Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Demonized or ignored, the 21st century American woman

The Washington Post carries a lengthy AP article on Jessica Lynch. Anyone who has followed the story may wince reading it. Then the article acknowledges the hate that has been aimed at her and maybe you breathe a sigh of relief?

Or maybe it's just me.

Because if the Iraq War period and coverage has demonstrated anything it's that women will be repeatedly demonized and this has been obvious in the narratives for years now but notice how it's the elephant in the room no one wants to acknowledge in any of the miles and miles of Iraq War commentary and Iraq War related commentary.

Lynndie England became the face of Abu Ghraib. England's a War Criminal and anytime she's played it as if she was the ultimate victim, we've called her out here. But we've also noted that she wasn't the ringleader, that she wasn't imported to Iraq after years of abusing US citizens in US prisons. England, and not Charles Graner, became the face of the Abu Ghraib scandal. Graner had the record of abuse in US prisons when employed as a prison guard. England's been chided for her affair with Graner. Graner's fathering a child with England or the fact that he slept with several women in Iraq is never seen as something worth raising by the same media or public.

England is a War Criminal. She's very lucky not to be behind bars still. But on the scale of War Crimes, hers did not top Graner's. Graner was the ringleader on the ground. (Some Graner advocates dispute this. Were it false, Graner had a chance to make that argument in court but did not.)

The highest ranking officer punished for Abu Ghraib was Janis Karpinski. The highest ranking officer punished was a woman. But Karpinski's story regarding Abu Ghraib has been consistent (that military intelligence was in charge of the area where the abuse took place). And while Karpinski was demoted, others higher up got off scott free. BBC News reported in March 2005:

The top US general in Iraq authorised interrogation techniques including the use of dogs, stress positions and disorientation, a memo has shown.
The document was obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union through the US Freedom of Information Act.
The September 2003 document is signed by the then commander of US forces in Iraq, Gen Ricardo Sanchez.
The ACLU says the measures go beyond generally accepted practice and says Gen Sanchez should be made accountable.

Sanchez wasn't demoted. And he's really not been effected by his part in the abuse at all. He's currently running for the US Senate out of Texas. And on the Democratic Party ticket. He's a War Criminal but he gets a pass and the male-male obsessed Iraq Veterans Against the War has even taken to vouching for the bastard. Praising his (non-sincere) call for a "truth commission" -- this from the man who, when the ACLU released the documents with his signature, responded by insisting the ACLU was "a bunch of sensationalist liars, I mean lawyers, that will distort any and all information that they get to draw attention to their positions." An attack he's so proud of that he included it on page 431 of the book he 'wrote' with Donald T. Phillips Wiser In Battle.

He's a War Criminal who should be behind bars. But he's a man so he gets to run for the US Senate -- on the Democratic Party ticket, no less -- and he gets pig boys in IVAW to sing his praises. The same IVAW that supposedly gives a damn about Iraqis. You can't dispute a 2003 memo with his signature on it. But, hey, he's a man, and it's rally round the penis time yet again.

It's the same rally cry that allowed twice busted for trying to secure sex with underage girls Scott Ritter to become a 'leading voice' of the left (despite his repeated votes for Republicans). And they wanted you to know -- the pig boys -- that it was a nasty smear against Scott. It was the Bush Adminstration going after an innocent Pig Ritter. Screw women, screw the young girls that might be hurt, all that mattered was Pig Ritter.

Then Barack was sworn in in January 2009. In the fall of 2009, long after Bush was out of office, Pig Ritter was again busted for the same exact thing. That didn't stop Antiwar Radio from booking him as a guest, did it? Hells to the nah. In fact, the only reason he's not on that program or Democracy Now! or any of the many outlets that insisted he was a trusted voice and a victim is because he got convicted and lost his appeal and will now be spending many years behind bars.

Janis Karpinski's career is destroyed, Ricardo Sanchez is running for the US Senate. England's a criminal, a 'slut' and much more. Graner's barely known to the US public.

Back to Jessica Lynch.

She didn't do a damn thing wrong.

She never lied.

And yet, ove the years, many of us have learned to repeatedly cringe when a reference to her pops up at The Nation or Information Clearing House or other left and 'left' sites because at some point she's going to be called a liar, she's going to be attacked, she's going to be trashed.

If you're late to the story of Lynch, it was 2003, many may be. The Iraq War was still new. Her unit was attacked. Jessica was removed from the unit and taken to a hospital for treatment. She has always maintained that is what happened.

The Bush administration lied -- as they lied about Pat Tillman -- and created this myth of her as someone firing at Iraqis, and then as a prisoner of war and then staged a rescue of her. (At one point, they were spreading rumors that she was raped while at the hospital.) They refused to allow the media access to her.

It must have been very scary for her. She's wounded -- her legs are still injured to this day -- and she's not in the US, she's now in Germany, the government is telling lies about her, she's not permitted to speak to the public. She's probably being asked to back up the lies being said or at least it's suggested that she would be helping others by backing up the lies.

She never did. She never strayed from the truth of what happened.

She did not cooperate with NBC on that awful TV movie -- though the government did cooperate.

She always told the truth. She repeatedly declared that she wasn't a hero. She repeatedly stated that her friend, PRC Lori Ann Piestewa who died in the attack, was a hero. Each year, she's gone to memorial services for Piestewa and spoken publicly to any media covering the services about what a great person and friend Lori Ann was.

But to this day, left and 'left' sites will feature comments calling her a "whore" or a "slut" or a "liar" or even worse because of lies the Bush administration told. They'll blame her for that. They'll attack her for that.

(I'm sure she's been attacked from the right as well, I don't follow right-wing media so that's for someone else to grab.)

Because of the lies that were told about her -- not lies she ever told, she gets attacked.

And that's how it has gone for women in the Iraq War -- US women (Iraqi women, as we've noted repeatedly, are rendered invisible over and over). They're blamed for what they did and for what others did as well while men aren't demonized. If they didn't do anything wrong, they're still blamed.

I've watched Jessica Lynch tell her story over the years in a variety of media and media formats and to Congress and, I'm going to disagree with her, she is a hero.

She's a hero because she told the truth when it would have been so easy to lie and even easier to have just stayed silent. Natalie Maines and the Dixie Chicks were still being attacked daily when Jessica Lynch came forward with her truth. (Of course the most vilified of the entertainment world during that time would be women: the Dixie Chicks and Linda Ronstadt, for those who've forgotten.) The easiest thing to do would have been to have just gone along. Or to have said, "I can't talk about it, I don't remember anything. I'm sure the government's right."

But she told the truth and that was a heroic thing to do back then (sadly, it still is).

Then there are the smaller forms of disrespect or attacks, such as when the press (Boston Globe, for example) decides to do a story on homeless female veterans and they decide the perfect 'expert' for what it's like to be a female veteran who's returned to the US and found herself homeless is . . . a man. Time and again, they've done that. Or treated PTSD as a story that has no different dynamics for women. Or ignoring MST? Or how about ignoring Patty Murray?

Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. That's a prime post, especially now. I can remember a lot of nonsense about 'John Boehner's now Speaker and all the magazines that wouldn't feature Nancy Pelosi on the cover now feature John Boehner!' Boehner was news and he was news because in the mid-term elections the House flipped. (Nancy became Speaker in 2007 as a result of the 2006 mid-term elections -- but in those elections, the House and Senate flipped. That made what happened in the House a part of the story and not the story.)

Newspaper reporters who cover veterans issues usually note Murray. But where's the Ms. magazine cover, for example, featuring her or Senator Dianne Feinstein who is Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence? Do people realize how few women in the Senate (or House) are Chairs of Committees? Not Subcommittees, but Committees. Time's declared "protesters" the person of the year. Ms. might want to consider Patty Murray for their person for the year. She's also served on the US Congress Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, is the Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (Senate Democratic re-election committee). She and Senator Daniel Akaka managed a seamless transition (he was Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee before her) and she and Ranking Member Richard Burr have been a testament to the power of bipartisanship as they've joined forces to address many veterans needs.

While we're mentioning Murray, her office notes:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Murray Press Office

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 (202) 224-2834

Senator Murray's Statement on Drop in Veterans Homelessness

(Washington D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, issued the following statement after the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that their annual point-in-time survey of veterans homelessness showed an estimated 12% decrease in homeless veterans.

"This is welcome news. It means that the steps we have taken to invest in the HUD-VASH housing voucher program, prioritize veterans employment, and support rapid re-housing efforts are making an impact.

"No one who has made sacrifices to serve our nation should ever be homeless, and this problem should never be ignored. I've been proud to work with the Obama Administration to stem the tide of this national crisis and am pleased that we are moving toward the bold goals they've laid out. We have a long and difficult road ahead, but it's clear that with investments in proven solutions and cooperation between government agencies we are making progress."


Matt McAlvanah

Communications Director

U.S. Senator Patty Murray

202-224-2834 - press office

202--224-0228 - direct

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