Reader W.W. comments on my post on the soldier who asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about inadequate armor for Army vehicles in Iraq–a query that turned out to have been a setup by embedded Chattanooga Times Press reporter Edward Lee Pitts, who like other journalists on the scene when Rumsfeld met two weeks ago in Kuwait with Iraq-bound troops, wasn’t allowed to ask questions on his own. Making the news, in contrast to reporting it, violates journalistic ethics, I pointed out (see my Now That’s What I Call Embedded, Dec. 10).

W.W. writes:

“The real crime was in selectively editing Rumsfeld’s answer to make him appear insensitive to the soldier’s concerns. The Humvee, even up-armored, is not suitable for situations requiring armor. We have armored vehicles and I don’t know why we don’t use them.”

I agree with W.W. Yes, there was a problem with Pitts’ ethics, but there seems to be an even worse problem with the Pentagon. Our troops in Iraq deserve all the protection we can afford them.

Now comes reader J.P., on a topic that The Other Charlotte covers today: the rumblings that the Army wants to start placing mixed-gender troops, now currently used only for support, into much closer contact with combat troops, essentially intermingling the two groups in possible violation of prohibitions against sending female soldiers to front lines. (See TOC’s Are Women Headed for the Front Lines?, below today, and Mackubin Thomas Owens’s article “G.I. Janes by Stealth” in National Review.)

Here’s J.P.:

“Personally, I think it should be up to the Army. The feminist ‘gender doesn’t matter’ line is wrong, but so is the idea that male and female soldiers are incapable of being professional. Unit cohesion is very possible with mixed gender groups… if it is allowed. An Army reservist I know tells of a disaster releif deployment where the ‘unit’ was making accommodations for the privacy and welfare of its female members and was told by higher-ups that the females could not quarter with the males (though, as I said, privacy had been accommodated) but had to quarter alone, separately, at the other end of the camp. Obviously, unit cohesion is far more difficult when the unit is separated.

“Combat is not what is being suggested here. They aren’t talking about giving female service members an M-16 and pointing them at an alleyway full of insurgents. They are talking about sending support troops where they need to be without having to jump through hoops to avoid sending female soldiers too close to combat situations. If the Army wants to do this it is because there is a negative mission impact associated with discriminating between mixed gender and single gender units. The Army does not have a feminist agenda.”

And now for a few words from Mackubin:

“This is arrant nonsense. I’m sure the soldiers and Marines who just took Fallujah would beg to differ with those who claim there is ‘no front line’ in Iraq. The threat they and the support troops collocated with them faced as they carried out their mission of ‘closing with and destroying the enemy’ was qualitatively different from that of support troops not so collocated. Putting women into the vortex of combat so vividly illustrated by the savage fighting in Fallujah would undermine the effectiveness of our ground-combat units by undercutting the unit cohesion critical to achieving victory in war.

“Despite recent attempts to redefine it, unit cohesion in combat is far more than mere teamwork. Cohesion arises from the bond among disparate individuals who have nothing in common but facing death and misery. This bond is akin to what the Greeks called philia — friendship, comradeship, or brotherly love.”

We’d love to hear from more InkWell readers on this subject.