Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Don't Ink, Don't Tell?

I have to admit that I wasn't crazy about the idea of including the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the military as part of President Obama's State of the Union speech last week. It has the potential as coming across as a "liberal-elite" agenda item while working Americans are struggling to pay bills.

But after reading about the testimony of Admiral Mullen, the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (appointed for his first term by President Bush and for his second term by President Obama) in the Senate Armed Services Committee, it's possible that the White House made a timely move.

Admiral Mullen started his testimony by proclaiming, "Speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do."

He went on to make this compelling point:

"No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens."
As the Washington Post's Dana Milbank noted,

Mike Mullen's 42 years in the military earned him a chest full of ribbons, but never did he do something braver than what he did on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

In a packed committee room, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff looked hostile Republican senators in the eye and told them unwelcome news: He thinks gays should be allowed to serve openly in the armed forces he commands.

But what may have made this, in addition to a moral imperative, a wise political move, was the ridiculous response of the Republican Senators in opposition to an open policy on homosexuality.

Senator McCain, for example, reneged on his 2006 promise to consider repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" if the top brass recommended it.

But surely the Senator was not surprised by Adm. Mullen's statement that he had knowingly served with gays since 1968, when he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. Did Senator McCain know some of his fellow officers were homosexual? Or is he totally ignorant?

By far the most interesting comment, however, was made by Georgia Republican Senator Chambliss. As Milbanks reports:

After Sessions and Wicker took their shots at the admiral, it was time for Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.). "In my opinion, the presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would very likely create an unacceptable risk," he said, putting homosexuality in a category with "adultery, fraternization and body art."
Body art?

My father was in the Navy in the South Pacific, and came back emblazoned with a tattoo on his arm. My uncles came back from World War II with similar "body art." I guess that was dangerous to unit morale. Good thing they got past that, or Philip Dick's classic "The Man in the High Castle" would be history instead of fiction.

Fortunately, Senator Udall from Arizona brought common sense back to the debate, by recalling the views of a Republican icon on the subject: "As Barry Goldwater once said, 'You don't have to be straight to shoot straight.'"

The Republican opponents of repeal

1 comment:

Habeaus Canem said...

I spent 8 years on active duty in the Army, including long combat deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan in an infantry brigade. Like McCain, I was an officer.

Anyone who says they served in the military and never knew a gay service member is either foolish or outright lying. I knew gay soldiers in every unit in which I served.

Think about it. In light of the codified and cultural discrimination they face, any gay man or woman who volunteers for the military must REALLY want to be there. That's one quality that separates the reliable, dedicated soldiers from bitter deadweights who are the real threat to unit integrity.

I admire Admiral Mullen for saying what many military men and women of reason think.