Wounded Women Warriors

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All of a sudden media outlets are zeroing in on women warriors in Iraq. An Associated Press article called "Women Warriors Succeed in Iraq" made the rounds this weekend.

A freelance producer friend has just been hired to produce a network documentary on the topic and tells me there are a couple more in production. U.S. News has reported the story.

While injured and killed female warriors make up a fraction of the total, so far 68 women have died in this war, and more than 430 are returning home injured. The AP reports the deaths exceed the number of military women who lost their lives in Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf War combined.

What we haven't heard yet is how soon the Pentagon is going to lift the ban on women in combat, which the Iraq war has rendered patently meaningless.

Months ago I interviewed Capt. Lory Manning, USN (Ret.), who runs the Washington, D.C.-based Women in the Military project. She says the ban won't be lifted before the Iraq war ends. But it should be lifted shortly thereafter, neocons' disapproval notwithstanding. The fact is, the American public has made peace with images of war-wounded women vets.

One, Tammy Duckworth, even ran for Congress as an Illinois Democrat and was narrowly defeated in a supposedly safe Republican district.

Women soldiers serving in Iraq do receive something akin to combat pay. The Pentagon disguises it with another name: hazardous-duty pay. But those women are still barred from the promotions that come with having taken enemy fire. The insurgent war in Iraq has changed the definition of "combat zone," when one grenade can turn a mess hall into a combat zone. It's time the Pentagon rewarded women accordingly.