Brian Birdnow

No one knows how the authorities decided to issue a doctored version of the truth but let us hazard a guess as to why they did so. Certain interested parties in the media and in Congress have searched relentlessly for a female military hero and have been doing so for the last twenty years, as a means of lessening opposition to the still hotly contested idea of women in combat. If women soldiers are portrayed as courageous and heroic those who oppose the idea of female combat soldiers can be discredited and the social experiment can proceed apace. The military has been complicit in this effort as recent events have shown, but the facts are quite clear that this has gone on for years.

In 1989, Army public relations officials hyped the supposedly heroic actions of Captain Linda Bray, during the Panama operation. The military issued a report stating that Captain Bray had led an infantry charge against an occupied Panamanian defensive position and took this blockhouse by force. Congresswoman Pat Schroeder got into the act and recommended Captain Bray for a Congressional Medal of Honor. The officer seemed reluctant to discuss her actions publicly and she earned credit for exhibiting becoming humility and modesty regarding her own accomplishments. Actually, Captain Bray declined to discuss these matters because she knew the story would fall apart under close scrutiny. Indeed, the story did fall apart when people began asking questions. It turned out that the entrenched Panamanian defensive position was actually a kennel where Panamanian police housed guard dogs. The kennel was empty at the time, and Captain Bray was positioned at a regimental staging ground miles from the battle scene.

When military journalists portrayed Linda Bray as a hero of the Audie Murphy variety, politicians and an eager media hyped this for all it was worth. When the truth emerged Captain Bray, understandably humiliated, resigned her commission and returned to civilian life. The standard liberal line has been that she was hounded out of the military by sexism and male chauvinism. In fact, Linda Bray left the army because she had become a laughingstock among her peers because of the phony nature of her service record.

This also brings to mind the story of PFC Jessica Lynch during the early stages of the Iraqi War. The DOD initially reported that Lynch had been captured after a Davy Crockett-like stand during which she emptied her entire magazine at the Iraqi enemy before being taken by force. Miss Lynch, to her credit, admitted readily, that she had been knocked unconscious when the truck she was riding in overturned, and that she had been taken without ever firing her weapon. This admission angered PFC Lynch’s superior officers who followed orders from higher up to create a female war hero.

Now we have Sergeant Kimberly Munley. It seems that Sgt. Munley did demonstrate exemplary behavior when faced with a harrowing decision on that grim afternoon. She chose to confront an armed assailant when she could, credibly, have taken cover and called for assistance. Sergeant Munley’s coolness under fire does not, however, change the fact that she was unable to stop Hasan’s murderous rampage. Sergeant Mark Todd shot Hasan and politically correct myth-making will not alter facts.

The point of this column is that few Americans realize the degree to which political correctness has preempted the old-fashioned warrior ethos of the U.S. armed services. The rush to proclaim ordinary female soldiers as “heroes”, the scramble to whitewash the Hasan-Islamic terrorism links, and the continuing efforts to emasculate the armed forces by characterizing soldiers, sailors, and marines as “caregivers” shows the depths to which the leadership of our fighting forces have sunk. In this brave new world, the American military is one of the most politically correct of all institutions. General Casey’s mindless bloviations about diversity as strength perfectly illustrates this point.

Brian Birdnow

Brian E. Birdnow is a historian and teaches at a university in the St. Louis area.