"But you can't fly this! It has guns!" That's an Iraqi man to Marine and Super Cobra pilot Katie Horner in Sunday's Washington Post Magazine. "I feel like Dr. Phil with guns," says Dan Kearney, a 26-year-old captain in charge of a particularly hellish mission in the Koregal Valley of Afghanistan to Sunday's New York Times Magazine. Women are still barred from hand-to-hand combat in the military, according to the Post, but that doesn't really matter since no one has the balls to do that anyway, according to the Times, which sent writer Elizabeth Rubin to Afghanistan to find out just why that war persists in killing sooooooo many people. Aside from the usual problem you hear about regarding the insurgents — they make friends with some tribe we inadvertently alienated when we were rooting out the evildoers — it's because we bomb them from the sky where we can't tell who's who and they use women and children as human shields.

And then the soldiers go into the village to give them food and toys and make nice and crap and then they see what they've done and feel bad and then right at the same time they get the shit bombed out of them and a soldier dies and everyone is like Why am I here again? and freaks out and gets really reckless and maybe kills a villager or two to blow off steam and then freaks out again and pines for their wives who are probably cheating on them. "It's like being in charge of a soap opera," says Kearney. Everyone's on medication. Everyone has PTSD. And it completely tests everyone's limits. As the new Pentagon counterinsurgency manual stresses: "Genuine compassion and empathy for the populace provides an effective weapon against insurgents," adding, "Effective leaders are as skilled at limiting lethal force as they are in concentrating it."Which brings us back to Katie Horner. Her father taught her to shoot/ "Never point a weapon at something you don't intend to kill," he told her.

Her father and brother shot doves. Horner shot skeet. She had a problem with hunting something she wasn't going to eat and didn't have any other reason to kill.

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Sure sounds like Captain Kearney could use her!

One day an Afghan visited their fire base, Sandifer told me. "I was staring at him, on the verge of picking up my weapon to shoot him," he said. "I know right from wrong, but even if I did shoot him everyone at the fire base would have been O.K. We're all to the point of 'Lord of the Flies.' "

She's tough, too!

How does Horner cope with the killing? She's unwinding in front of the TV in her living room, her feet tucked beneath her on the sofa. She frowns. "I didn't have to cope with it." She sounds annoyed. "I don't even like the word cope — it implies I had something to get over. I had nothing to get over. I feel like I reacted the same as everyone else."

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In brief: ther is nothing like war to bring out the true differences in men and women. Which are...ehhh, still foggy! Sort of like the reasons we're still fighting them?

Ready To Kill [Washington Post]
Battle Company Is here [NY Times]