Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Copyright © by Len Holman, 10/22/10


  Every bureaucracy is a thicket of rules—some official, some not—regulations, norms, procedures and an overall tendency to stifle creativity and to make the easy very hard and the very simple impossible.  So it is with the military.

  A U.S. District judge ruled that the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is an unconstitutional violation of First Amendment and due process rights—and right away, the battle was joined because, as everyone knows, an army can’t fight very well with homosexuals in its ranks.  Just ask Israel, which has had an “open” policy for many years and has been woefully inadequate in defending itself from its legion of enemies.  The military is “reviewing” its policy, and the current administration has filed for a stay until the military gets done with figuring out what to do.  However many years that takes.  In the meantime, the 9th Circuit Court has, in fact, stayed that order until maybe February or whenever the military finishes its review and can then stonewall some more, using, perhaps, the excuse that gayness is incompatible with the military mission of making the world one big Wal-Mart because everyone knows that gay men shop only at trendy boutiques.

  As in any bureaucracy worth its salt, the military has its stated reasons, its explanations, its justifications, no matter how convoluted the jargon, no matter how tortured the argumentation, and no matter how opposed to reality its views are.  Some of them—ok, ALL of them are real howlers.  These statements clearly show that West Point needs work on the logic curriculum it teaches future generals and that whatever the skills of the person making the argument, the proposition he or she has to defend are plainly indefensible.  It’s also clear that the military should stick to defending the nation, helping citizens in times of national crises, like Hurricane Katrina, and keeping the world’s arms suppliers at full employment.

  Here is a sampling of some of the statements made, largely paraphrased for reasons of clarity and sanity.  The immediate implementation of this judicial order is being called “abrupt,” as if no one noticed that this policy has been under intense criticism for years, as if no one noticed two years ago that our first Black President said he would end this policy on his watch.  Immediate implementation, the military and administration say, will cause the military to be disrupted, co-opted and generally flustered.  The claim is made that such a precipitous action as treating everyone in the military the same would be terrible without the proper education of officers and enlisted people, which is essential to morale, discipline and good order.  And, it is claimed, such a rush to personhood for gays would interrupt the on-going military review of the issue.  Also mentioned is the idea that this “transition” has to be done right, otherwise it would screw things up for the transitionees (which sounds to me like a threat, and I’m guessing not a few gays feel the same), thus “harming” the military and irrevocably ruining national security.  And man, that is one HELL of a list!

  For the administration, this is strictly a political choice, not a moral one.  There may be moral and ethical thoughts floating around the white house, but they are feathers in the wind compared to the turkey underneath.  The President wants congress to change the law, thus evading any personally onus for having done so.  He claims that since it was congress that originally did the deal, only congress can change it….says the commander-in-chief of the whole American military machine.  He is STILL thinking that he’ll reach across the aisle and gain bipartisan support.  The only bipartisanship exhibited by Republicans and their fellow travelers is that Obama needs to disappear, and their only split is the manner of his execution.  His supporters wonder why he just doesn’t pick up the phone and get it done, but he waffles much better the IHOP down the street and so the gay troops will teeter on the edge of the cliff of others’ political cowardice and repugnance for sanity and fairness.  Recruiters were, for a brief moment before the Ninth Circuit’s stay, being told to accept gay troops, as if prospective gay inductees should have tugged their forelocks and thanked the Massa for that handful of crumbs that fell from supper’s pound cake.  It’s insulting and defies any logic except political, election logic.  And after the elections, will the congress be more receptive to the idea?  Should Michael Vick train your kid’s next puppy?  So if the President doesn’t do it, it’s not going to get done any time soon, no matter what platitudes the Secretary of Defense may utter.  And here’s why all those so-called arguments are not arguments at all—just excuses, and bad ones at that.

  All of this assumes that our young American soldiers don’t already know who’s gay and who’s not in their units.  If they do, and gay troops are so detrimental to morale, mission, and discipline, why aren’t the Taliban already roaming the Afghan capital, shutting off all the radios and making women go back to hiding in caves?  If there are gays already serving (and we all know they are because the military wants them out, and they can’t want people out who aren’t there), how in hell did we accomplish ANYTHING in Iraq, not to mention WWII or ANY war?  And this so-called rush to implementation?  Well, maybe the military is taking its cues from the Catholic Church, which seems to need a great deal of time to identify, move, re-assign, hide and create wonderful new opportunities for priests who really like little boys. 

  As far as educating the chain of command is concerned, that argument is a non-starter.  The chain of command needs but one instruction:  treat gays like straights.  Ok, next lesson.  If a superior has sex with someone below him or her in the command chain, there are appropriate sanctions for that.  If rape occurs, there are appropriate sanctions for THAT.  With gay soldiers there would be LESS sexual worry and much less paperwork, considering the pregnancy rate in the services since women began serving in combat zones is sky high, but gay soldiers don’t go there. Can’t go there.  Don’t WANT to go there.

  In sum, there are no good reasons to keep gays from enlisting.  It’s not like we have a surplus of Arabic speakers.  It’s not like we have an army the size of China’s and enlisting too many gays will make us run out of uniforms.  It’s not like insurgents will only shoot gay soldiers.  And it’s not like we haven’t spent our entire, sordid, conflicted history touting our democratic values to the rest of the world while we have supported dictators and various smelly regimes (see, for example: Stalin, Papa “Doc” Duvalier, the Shah of Iran, Karzai and Saddam) for our own purposes, only to show the world that some of our citizens aren’t ready for democratic prime time.  Good lesson for that mythical “world community” we’re always going on about.


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