"So David and his men came to the city, and behold, it was burned with fire; and their wives and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captives. Then David, and the people that were with him, lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep." I Samuel 30:3.
Some women are saying that one reason they don't get equal purchase in our society is that men, in their heart of hearts, believe that since they must do the fighting, they ought to do the deciding and the plum plucking, an argument that rests on the false premise that women are immune from war's violence.
As the above passage from the Old Testament shows, women have suffered and sacrificed in war as far back as we have any record. Note in the quotation that King David and his soldiers have escaped bodily harm, while it is the women and the children who've been injured, those we are pleased to call the non-combatants.
Yet some of our generals seem unable to master the elementary facts of warfare. Hence this quote on drafting women from Major General David E. Grange, commander of Fort Benning, Ga.: "What you're talking about is a plane unloading at Andrews (Air Force Base) with disfigured gals. The bottom line is a fourth floor in a Veterans Administration hospital for girl paraplegics. I just don't want to see gals in the front Lines."
Conceding the general's predilections for disfigured guys over disfigured gals, one is surprised at his ignorance of military history. For thousands of years, women have been slaughtered by enemy armies as a matter of policy. For confirmation, here's a quote from a book every general must read in the course of his military education, Julius Caesar's "Gallic Wars": "Setting out once more to harass the Eburones (a Belgic tribe), Caesar sent out in all directions a large force of cavalry . . . Every village and every building they saw was set on fire; all over the country the cattle were either slaughtered or driven off as booty; and the crops, a part of which had already been laid flat by the antumnal rains, were consumed by the great numbers of horses and men. It seemed certain, therefore, that even if some of the inhabitants had escaped for the moment by hiding, they must die of starvation after the retirement of the troops."
Julius Caesar was perhaps the most humane of all the great generals of history, but he killed women as a matter of military necessity, as did our own Union general, William Tecumseh Sherman, in his march through Georgia, because he, like Caesar, knew that the enemy's defeat is sure and irretrievable when the civilian base, i.e., the woman, the children, the old people, upon which the army depends, is destroyed.
In World War II a million people died at the Siege of Leningrad, most of them civilians, so that half had to be women. What percentage of those who died at Hiroshima after the Enola Gay dropped its atomic death egg were women. And more recently, during the Vietnam war, there was a famous, heart-rending picture of a naked little girl running down a road while being burnt to death by napalm. Ah yes, general, it's a terrible thing to see the little gals being disfigured, even when they're not off-loaded at Andrews.
You could say that by drafting women and putting a rifle in their hands, you're giving them a chance to fight back, save their lives even. After all, in many wars it's far safer to be a soldier than a civilian.
This is not said in favor of drafting anyone, but to protest a kind of ignorant, patriotic frivolity that has surrounded much of the discussion about the draft, about new armament projects and the possibility of war. Granted, it is hard to believe all of this is serious business when some of the people who voted on these life-and-death decisions are being named suspected grafters.
The last time our dear country felt marching armies was just before the Stillness at Appomattox. Since then, all through the slaughters of the most bloody century in history, our own 20th, we have escaped war, and, alas, forgotten at what pain to both sexes and all ages the Red Badge of Courage is gained.