LADY WARRIORS OF AFGHANISTAN

By Patricia Sauthoff

In journalism there’s a little thing called burying a lede, which means you’ve told a nice story but the real heart of what you’re covering is somewhere near the bottom, where not everyone who starts the story is sure to find it. A great example of this comes from a Sunday, October 3 New York Times about the female Marines working in Marja, Afghanistan.

Joan of Arc, ca. 1485

We get two and a half, well-written and interesting, pages about 40 ladies who are “attached” to combat troops, skirting the Pentagon’s rules against women in combat.

The story begins with a line that could easily be followed up with this revelation, “They expected tea, not firefights,” but instead waits until its third section break (page three of the online edition of the story) to reveal just how loopholes to these regulations are being found and exploited. In fact, “in a common side step during nearly a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, women are “attached,” rather than assigned, to combat units. The female engagement teams simply say they “accompany” Marine infantry units on their patrols,” tells us that the rules are being bent on a regular basis.

I’m truly sorry that these women have been shot at, lost their friends in battle and that long deployments has ruined the romantic partnerships of more than one of these women, but these problems are no different from the trials that face men in their same situation. The difference between these women, and what the Times glossed over, is the exploitation of both the women and the rules the U.S. military is currently engaged in. Sending a group of soldiers to a large base for one night before putting them back in the line of fire hardly constitutes their staying temporarily in a combat zone. In immigration it’s called a visa run, and it can cause problems when a person tries to legitimately gain access to a visa.

Capitalizing on these kind of loopholes assumes that no one is paying much attention, which may well be the case in both the Afghanistan war and the East Asian countries where such immigration practices are common, but a lack of accountability doesn’t make either right or legal.

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