War Is Not Good For Children

Posted on February 18, 2008


What kind of country sends mothers with babies to war?

What kind of country exempts able-bodied men from service, and sends the mothers of its children to fight foreign wars?

Of all the outrages in our privileged, self-centered, greedy, materialistic society, sending mothers of young children to war is the most outrageous. Top it if you can.

From this morning’s Washington Post (the bold-faced type added by Maryland On My Mind):

“Connor was three months old when Shaw and her husband, Brad, a sergeant with the military police, began a 15-month deployment to Iraq, their second tour in the combat zone. Like thousands of other new military mothers, the 22-year-old Army medic faced a stark choice: Give birth and quickly leave the baby behind, or lose her job.

“Many female soldiers hoping to start families face the prospect of missing most of their child’s first year. The Army grants six weeks of maternity leave before a new mother must return to her job or training, and four months until she can be sent to a war zone. . . .

“The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have placed severe strains on the Army, including longer deployments in which soldiers serve 15 months in the war zone, followed by 12 months at home. Under that system, a woman who wishes to have a child and remain with her unit must conceive soon after returning home so she can give birth, recover and prepare for her next overseas tour.

“Female soldiers interviewed over the past year say the tight schedule cuts short precious time for mother and infant to bond and breast-feed, forcing women to choose between their loyalty to their comrades — as well as their careers — and nurturing their families. . .

“Shaw works 12 hours a day (in Iraq), with half a day off each week . . .”

Twelve hours a day in the Iraq war, half a day off a week, a baby at home. What kind of civilization would do this? Even the Romans, in the last days of the empire, didn’t send mothers to defend the frontiers.

More from The Washington Post:

“About 10 percent of women in the military become pregnant each year, and an estimated 75,000 military offspring are younger than 1, according to the Government Accountability Office. . . .

“”Without women we would not make our volunteer numbers, so if we destroy the interest of women to volunteer it puts us in a particularly bad place, because the nation does not want a draft,” said Maj. Gen. Gale Pollock, deputy Army surgeon general for force management.

“We need to look at the fact that many women want to serve but they also want to be mothers,” Pollock said. “It’s a medical issue, it’s a mental health issue. Your ability to bond with your children is . . . very important.”

Well. The USA wants to be a military power and impose its will on the world. We want oil. We don’t want the draft. We want privilege without service. We want wealth without sacrifice.

I hear it now: “But they volunteered for the Army.” People play the hand they’re dealt. Not to over-simplify, but the children of doctors choose between medical school and law school. The children of coal miners choose between coal mining and the Army.

Mothers at war and babies at home is the most extreme symptom of a wider, deeper failure. The lean, mean American economy is not family-friendly nor child-friendly.

This is a hard time to be a child. Families are stressed to the breaking point. America is not willing to provide good schools for all its children. Neglect of children is endemic and systemic in America.

I am not blaming individuals or families, although we all make individual choices and the choices have consequences. I am talking about us collectively, as a society, as an economy, as a nation.

Do we want to be a society that abandons its children? — Bernie Hayden