By Craig Masters
Political commentator and best selling author, Phyllis Schafly, has called outgoing Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, a coward for making the announcement he has decided to strike down the 1994 Combat Exclusion Law and then running for the Pentagon’s exit doors. But in his last few weeks in office he also made a couple other decisions that he may have decided he didn’t want to stay around and answer questions about or explain himself.
Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta is credited with saving a roomful of fellow marines. But, in spite of video, recommendations by the Navy and Marine Corps, and eyewitness accounts of Peralta’s sacrifice, Secretary Panetta refused to allow the sergeant to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
Marine Insider online details how Peralta lost his life during the Battle of Falllujah by smothering a grenade to absorb the blast. Eyewitnesses credit this action for saving what is described as “a roomful of Marines.” A noted forensic consultant concluded the grenade fuse was embedded, center mass, in Peralta’s flak jacket. But on December 12, 2012, Defense Secretary Panetta ruled that in spite of video and additional testimony by Vincent J.M. Di Maio, M.D., a consultant in forensic pathology, the ruling to deny the MoH would stand. That ruling, by the first and only scientific panel ever on record to review a Medal of Honor case, contradicted the video, the eyewitnesses, the forensic findings of Dr Di Maio, and the recommendations of both the Marine Corps and the Navy.
The “scientists” on former Secretary Robert Gates’ panel concluded the grenade exploded three feet away from Sgt. Peralta’s left leg. But the video recently reviewed and the identification of pieces of grenade fuse embedded in the sergeant’s flak jacket, center-mass, are compelling evidence that Gates virtually “manufactured the doubt,” said U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA) who was instrumental in reopening Sgt. Peralta’s application and introducing the major evidence not reviewed by the so-called scientific panel under Gates.
During the 8 years period of the Vietnam conflict from 1964 through 1972, 248 Medals of Honor were awarded. By contrast, in the ten years or more of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, only 10 Medals of Honor have been awarded. Many Veterans groups and family members have joined with lawmakers such as Hunter to argue the bravery displayed by troops in the mid-east is equal to the bravery and sacrifice of troops in previous war zones such as Vietnam. Moreover, dozens of MoH were awarded for virtually the same sacrifice as Sgt. Peralta made; some might even seem less so selfless.
Unable to recognize heroism is not the reason for the charge of ‘political cowardice’ to be leveled by Schlafly. She argues that what is hopefully his final major decision for the military will prove far more demoralizing to the troops than his reluctance to award the Medal of Honor to fallen heros. As Schlafly puts it, “toadying to the feminist officers … on the dogma of gender interchangeability,” is probably illegal or even unconstitutional since the authority for such a significant change in the military is reserved for Congress to make, not the executive branch, to which the Secretary of Defense answers.
So why, she asks, would he make such a dramatic and far reaching decision within days of hitting the exit? Schlafly contends that Panetta anticipated some questions he wouldn’t be able – or at least didn’t want – to answer. Such questions as:
Will women receive combat assignments based on ‘gender norming?’ That means, the men and women would be tested equally but be evaluated differently – giving the women credit for effort instead of results. The idea that it would be much harder for most women to complete the physical requirements for combat readiness so they should be graded higher for trying just as hard as the men even though they otherwise wouldn’t qualify.
And of course when the combat readiness tests are no longer evaluating actual readiness for combat, how poorly will women be allowed to score in order to fill out the diversity matrix – a politically correct way of saying “quota.”
Last year the first ever women were given the opportunity to try out for the Marine Infantry Officer Course. Two women made the cut. The first washed out within a few hours, the second lasted only through the first week. The MIOC is nearly 10 weeks of one of the toughest courses in the Corps. In this case, none of the training was changed for the women. In enlisted boot camp, as well as in the fleet Marine Corps, women have different physical fitness standards than men. There are some 98 more possible female candidates, according to Business Insider Military and Defense News. The Corps is evaluating what changes might be needed to the course in order to qualify women for these positions of leading marines into combat.
It might be that the Defense Department would need to evaluate just how the men being sent into horrific bloody combat situations would feel knowing their commander qualified under feminist dictated quota conditions? But Panetta won’t have to answer that question either.
I myself completed only an introductory version of the MIOC. Later I went on to complete SEAL school. There is some serious competition to complete either of these programs. I don’t believe I could ever trust a team member I suspected in the least of having been passed through because of the need to fill a quota. Forty years after it happened, the incident is still a vivid memory of when one of our guys ‘lost’ a map and a couple of others nearly beat him to death. At every turn there is tension to compete, drive to succeed and suspicion and anger brought about by the fear of failure.
Perhaps the toughest question Panetta avoided as he “ran through the Pentagon’s exit doors,” is simply: “Why?”