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The Boston Globe

Opinion

juliette kayyem

Pentagon rules excluding women aren’t worth defending

It has come to this. Four military women, each having served in Afghanistan or Iraq, have sued the Pentagon over its combat exclusion rules. The plaintiffs come from the Rosa Parks school of activism: They only want what they deserve. Each one either faced the enemy, won the Purple Heart, or been injured by IEDs on the streets of Baghdad or Kabul. Their legal complaint takes on the confusing rules that prohibit them from “combat,” and yet, because of the nature of warfare today, allow them to fight. The fact that the military doesn’t give them credit for fighting limits their chances for promotion and the opportunity to learn new skills. The combat rules fool no one, least of all these plaintiffs. Women are at war.

But enough about them. The Pentagon has no one else to blame but itself for the lawsuit. Secretary Leon Panetta, the named defendant, will now have to answer their claims. Defendants have a tendency to miss the big picture while under legal assault; he might opt to fight this on procedural and constitutional grounds. But there is only one way for the Pentagon to actually win this war, a war of their own making against the women who constitute 14 percent of the 1.4 million active military personnel, including 280,000 women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Defense Department can finally end the exclusion rules and make the case moot.

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