Monday, April 23, 2018

Isn’t it “sexist” to be in “awe” that Southwest pilot did her job?

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt may be not only morally and ethically corrupt but also juvenile in his need to lie about things than can easily be refuted, but that is just the kind of person that Donald Trump apparently holds in the highest esteem—likely because it describes he himself so well. So, we are need in “heroes,” even if they need to be manufactured. For example, following the Southwest Airlines flight that was forced to land with one engine after the other exploded causing the death of  one person, Captain Tammie Jo Shults was given endless superlatives to describe her efforts to land the plane: “heroic,” “incredible,”  “calm,” “impressive,” even “we shouldn’t be surprised hero pilot is a woman.” Well, forgive me for being overly cynical, but I think everyone on that flight is happy that they didn’t have a pilot who didn’t crack-up; after all, why would anyone want to be 30,000 feet in the air on a commercial aircraft if they didn’t think the people who flew the thing were actually competent to do so?  It is also worth noting that aircraft with more than one engine are designed to be able to fly on just one engine in an emergency, and pilots receive extensive flight simulation training to do so. I also suspect that the presence of a co-pilot who was an Air Force veteran (rather than a Navy flight trainer for most of seven years in the service) helped her to be “calm,” “heroic” and “impressive.”

There seems to be a number of definitions of what a “hero” is, often political. In Chris Stuckman’s YouTube video essay “The Problem with Action Movies Today,” he notes that in the film Lucy, once Scarlett Johansson’s character “unlocked” her mind, there was “no one left alive to challenge her,” and she left a predictable number of people dead without blinking an eye, making her “action” scenes “tensionless.” How can you care about a “hero” who is invulnerable, a mere killing machine? Why would you even call someone like that a “hero”? The only people who can “identify” with such a person are those who like to see a lot of people die, especially if they are all males. Another problem is that for some people such juvenile revenge fantasies are “real.” Back in the day if there were such invulnerable characters, they were nearly always evil and a human “hero” was forced to use some inventive way to destroy them. If there were “humans” who could wipeout hoards of other humans, like Victor Mature’s Samson in the 1949 film, who supposedly kills 10,000 Philistine soldiers with the jaw bone of an Ass, we know that it is not the literal truth, but a symbol of the power of some higher being. 

But more to the point, a real “hero” is someone who risks his or her own life to save that of others. To her credit, Shults acknowledged that she had help from her co-pilot, Darren Ellisor, and they both stated that they were not “heroes,” but just doing their jobs. What can be said is that there was no “pilot error” in this case, unlike that of the US Airways flight made famous by the film Sully, in which “pilot error” can be said to be the reason why that plane's engines were damaged was because the pilots flew the plane through a flock of geese (much less excusable than a Horizon flight I saw that was forced to return to SeaTac Airport with a Peregrine falcon splattered on its cockpit window). We can also agree that not everyone can fly an airplane; that takes special skill and training. Hoorah. But if we needed “heroes” to fly them, then why would passengers ever feel “safe” during a flight? Some guy on was decrying the cynicism of people like me, but he still didn’t explain why Shults was more “heroic” than Ellisor or heroic at all. Juliette Kayyem of CNN praised her “nerves of steel,” not mentioning the co-pilot role; I also take that former Homeland Security official’s opinion with another touch of cynicism, because this is the same person who employed barely concealed racial code in her book Security Mom.

But is such cynicism deserved? Take two famous cases where white females received accolades for “heroic” action that was out of all proportion to the facts. Perhaps the most infamous example is that of Jessica Lynch, whose supply convoy in Iraq was ambushed and 11 soldiers killed in 2003. It was all over the media that Lynch had gone down fighting before being captured, and was repeatedly raped by her captors before being heroically rescued by American forces. She was later awarded a Bronze Star, which apparently has a different standard than when it did in, say, the Vietnam War. The truth, as Lynch herself confessed, was that she had been knocked unconscious and remembered nothing before she found herself in an Iraqi hospital. She had never fired her weapon, and she didn’t “remember” being sexually assaulted. 

Lynch also wasn’t the only soldier captured (there were five others, just not attractive white females) and one soldier, Lori Ann Piestewa (a Hopi Indian) was the first female soldier to die in the Iraq War. She was almost completely ignored by the media engaged in its Lynch propaganda machine. Lynch also received much more attention than Marine Sergeant Fernando Padilla-Ramirez, who was killed in another ambush a short time later, his body dragged through the streets of Ash Shatrah. His body was later hung in the town square; some town residents disturbed by what happened showed more respect for Padilla-Ramirez than the U.S. media, taking his body down and giving him a proper burial. 

Iraqi medical personnel did everything they could for the badly wounded Lynch, and even begged the U.S. military to take her off their hands. But U.S. officials were more interested in using Lynch for propaganda purposes, and the U.S. media was all in. It is interesting to note that U.S. forces did not attempt the rescue until after Iraqi security had left the area, thus the “rescue” was little more than a cakewalk. The Guardian offered this story from the Iraqi perspective:

The doctors in Nassiriya say they provided the best treatment they could for Lynch in the midst of war. She was assigned the only specialist bed in the hospital, and one of only two nurses on the floor. "I was like a mother to her and she was like a daughter,"says Khalida Shinah. 

"We gave her three bottles of blood, two of them from the medical staff because there was no blood at this time,"said Dr Harith al-Houssona, who looked after her throughout her ordeal. "I examined her, I saw she had a broken arm, a broken thigh and a dislocated ankle. Then I did another examination. There was no [sign of] shooting, no bullet inside her body, no stab wound - only RTA, road traffic accident," he recalled. "They want to distort the picture. I don't know why they think there is some benefit in saying she has a bullet injury." 

"We heard the noise of helicopters," says Dr Anmar Uday. He says that they must have known there would be no resistance. "We were surprised. Why do this? There was no military, there were no soldiers in the hospital. 

"It was like a Hollywood film. They cried, 'Go, go, go', with guns and blanks and the sound of explosions. They made a show - an action movie like Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan, with jumping and shouting, breaking down doors." All the time with the camera rolling. The Americans took no chances, restraining doctors and a patient who was handcuffed to a bed frame. 

There was one more twist. Two days before the snatch squad arrived, Al-Houssona had arranged to deliver Jessica to the Americans in an ambulance. "I told her I will try and help you escape to the American Army but I will do this very secretly because I could lose my life." He put her in an ambulance and instructed the driver to go to the American checkpoint. When he was approaching it, the Americans opened fire. They fled just in time back to the hospital. The Americans had almost killed their prize catch. 

A military cameraman had shot footage of the rescue. It was a race against time for the video to be edited. The video presentation was ready a few hours after the first brief announcement. When it was shown, General Vincent Brooks, the US spokesman in Doha, declared: "Some brave souls put their lives on the line to make this happen, loyal to a creed that they know that they'll never leave a fallen comrade." 

Dr Jamal Kadhim Shwail was the first doctor to examine Lynch when she was brought to Nassiriya's military hospital by Iraqi special police. 

Shwail said Lynch was lying in the crowded reception of the hospital, unconscious and in shock from blood loss. 

She was wearing her uniform including a flak jacket, military trousers and boots, none of her clothes had been unbuttoned or removed, as the book claims, he said. 

"We only had a few minutes to save her life, we found a vein in her neck to give her fluids and blood," Shwail told Reuters at his home in Nassiriya. 

A team of five doctors treated Lynch, who was given an anaesthetic to allow a 15-cm (six-inch) cut to her head to be stitched and her fractures realigned. 

No signs
He said her flak jacket was removed and her clothes were cut away to expose the injured sites. The anaesthetist cut away an area around her groin to insert a catheter to drain urine. 

Lynch, now 20, was the same age as his eldest daughter Noor, said Shwail. A copy of People magazine with the blonde soldier's smiling face on the cover lay on the couch beside him. 

"She was a woman, young and alone in a strange country," he said. "It was our duty to look after her and we did. Now people are saying she was raped... it pains us." 

Shwail said he saw no signs of rape but neither was he looking for them. 

"The thought did not cross my mind. Her injuries were consistent with severe trauma, a car crash, nothing else. Her clothes were not torn, her boots had not been removed. There is no way (she could have been raped)." 

Shortly afterwards Lynch was transferred to Saddam Hospital in Nassiriya, now renamed Nassiriya General. 

Body was broken
There, Dr Mahdi Khafazji operated on her fractured right femur when her condition had stabilised. He said he cleaned her body before surgery and found no signs of a sexual assault. 

"I examined her very carefully," he said at his private clinic in the centre of Nassiriya. "I cleaned her body including her genitalia. She had no sign of raping or sodomising." 

He said Lynch's injuries were so severe she would have died had she been sexually assaulted after she was wounded. 

"If she had been raped there is no way she could have survived it. She was fighting for her life, her body was broken. What sort of an animal would even think of that?" 

During the days Lynch was in hospital, Nassiriya was battered by fighting. 

Hundreds of civilian casualties poured into the hospital, but a senior medical team assigned to Lynch made sure she had the best care the hospital could provide, and a female nurse was constantly at her bedside, said Dr Khudair al-Hazbar, then deputy director of the Saddam hospital. 

"It was war, but we cared about her and we did everything we could for her," he said. "I spoke to her every day. She was frightened, but polite to us. I know she is grateful" 

On 1 April, after Iraqi forces had deserted the hospital, it was raided by US commandos. The event was filmed by the US military through a night-vision lens and Lynch was stretchered away. 

"They attacked the hospital at night. There were explosions outside which broke the windows. The patients were terrified," he said. "The Americans knew the Iraqi military had gone so why they didn't come for her quietly, I don't know." 

It seems that Lynch was actually in the “right” place in more ways than one; it also “helped” that she was an “attractive” blonde, blue-eyed white female. She even received money for a book deal which was entirely pointless, save for “clarifying” a few details that the media deliberately got wrong. Considering the way the media ignored the presence of a wounded black female soldier (Shoshana Johnson) who was also captured with Lynch, and the way the media later demonized and dehumanized a “white” Hispanic, George Zimmerman, who clearly acted in self-defense, the racial aspect cannot be ignored.

And then there was the case of the Fort Hood massacre perpetrated by Nidal Malik Hassan in 2009, who, we were breathlessly told by both the military and the media, was “felled” by a “heroic” military policewoman, Kimberly Munley. Or was he? According to an Associated Press story

One Fort Hood official described how a wounded Munley stayed on her feet in a raging gun battle with Hasan and ended his rampage with two well-placed bullets into his torso.

That account appears to be false.

Mark Todd, 42, said Thursday his bullets felled Hasan. Providing the most detailed account of the takedown, Todd said he and Munley arrived at the base processing center at the same time, but split up.

Munley encountered Hasan first and was shot three times in the ensuing gun battle. It's unclear if Hasan was hit.

Still on his feet, the blood-thirsty Army psychiatrist paused to load his handgun before Todd found him.

"I came around. I challenged him. I saw him turn toward me and I started taking fire again, and then I returned fire," Todd told NBC’s "Today" show. 

Todd said that his shots knocked Hasan off of his feet and he then he checked the gunman for other weapons.

"I thank God to this day that I wasn't hit," Todd added. "It was a miracle."

Note the term "blood-thirsty" being used as an "explanation" for Munley's failure. Although Munley exchanged fire with Hassan, she failed to hit him and was herself incapacitated by those three shots; Hassan apparently chose not to kill her, merely kicking her weapon away from where she lay. It was the civilian policeman, Todd (who is black), who eventually confronted Hassan and felled him after firing five shots. The interesting thing was that for a long time Todd’s role in the incident was a “mystery” to the media; Munley—who is of course white and “attractive”—was feted by the media, yet her role in the incident was in fact ineffectual. When the truth finally did surface, I recall how CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer displayed barely-disguised disgust that Todd would try to muscle-in on Munley’s “glory,” demeaning his own role.

Cynicism? Why not? I don’t think I’m being “sexist” here, either; women are no more or less human than men are. I think it is those who are “impressed” that a woman can act “calmly” and competently while doing the job they have been trained to do are the ones who are “sexist,” all things under consideration; it doesn’t “help” women’s credibility by lying about things they clearly did not do.

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