Regarding the May 15 Editorial "Learning from Pfc. Lynch": In the world of my people, the American Indians, women have always been in the forefront of defense of family, friends, and ancestral lands. In our way of thinking - and that of other races, creeds, colors, and species as well - there is nothing more dangerous than a mother figure attempting to protect her family, friends, territory, and way of life.
In Lori Piestewa's case, she was trying to make a better life for herself and her little family by reaching out for advanced education opportunities in one of the few avenues open for people of our ethnicity and others. Now she's made a statement concerning the role of women in combat, which I support, regardless of the "weaker sex's" physical limitations.
Jess Paul Tomey
Point Pleasant, W.Va.
I am a veteran of nine years with the US Army. I did not agree with women being on combat lines when I was on active duty, and I still do not think it is right today. Women may be able to carry themselves appropriately and may be able to defend themselves, but the biggest problem is that men will place themselves in danger to protect a female soldier, airman, marine, or sailor.
I believe the trend the government and our officers will see will be toward more men getting killed if females are in the squad.
Corpus Christi, Texas
As a retired soldier with 22 years of service, I must protest strongly against the divisive and discriminatory suggestion that single parents be excluded from combat. In the now comparatively tiny military, each and every service member is vitally needed. In my last tactical tour, my unit was always seriously under strength, and was able to perform the missions tasked to it only because of the exceptional quality of the soldiers present.
In terms of demographic factors, we were a very mixed group - racially, ethnically, and religiously - with many female soldiers serving in key positions. A military unit can celebrate its diversity in a way civilians can only envy, while at the same time possessing a strong group identity.
Laura Liswood's May 15 Opinion piece "Find a role for women in rebuilding Iraq" is fascinating. We are now facing a major challenge under the heading of "Do as I say and not as I do."
While I smilingly admit to being a feminist who wants to see my sisters fully empowered in the new Iraq, I recognize that such political goals are high-profile liberal American agenda items. In my mind, pursuing these goals, which I believe demonstrate a real commitment to human rights, is one of the strongest reasons for giving the United Nations a major role in postwar Iraq.
Surely we can see more clearly every day that Iraqis were happy to have us sweep out the old. But our best diplomatic future with the people of Iraq will most likely come about if we now back off from planting our new model - unilaterally - and cooperate with the UN; the regional human rights NGOs; the Iraqis who have provided political, educational, and cultural leadership alternatives to that of the Baath Party hierarchy; and others with experience in nation building.
Surely most of us can see that if the US occupation forces impose American "democratic" political values rather than demonstrating them by widespread, inclusive cooperation, the golden dream of the model Arab democracy will blow up in our faces. And it will be Iraqis who suffer - the women and independent thinkers and scholars.
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