Video: Women in the War Zone

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updated 2/28/2006 10:06:42 PM ET 2006-03-01T03:06:42

Chivalry is dead, at least in Iraq.  The Army is putting women on the front lines, where they‘re more likely to see combat and be killed, and in many cases, horribly.  Elaine Donnelly, the president for the Center for Military Readiness, says that‘s more than just impolite; it is illegal. 

She joined Tucker Carlson to make her case.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST 'THE SITUATION':  So you‘re saying it is illegal the state of affairs in Iraq.  What is the current law about women serving in combat?

ELAINE DONNELLY, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR MILITARY READINESS:   Well, here‘s the situation.  There‘s no dispute about the courage of the women who are serving.  We really respect and thank the women serving in uniform. 

CARLSON:  Yes.

DONNELLY:  It is a matter of policy and law.  The Department of Defense policy says that female soldiers will not be assigned to direct ground combat units.  That means infantry, armor, special forces, the tanks, Marine infantry.  Those units are all male. 

The units that are close in with them, embedded support units that are there 100 percent of the time, those are also required to be all male.  Now that is regulation.  There is also a law that says if the Department of Defense wants to change the regulation, they have to notify Congress in advance. 

CARLSON:  Right.  Because it is a democracy and we‘re supposed to have some control over what our military does. 

DONNELLY:  That‘s great.  We have congressional oversight.  The law is there to mandate congressional oversight. That‘s rather a hot topic these days. 

The problem is, well, for well over a year now, the Department of Army has been assigning female soldiers to these land combat co-located units, the ones that are embedded, 100 percent of the time.  That is a violation of regulation.  It is a change in the rules that the Army cannot make.  It‘s not authorized to make.  And there‘s been no notice to Congress. 

And oh, by the way, if women are in these land combat units without challenge by Congress, well, guess what happens next?  The ACLU goes into court, and this time they win a case that says that young women, civilian women, should be subject to registration for selective service.  Congress wanted oversight on that, too. 

CARLSON:  Wait, wait, wait.  The ACLU would like Congress to force women to register for the draft?

DONNELLY:  Absolutely.  They‘ve been trying for years.

CARLSON:  And what‘s—and that is...

DONNELLY:  They‘ve gone into court several times on behalf of men. 

CARLSON:  OK.  So...

DONNELLY:  They think it‘s unfair that women are not required to register for a selective service. 

CARLSON:  So having your limbs blown off by an IED in Iraq, that is empowerment?  Is that the idea?

DONNELLY:  Let‘s talk about—again, the definition of combat.  It‘s not just being in danger, although my gosh, we wouldn‘t want to be in that situation.  Everybody in Iraq is in harm‘s way.

CARLSON:  That‘s right.

DONNELLY:  These are courageous people, men and women.  But the close combat units actually go after the enemy.  Do you remember when Fallujah was cleaned out, liberated in November of 2004?

CARLSON:  Yes.

DONNELLY:  That was done by the units I‘m talking about.  Direct ground combat, infantry, armor special operations forces. 

CARLSON:  Were those women?

DONNELLY:  Not in those units and not in units that were embedded 100 percent of the time. 

CARLSON:  But wait...

DONNELLY:  They are there now, because it is a different situation now. 

CARLSON:  But is it—is it a meaningful distinction.  I remember when I was in Iraq.  I remember speaking to an Army officer who had just been at a field hospital where a woman, who was assigned to some sort of supply convoy moving water, I think, had had her legs blown off in an IED attack and had just died.

DONNELLY:  Yes.

CARLSON:  She was not in, strictly speaking, a combat position, but was exposed, obviously, to hostile fire.  In Iraq, is there a difference?

DONNELLY:  Remember, being exposed to hostile fire does not meet the definition of combat.  Combat means deliberate, offensive action.  To go after the enemy offensively.  It‘s not the same as being in harm‘s way.  The distinction is important, and it‘s not that hard to understand. 

Regulations make it very clear. 

CARLSON:  So then—yes, it sounds like they do make it very clear, then.  How come the Pentagon is getting away with breaking federal law?  That‘s not something you think of the armed forces as doing.  I mean...

DONNELLY:  Good question.  The secretary of defense, Mr. Rumsfeld, has allowed the Army to do this.  Last year there was a big debate on this in Congress, and legislation passed in the House Armed Services Committee to codify the current rules, to get the Army‘s attention to say, wait, Congress needs to have oversight. 

Well, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, behind closed doors, asked the chairman of that committee to withdraw the legislation.  Instead, he promised, and it was put into law, that a report on what is going on in the field would be given to Congress, again, for congressional oversight, by March of this year. 

Well, guess what?  Now they‘re not even going to produce that report.

CARLSON:  Of course not.

DONNELLY:  ... Rand Corporation.  I‘m sorry.  We won‘t hear anything until new year‘s eve.  So if anybody—nobody objects by New Year‘s Day, they‘ll say the Army has gotten away with violating regulation and law.

CARLSON:  Of course.  Because the bottom line is, they need the warm bodies to fight the war. 

DONNELLY:  No.  There is really no evidence that there are not enough men to have in the all-male units. 

CARLSON:  Well, the whole thing is repulsive, as far as I‘m concerned, and not the kind of thing that civilized nations do.  I just could not be more opposed to it.  Doesn‘t seem like empowerment to me, to get killed by an IED.

DONNELLY:  It‘s a pretty awful thing, but I tell you, it disrespects women in the military.  They have a right to expect that regulation and law will be followed, and it‘s not being followed. 

CARLSON:  Yes.

DONNELLY:  Congress needs to intervene.  The president needs to intervene, too.  And people need to tell their congressman.

CARLSON:  Don‘t hold your breath for that, Elaine Donnelly, but thank you for what you‘re doing. 

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