That’s exactly what Major General Anthony Cucolo III has done with his general order not only punishing the pregnant woman but the man who impregnated her, with possible court marshal. This is but one part of an order prohibiting sexual contact on the part of solders, with Iraqis or third party, non-coalition forces. Reaction to this has been varied across the board from other military forces, to legal experts, to the public; the strongest reaction has been from women’s rights groups appalled that the US military thinks it can return to puritanical America and punish women for pregnancy. Surprisingly the public has been supportive of this story and this officials decision, saying everything from its dirty over there to your there to do a job. Others have raised the issue that when you join the military, you essentially become the property of the United States government and thus give up many of your civilian rights. Major General Cucolo’s rational behind enacting the order is that he needs everyone in his command and that people who choose to leave early through willfully changing their medical status not only leave a huge burden on fellow soldiers but violate military standards. This is amid some allegations that women were purposefully getting pregnant to be sent home.
One outraged headline pointed out that the court marshal would still stand even if the person who impregnated the female solider was her husband, showcasing just how unrealistic this Major General is being with those in his command. To think that married soldiers are going to abstain from the comfort that comes from yes, sex, in the confines of a married partnership is ludicrous. As is the apparent lack of planning by the military when they integrated women into its various ranks and branches; if they wanted an order like the one currently enacted under this headline making command, then it should have taken effect the moment the first woman was allowed in any section of the military. They should have been able to tell women wanting to sign up this is what your getting into, simultaneously informing the men of how this will also effect them. Another sign of poor planning in regards to women in the military and the particular issue of pregnancy is female soldiers on leave, who may only be on that leave for days at a time, but long enough to have sex with their husband or boyfriend. These same soldiers will then go back on duty; their medical check, if given one, not showing pregnancy until at least a month later, in the middle of a war zone.
What is further oppressing about an order of this kind can be found in the Major generals own words when he spoke on the issue referencing anyone who decides to leave before their 12-month tour is over creating a burden, but it isn’t just 12 months. We have soldiers on their 3rd and 4th tours in Iraq; they are sent home, sometimes for mere weeks, and called up once again to fight. Yet somehow leaders are caught off guard by the emotional bonds that are formed among men and women in a unit and the possible resulting pregnancy; further, the larger order applies to civilians also under Cucolo’s command, people who didn’t sign up to give their life away, people the army obviously need and there aren’t an unlimited supply of, civilians expected to put their lives on hold and forgo some kind of comfort in a desolate place.
Military officials, the Major General especially, doesn’t seem to have thought this all the way through either. He is willing, and others are willing to let him, make getting pregnant a court marshalling offence, where if convicted the guilty party could serve prison time and will almost certainly be dishonorably discharged, rather than send the woman home, give her an allotted maternity leave and there being a possibility of her returning to duty. The Major General is also willing to waste the time and resources of military officers in conducting said court marshal; so far to date no soldier has been court marshaled, although 2 have received formal letters of reprimand.
Some cite woman getting pregnant solely for the purpose of being sent home as a likely reason for the order or the catalyst for it being let stand; however, a former judge advocate fears that it could lead to back ally abortions. Unfortunately these kind abortions could also injure the officer and cause her to be sent home, if she doesn’t die or cause the death of someone else in the meantime being ill and/ or bleeding from a botched procedure, along with trying to hide it from her command. Of course if there can be any proof to substantiate the claim that the woman deliberately got pregnant to go home; then and only then should she face the possibility of court marshal. However, it then becomes a case of what constitutes proof hearsay, gossip someone with a grudge? Returning to the former judge advocate who also stated to ABC news “Its not saying you can’t have sex; you have to take precautions.” Putting aside that’s exactly what the larger part of the general order says in terms of Iraqis and non-collision forces, they are not in America or a westernized nation. You cannot drive a few minutes and find a pharmacy equipped with birth control or condoms, or for the latter there is no local Wal-Mart. And to issue and order under such conditions is likely to create more of the problem, not less. Again the military’s lack of planning comes into play as you put all the ingredients together for sexual congress, then don’t know what to do with or about the consequences.
The problem with this order is not whose jurisdiction or authority it’s in; other military leaders saying it’s his take. It’s not about the legality of it, or lack there of; it’s not about statements made by army personnel speaking of the message it sends; that this is not the army of yesteryear accompanied by drunken debauchery. Neither is it about women’s rights, reproductive rights, whose property or not you become when joining the military, or the civilian rights you forfeit in doing so. The issue runs much deeper to basic human nature, human need. The problem is you are trained this is your teammate, trust them with your life, defend them with your life; then they throw you into a war zone where buddies and people you know are getting maimed and killed left and right. You don’t know if your going to make it through the night, you don’t know if your going to see tomorrow, and yet high ranking military leaders seem surprised by the heightened emotional response that can lead to a sexual relationship and the now illegal pregnancy. And it’s not about drunken debauchery at all; it’s about human connection that will happen in such situations. If we don’t want that then we had better find robots to fight our wars, because no order, no threat of punishment and no amount of training is going to stop them from being human beings. Perhaps the thing that needs court marshalling is the military and their policy planning in terms of women.