34 Women Killed, More Than 370 Wounded In Un-Biblical, Un-Constitutional, Unnecessary War Against Iraq
By John Lofton, Editor
It’s not that I needed another reason to despise our war in Iraq. It is, after all, un-Biblical and un-Constitutional. In fact, I already had the reason I’m about to discuss as a reason against this hideous war. But, this reason was brought home to me again when I read a recent story on the front page of “The Washington Post,” a piece headlined: “Women After War/The Amputees/Limbs Lost To Enemy Fire, Women Forge A New Reality.” With this disgusting, sickening article was a huge photo showing Retired Army Captain Dawn Halfaker, her right arm and part of her shoulder missing due to an exploding grenade which hit her Humvee near Baghdad.
Here’s some of what the “Post” reported:
Her body had been maimed by war. Dawn Halfaker lay unconscious at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, her parents at her bedside and her future suddenly unsure. A rocket-propelled grenade had exploded in her Humvee, ravaging her arm and shoulder.
In June 2004, she became the newest soldier to start down a path almost unknown in the United States: woman as combat amputee.
It was a distinction she did not dwell on during days of intense pain and repeated surgeries or even as she struggled to eat on her own, write left-handed and use an artificial limb. But scattered among her experiences were moments when she was aware that few women before her had rethought their lives, their bodies, their choices, in this particular way.
She was part of a new generation of women who have lost pieces of themselves in war, experiencing the same physical trauma and psychological anguish as their male counterparts. But for female combat amputees has come something else: a quiet sense of wonder about how the public views them and how they will reconcile themselves.
Their numbers are small, 11 in three years of war, compared with more than 350 men. They are not quite a band of sisters, but more a chain of women linked by history and experience and fate — one extending herself to another who then might offer something for the next.
They have discovered, at various points of their recovery, that gender has made a difference — “not better or worse,” as Halfaker put it, “just different.”
For Halfaker, an athlete with a strong sense of her physical self, the world was transformed June 19, 2004, on a night patrol through Baqubah, Iraq. Out of nowhere had come the rocket-propelled grenade, exploding behind her head.
Another soldier’s arm was sheared off. Blood was everywhere.
“Get us out of the kill zone!” she yelled to the Humvee driver. She was a 24-year-old first lieutenant, a platoon leader who two months earlier had led her unit in repulsing a six-hour attack on a police station in Diyala province. As medics worked to stabilize her, she warned: “You bastards better not cut my arm off.”….
The Iraq war is the first in which so many women have had so much exposure to combat — working in a wide array of jobs, with long deployments, in a place where hostile fire has no bounds. In all, more than 370 women have been wounded in action and 34 have been killed by hostile fire.
The war has created what experts believe is the nation’s first group of female combat amputees. “We’re unaware of any female amputees from previous wars,” said historian Judy Bellafaire of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation, which researches such issues.
Surprising many political observers, the fact of female casualties has produced little public reaction. Before Iraq, many assumed that the sight of women in body bags or with missing limbs would provoke a wave of public revulsion.
“On the whole, the country has not been concerned about female casualties,” said Charles Moskos of Northwestern University, a leading military sociologist. Politically, Moskos said, it is a no-win issue. Conservatives fear they will undermine support for the war if they speak out about wounded women, and liberals worry they will jeopardize support for women serving in combat roles by raising the subject, he said…
She retired from the Army as a captain — a tough choice only four years out of West Point, but one she made as she tried to imagine fitting back into military culture. Without her arm, she could no longer do push-ups, tie her combat boots, tuck her hair neatly under a beret.
She still has friends in Iraq, although one was killed in December. But the Bronze Star that she was awarded last year for her role at the Diyala police station is tucked away in a box. That day, she was in charge of 32 soldiers during the sustained firefight, taking a position on the roof with a grenade launcher, then quelling a jail riot.
Lately, she works at an office in Arlington, mostly as a consultant to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. She has applied to graduate school in security studies, bought a condo in Adams Morgan and co-wrote a book proposal about postwar recovery.
To get to this new place, Halfaker has made all sorts of adjustments. She types on a computer one-handed. Drives a car with a push-button ignition. Uses her knees to hold steady a peanut butter jar she wants to open. To write a note or a letter, she learned to use her left hand, practicing nightly at Walter Reed as she penned her thoughts in a journal.
“You don’t think about how many times you have a lot of things in your hands, like for me just carrying my coffee from the cafe downstairs up to my office on the seventh floor is a total battle every day,” she said. She has to hold the coffee cup, scan her identification badge, open doors, press elevator buttons. Sometimes she spills. Sometimes the coffee burns her.”
Conservative commentator Tucker Carlson’s views on women-in-combat are my views. He has said: “American society [has changed], and almost no one noticed. Republicans in Congress decided to drop a bill that would have kept women off the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 1994, women have been prohibited from serving in ground combat units. The policy is still in place, but it is routinely ignored. So far in Iraq, 34 female soldiers and civilian military employees have been killed by enemy fire. The measure might have done something to protect female soldiers. But before a vote could be called, the bill was withdrawn under pressure from the Pentagon, which needs all the warm bodies it can get, and from Democrats, who believe getting shot at is the next stage in women’s liberation. And so American women will continue to die in combat.
“There’s no way to spin it: Allowing women to get shot to death, or blown up, or mutilated and disfigured in war — particularly in a voluntary war — is horrible. It’s unnecessary. It’s barbaric. And it is virtually without historical precedent. Until now, societies have not done it. Even the most primitive cultures don’t send mothers off to battle. But suddenly, with almost no public debate, we do.
“So American women will continue to bleed to death in Iraq. The left will laud them as feminists heroes. The right will say they gave their lives for freedom in the Middle East. And future generations will look back with horror and contempt and wonder why we allowed it to happen.”