Commentator Bryan Fischer's persistent, incendiary remarks about the feminization of the Congressional Medal of Honor are his own deliberate fabrication and not some media distortion. The backlash they have provoked is likewise his own fault. He said them without apology and for effect, and is still saying them, even as he tries to frame his message around the point that we need to honor more "take the hill" acts of bravery as well as those who place the lives of their comrades above their own.
This is disingenuous, to say the least. In his repetition of "feminization" in the title of his published remarks (now stretched out in a three part series), Fischer unashamedly values "masculine" attributes - those who "kill people and break things" - at the expense of "feminine" qualities of courage. Extraordinary heroism and uncommon valor does not make this distinction.
He says we have become squeamish about presenting the Medal of Honor to those who kill the enemy, noting there have been no "take the hill" MOH citations in either Iraq or Afghanistan (he could also have added Somalia, for the two special forces members killed in the Black Hawk Down rescue and extraction in 1993).
There have been four Medal of Honor citations for soldiers serving in Iraq and four in Afghanistan, all of them but the latest for Staff Sergeant Giunta presented posthumously. We are certainly not squeamish about recognizing those who make the supreme sacrifice defending their comrades.
This is a very small sample size from which to draw the sort of conclusion that Fischer has made regarding one kind of valor being preferentially recognized over another in contemporary Medal of Honor citations. He makes very selective and slanted use of history. From the very beginning, there have been many Medal of Honor recipients who have been recognized for saving lives, to name just a few:
- [Civil War] "During the attack on Charleston, while serving on board the U.S.S. Keokuk, Q.M. Anderson was stationed at the wheel when shot penetrated the house and, with the scattering of the iron, used his own body as a shield for his commanding officer."
- [Civil War] Seaman Avery and Quarter Gunner Baker "braved the enemy fire which was said by the admiral to be "one of the most galling" he had ever seen, and aided in rescuing from death 10 of the crew of the Tecumseh, eliciting the admiration of both friend and foe."
- [Indian Wars] "At McClellans Creek, Tex., 8 November 1874, Captain Baldwin received his second Medal of Honor citation after he "rescued, with 2 companies, 2 white girls by a voluntary attack upon Indians whose superior numbers and strong position would have warranted delay for reinforcements, but which delay would have permitted the Indians to escape and kill their captives."
- [Spanish American War] At Tayabacoa, Cuba, 30 June 1898. Private Bell, 10th U.S. Cavalry, "voluntarily went ashore in the face of the enemy and aided in the rescue of his wounded comrades; this after several previous attempts at rescue had been frustrated."
- [WWI] "During an operation against enemy machinegun nests west of Varennes, Cpl. Call was in a tank with an officer when half of the turret was knocked off by a direct artillery hit. Choked by gas from the high-explosive shell, he left the tank and took cover in a shellhole 30 yards away. Seeing that the officer did not follow, and thinking that he might be alive, Cpl. Call returned to the tank under intense machinegun and shell fire and carried the officer over a mile under machinegun and sniper fire to safety."
- [WWII] "For conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage, and complete disregard of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. As Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. West Virginia, after being mortally wounded, Capt. Bennion evidenced apparent concern only in fighting and saving his ship, and strongly protested against being carried from the bridge."
- [WWII] "During the early part of his imprisonment at Makassar in April 1942, [Navy Lieutenant] Antrim saw a Japanese guard brutally beating a fellow prisoner of war and successfully intervened, at great risk to his own life. For his conspicuous act of valor, Antrim later received the Medal of Honor."
There are many more citations like these for recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Despite all protestations to the contrary, Fischer's irresponsible use of the term "feminization" is not just insulting to men and women; it dishonors the heroism of these servicemen.
At the heart of Fischer's words, of course, are the culture wars, and a fundamentalist nostalgia for an American values system that predates the 1960s. America today in fact does value minimizing casualties in modern wars. Iraq and Afghanistan are very different conflicts than the battlefields of Europe or the atolls of the South Pacific, where territory was conquered at a tremendous cost, as Fischer bluntly puts it, in people killed and things broken.
There were 16 million American men and women in uniform during World War II. 464 Medals of Honor were presented for actions taken during that war, 266 of them posthumously, and most, it is fair to say, for fearlessness and ferocity in combat, often when on the defensive. All were for selfless acts, and it is this quality, above all others exhibited by Medal of Honor recipients past and present, that is in keeping with the highest traditions of the service. Fischer's actions, however, belong in the ash heap of history.