- The Washington Times - Friday, January 25, 2002

It's one thing to defer to the religious sensibilities of a person in whose home you are a guest. However, it is quite another for American service personnel defending another country to be compelled to dress in 7th-century garb and adhere to degrading sex-based rules so as not to "offend" radical Islamists. Yet that is precisely what female American military personnel such as Lt. Col. Martha McSally have had to endure in Saudi Arabia, where until just recently, they have been required to wear the traditional burqa and abaya head-to-toe covering veil and all that native women have no choice but to wear themselves. The absurdity of having an American combat pilot Lt. Col. McSally is the highest-ranking female fighter pilot in the Air Force conform to a medieval cultural tradition that's often misogynistic is an egregious example of run-amok political correctness. The good news is the U.S. military is easing away from the policy, according to reports early yesterday. The bad news is, it's not enough.

The Associated Press and CNN quoted the head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Tommy Franks, as having sent an e-mail policy update to his commanders that wearing the getup "is not mandatory but is strongly encouraged." Still in force, however, are equally ludicrous requirements that female personnel not leave base "unescorted" by a male, and that they ride in the back seat, instead of up front "where the men belong." Lt. Col. McSally justly and understandably incensed about all of this filed suit challenging the dress code and other requirements. She intends to continue her lawsuit notwithstanding the slight slackening of the code announced by Gen. Franks. John Whitehead, an attorney with the Rutherford Institute representing Lt. Col. McSally, dismisses the policy change as not enough in principle or in practice. "What it says to us is that it's not been rescinded," he told the Associated Press. "It's like saying, 'you're equal to us but you can't eat in the same restaurant because you're strongly encouraged to eat at one more fitting with your lower class.' "

It's doubtful that the U.S. military would abide by apartheid-type or similarly racist cultural "traditions" other nations, friend or foe, might have with regard to black or Hispanic male personnel. So why is the U.S. military degrading its female personnel? Women are not second-class citizens in America, and they should not be treated as second-class "inferiors" in the American military particularly the American military, an all-volunteer force where the women in uniform have stepped-up to serve their country and defend its ideals. Saudi Arabia should be grateful to the United States which, after all, is the only reason Saddam Hussein is not currently ensconced in the royal place in Riyadh. And more to the point, the U.S. military should be grateful to its female officers and other personnel, such as Lt. Col. McSally and quit treating them like dirt.

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