald).

Day #1, above the fold:

Day #2, above the fold, three related headlines:

As if lifted straight from a Pentagon press release, further along in this article are the rocks of unexamined assumption upon which empires are built -- and eventually run aground:

The necessities of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, propelled women into jobs as medics, military police and intelligence officers that were sometimes attached -- but not formally assigned -- to battalions. So while a woman couldn't be assigned as an infantryman in a battalion going out on patrol, she could fly the helicopter supporting the unit, or move in to provide medical aid if troops were injured. 
And these conflicts, where battlefield lines are blurred and insurgents can lurk around every corner, have made it almost impossible to keep women clear of combat.

In the second story, the only veterans interviewed by the Sentinel's reporter were all in favor of the idea.

In the story that ran side by side with the one about veterans, the newspaper couldn't find one single college student who didn't think this was a good idea -- really?

The poverty draft is a big factor in the lives of young people in the areas served by these newspapers. Maine has the highest per capita deaths in Afghanistan of any state, because even kids that trained to be welders or dieticians are out of work, along with those that graduated from U Maine with 4.0 GPAs and cannot get a call back from chain restaurants where they put in job applications.

Lucinda Marshall writing in Common Dreams reported on how the poverty draft disproportionately affects women in Why Serving in Combat Does Not Serve Women (Or Anyone Else) Well:
The take away here should be that we need to take a good hard look at the ways in which we are failing these women in regard to job training and job availability in the civilian world because as it stands now, we are effectively asking the most disenfranchised among us to fight our wars, and this move only makes it more dangerous for them, regardless of rank and benefits. (Emphasis mine.)
Ms. Marshall was among the few journalists who connected the (rather obvious) dots between this story and the other leading story about women in combat these days: the epidemic of rape in the military.

It is also hugely ironic that Panetta’s announcement came the same day that Congress was holding yet another hearing on the intractable problem of sexual assault in the military.  The truth is that women are more likely to be attacked by other members of our military than by any enemy. The New York Times’ Gail Collins makes the unfortunate suggestion that having more women rise in the ranks might,
make things better because it will mean more women at the top of the military, and that, inevitably, will mean more attention to women’s issues.
Sexual assault in the military is not a woman’s issue.  It is an epidemic and a national disgrace that is a direct result of the misguided notion of militarism that posits that strength comes from asserting power over others.  (Emphasis the author's.)

And in fact the New York Times and the head of the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff were marching to the same drummer on this one. As reported by Hayes Brown in ThinkProgress:
Instead of taking the stance of some commentators that adding women to combat units would diminish their effectiveness or “humiliate” the men serving alongside them, Dempsey rightly focused on the risk of assault that women in the armed services face. Approximately one in three military women have been sexually assaulted, about double the rate of those in civilian life.
With a compliant, corporate-controlled press in charge of the information provided to the vast majority of U.S. citizens, this relentless march to a fully militarized society isn't likely to end anytime soon.

Nor is it likely to end well.

Full report coming soon on the Feminist Values discussion I helped organize last Sunday in Augusta as the 19th Changing Maine Gathering. Suffice it to say for now that our collective attempt to sum up what we mean by feminist values in a sentence produced this gem: "Respect for the Earth, and for each other."
Bruce Gagnon at Portland No Tar Sands march Sat. Jan 26, 2013. Full story of the Pentagon's carbon footprint may be found in The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism by Barry Sanders.

1 comment:

chrisrushlau said...

So the prior ban was in women's best interests?
Dempsey's point was, if you read the context, that women in the military had been viewed as legitimate targets of sexual violence by some men partly because the women were protected from the riskier jobs. Dempsey said in that article, "I have to believe the more we treat people equally, the more likely they are to treat each other equally."
Do you have a problem with that philosophy? Do we need to keep people segregated and ranked to keep the peace?