OTR Interviews

Army PC gone too far? Proposed new handbook puts Taliban before women's rights

Proposed new handbook for Americans serving in Afghanistan warns them not to insult Taliban, advocate women's rights or criticize pedophilia


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," December 13, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: So what do you think about the warnings in a proposed new handbook for Americans serving in Afghanistan? the proposed guidelines telling U.S. troops not to criticize the Taliban or pedophilia, and not to advocate for women's rights. Now, what kinds of rules are those? And what message, if implemented, do these rules send to our troops?

Martha McSally is the first American female combat pilot and she took on the Defense Department to fight for women's rights in the Middle East. She joins us. Nice to see you.

COL. MARTHA MCSALLY, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): Thanks for having me.

VAN SUSTEREN: First of all, what is -- what are Army manuals? What is this Army manual?

MCSALLY: Well, it's an Army manual that comes out of the Center for Lessons Learned, that's news for the troops that are getting ready to train and deploy over to Afghanistan. It is proposed; it's not final yet. But this is absolutely ridiculous on many levels.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it says many --here's part of it, at least from one article. It says, "Many of the confrontations occur - " that means with the Afghanis, "is because of coalition" -- that's us - "ignorance or our lack of empathy for Muslims, and that lack of empathy for Afghan cultural norms, resulting in violent reactions from the Afghan security towards us."

MCSALLY: Right, and they're talking about these green-on-blue attacks that are happening, where the Afghan national security forces are turning on our troops and killing them. And they're - I mean, they're now connecting, like, somehow it's our troops' behavior by being insensitive to them on these issues that is bringing about their own murders. I mean, this is wrong on many levels but let's just talk about three of them.

The first is this is blaming the victim, instead of the act of terror and the act of murder. I mean, this is like telling a rape victim her skirt was too short. So that is just absolutely wrong. On the second level, it's a misunderstanding and a misanalysis of the complexity of these green- on-blue killings and how we need to be addressing them and making sure they don't happen. And thirdly, we're once again compromising our values as Americans and putting a little cultural sensitivity on our troops, confusing the issue and making our troops now -- what -- don't advocate for women's rights? Don't -- you know, don't criticize the Taliban? I mean, there is --

VAN SUSTEREN: And they do such horrible things to women. Are you just supposed to stand by as they do these horrible things to women and we're supposed to say, "That's OK."

MCSALLY: No, it's absolutely inappropriate and I've seen -

VAN SUSTEREN: Inappropriate? Worse, it's wrong.

MCSALLY: Yes, I'm sorry. I have other words, but I've seen this in my career, in many different times, where it's just a little cultural sensitivity is dangerous and it leads to strategic blunders like this.

VAN SUSTEREN: Maybe they need cultural sensitivity to us, like cultural sensitivity to the idea that we respect -- that we have women's rights here in this country. Maybe a little cultural sensitivity to us.

MCSALLY: Right, and the whole idea of building partner capacity in our forces is not just to train them, but to be an example to them of what we are like, our professionalism, our values. We've got a problem with sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military and the leadership trying to figure out what's the matter. Well, when you're coming up with manuals that says "Don't advocate for women's rights when you're deployed Afghanistan," it doesn't take a rocket scientist it's those kind of statements that are adding to our problem, even in the U.S. military.

VAN SUSTEREN: Here's one of my, quote, "favorites". The manual says that there should be no public criticism of pedophilia.

MCSALLY: I mean, how did write that? How did they even write that down?

VAN SUSTEREN: Who comes up with that one?

MCSALLY: Who comes up with it and how does that make that up the chain of command? They're in their final coordination of this thing I really hope - -

VAN SUSTEREN: General John Allen, though, who heads our Afghan - who heads our forces over there, he has rejected the manual. He says it's a lousy idea.

MCSALLY: Well, that's good to hear he's doing that, obviously. But this is now an of the Army that needs to actually make their own decision to stop this. It just needs to be, you know, stopped.

VAN SUSTEREN: Stopped. Nice to see you.

MCSALLY: Nice to see you again.