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Combat Ineffective

The war on women in combat. Canada's princely Alberta. More plain speak. Plus much else.

4.30.03

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SKIRTING THE ISSUE
Re: Jed Babbin's Babes at Arms:

Jed Babbin, as always, is right. The nation that tries to hide behind its women's skirts will not last long. Nor does it deserve to. An Army and Marine Corps full of M-16 toting Hoo-ah! babes raises some provocative questions about what exactly the hell we are fighting for, nicht? Aside from the obvious fact that women warriors are an offense to morality, honor, and good sense, there are the practical questions. I'd hope not even General Patricia Schroeder would argue against the obvious, to wit: if it takes six men soldiers to pull a stuck Jeep out of the mud, it would take 12 women soldiers to do the same thing.

Then there's the distraction factor, absolutely essential for the survival of the species, but a bit of a bother in combat or combat training. I don't have to wonder whether if in the combat information center of the destroyer I served on in the sixties -- had there been a lovely 19-year-old radarperson sitting knee to knee with me in the dark instead a grungy guy with "USN" tattooed on one bicep and a likeness of Miss Subic Bay on the other -- would I have had any attention left over for the blips on the screen? The question answers itself.
-- Larry Thornberry
Tampa, FL

Please, Mr. Babbin, exercise some measure of creative restraint when writing about such hot button issues. I'm certain your tongue-in-cheek mention of "the First Amazon Division" has by now sent the television reality show writers scrambling for their keyboards. My guess is you've spawned another cultural roadside attraction along Rome's headlong rush to the big bonfire. The image of strong women in combat is no less ridiculous and less appealing now than when I last viewed it at the drive-in movie in 1959.

And, as you so aptly noted, the bedrock principle of combat squad cohesion is the issue upon which every other rests. You wrote, "There is no way of knowing whether mixed gender teams can function as well as all-male teams in close combat environment." I may not know from experience but I can venture an educated guess regarding the lack of squad cohesion caused by young women in combat dying while wearing their entrails as necklaces. I'll venture a further educated guess that this generation's young men and those of future generations are unprepared and unwilling to deal with those combat realities.

Regardless of social "rights" or "wrongs," women in combat will unintentionally and apart from their physical limitations put themselves and other soldiers at greater risk.
-- Doc Watson

CANADA'S FINEST SYRUP
Re: Herbert London's Oil on Reserve:

Re: Herb London's piece, it is also remarkable that the brief mention in a Mark Steyn column, about a week ago, of Chrétien's family connection to the French oil company which had the contracts with Saddam, has never made it to the front pages. Why is that?
-- Jameson Campaigne
Ottawa, IL

I am a Canadian living in Alberta, which as you noted has oil deposits. We are the province that is in the best financial shape of any in Canada because of this oil. It has been a very real contributor to our goal of reducing the Alberta debt, among others.

Our Premier Klein is a man much like President Bush -- what you see is what you get. He is well respected in Alberta, the type of man who wrote to the American ambassador to ensure that America knew Albertans did not agree with our Prime Minister's decision to not support America. The letter was sent before the ambassador rebuked us for our behavior. This behavior was from our Prime Minister and members of his party. Albertans have held rallies, started websites, and even raised money for an ad to be placed in USA Today letting Americans know where we stood in this matter. 71% of western Canada support President Bush and the war. Our population is 6-8% American in Alberta and we did not want them to take any flak over the great divide of the western and eastern thinking on this matter.

America knows the oil is here, and to my knowledge nothing has been said regarding it. ... If Washington wants our oil, I am sure they will contact the Prime Minister, but it would take him about three years to make a decision, you know! He could embark on a mumbling exercise for a long time! He mumbles well!

Your suggestion has merit -- and yes, it would be quite a surprise to the Arab world, a significant surprise!...

The one thing I would like to see is American and Canadians relationship be a partnership in all our endeavors in the future. A new Prime Minister and time to get settled is necessary for us at this time, but we will elect a leader who understands the meaning of loyalty to our neighbors and is determined to create a military that is as modern as a forces can be, with the latest equipment and high military standards. Our soldiers are great, but it is difficult to shoot an enemy with your finger after arriving on the slow boat from Canada in the wrong uniform.
-- Carole Graham

Apropos "Oil on Reserve" by Herbert London, exactly why is Canada a more dependable trading partner than is Saudi Arabia? The Saudis frequently have increased production -- to their own detriment -- to benefit the U.S. economy, while the Canadians have...what?
-- David Govett
Davis, CA

DIXIE CHIQUITAS
Re: Enemy Central's Among the Feather-Brained:

Wouldn't it be more apt to say that as a result of the Entertainment Weekly cover, the Dixie Chicks were "tarts and featherless"?
-- Dwayne Baptist
Fredericksburg, VA

FUZZY MATTER
Re: The Washington Prowler's Cutting Thomas:

How can he plan to cut dividend taxes more than the Bush plan which calls for elimination of the tax? Is Thomas planning a negative tax that gives matching funds for dividends?
-- Hareendra Yalamanchili

GREAT STUFF
Re: Jackie Mason & Raoul Felder's Plain Speak:

What a great article. Things articulated perfectly what many of us have thought for years! How can this be seen by even more people? Wonderful! Keep it up.
-- Alida Lumpkins

Great piece. I am from Texas, I understand every word the President "says." I understand very few words of the Hollywood Elite. Must be my lack of drugs.
-- Larry Rutherford

Excellent article ("Plain Speak," April 25). I could not agree more. I'm a history major and have followed politics and kept up with my history knowledge since I was 14. (I'm 31.) Suffice to say there are many uninformed opinionated opinions out there. I always dread debating with people about the war in Iraq for a myriad of reasons. I classify them as follows:

1) The "I never read history or politics books because I am too smart for them" crowd. Impossible to have an enlightened discussion with. They have all the answers and you do not despite your obvious grasp of the subject matter. They are on a higher plane and you're not and you will never reach it. These people typically roll their eyes in condescension and eschew anything that is written by brilliant historians or scholars.

2) The " I never follow politics or history but have the right to my opinion" crowd. These people are frustrating. Because they consider you boring in non-eventful times they tend to dismiss or even demean your expertise or knowledge. They'll come out with a "Bush is a dumb vengeful warmongering gremlin who is out to trade blood for oil" or my personal favorite, "This war is illegal," and challenge you with such confidence you would not know where to begin dissecting it. It's scary. When you try to engage them they claim you are naive or are surprised. As one person recently told me -- and I quote -- "You? But you're smart? You are planning to do your Masters and you don't think Bush is a fool?" Considering that this person never read a book in his life and did not know who Vico or Spinoza was, it was quite a remarkable statement.

3) The "Lost and Bewildered" crowd. These people claim to be centrists. "Saddam is bad but we're no better" line of thinking grips their philosophical (or lack thereof) base. They are literally sweating they are so confused.

4) The "All of a sudden expert" genre. These people are the best. They are generally harmless and you tolerate them because they are trying. There are two types: The arrogant and the humble. The arrogant will demand proof. Most are fabulous speakers and manage to have you going in circles. Despite their utter ignorance. I think they fit the type of person in the article. The humble typically ask questions and offer thoughts. Sometimes very insightful.

5) The ones that have different opinions but engage you and are thoughtful. They are well read and informed. These people are the best because you not only learn about the subject at hand but sometimes about yourself in the process.

Thanks for reading. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one that has encountered such moments. Please forgive my grammar as I wrote this straight from the top of my head without the practice of proof reading as I am at work and on my way out.

Kindest regards,
-- Alessandro Nicolo
Montreal, Quebec

SWISS MIST
Re: Kurt Schori's letter in Reader Mail's New Intelligence:

In your latest Reader Mail section, was a letter from an esteemed citizen of Switzerland -- perhaps the French or German speaking sections -- complaining of all the terrible things that the liberation or Iraq will now bring. I know they say not to "feed the trolls," but this one is just so cute I couldn't help myself.

"With high efficiency, secular Iraq has been wiped out, the civil records of an entire nation annihilated (apart from the oil ministry's files)."

So, the correspondent is suggesting, if I am reading this correctly, that we leave people in oppression, because we might destroy their birth certificates while liberating them?

"The cultural memory and national treasures of Iraq -- unique in the world, preserved throughout many thousand years against other invaders -- bombed, looted, destroyed completely with more success than the Taliban had in Afghanistan. Libraries, musea, everything."

Is the correspondent referring to the fakes that Saddam manufactured to prove his descent from Nebuchadnezzar? Or the genuine pieces which were carried off by fleeing Baathists to fund their new villas in Syria and France?

"The Islamic infrastructure carefully kept intact and spared from any 'degradation".'"

Perhaps the correspondent would feel better if we had leveled mosques too. Equal opportunity destruction, and all that.

"An Islamic nation falling back into medieval times spiritually. Whoever believes that you can build a democracy worthy of its name with 60% of a people that revels in beating their backs with chains and cutting their bodies until the blood streams all over, is an ignorant fool."

No, the ignorant fool is the man who suggests that 60% of the citizens of Iraq all think the same way, behave the same way, and believe in their religions equally and with identical interpretations. He is a man who assumes that, because you are a Shi'ite, you are not an individual, with your own mind, doubts, and soul. That is the most supreme of ignorance, and might I say, bigoted and racist too.

"A country polluted with war chemicals, littered with cluster bombs and the like that will, long after peace is declared, maim and damage the population."

And how many would have died, had we done nothing? I put to you that, had the majority of the ordinances we used in Iraq indeed been "cluster bombs and the like," we would still have killed fewer people than would have died at the hands of a Baathist firing squad in a single year, for what they thought and said.

"As I said: the French, the Germans, the Russians, many others warned in time. The neo-conservative Americans in their superiority mania were not willing to listen. They are going to pay the price."

No, the French, the German, and the Russian governments wanted to protect their oil contracts and cover up their arms sales, as well as oppose a power that they do not understand, and therefore fear. It is a supreme irony to hear a European voice warning us of the price we will pay!

Perhaps this is merely another example of the complete lack of understanding for history which is indicative to the modern drive for a united, pacifistic Europe.
-- Alexander Craghead
Portland, OR

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