Friday, December 3, 2010

Don't Ask, Grow Up

"It's important that we're clear about the military risks," said Gen. George Casey, the Army's top officer. "Repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell' would be a major cultural and policy change in the middle of a war."

With all due respect to the Honorable John McCain (R-Arizona) and General John Casey, it is indeed time to repeal the military policy commonly known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." And to the hot-heads, pick 'n choose moralists, and pseudo-conservatives, save the "This is about special rights for gays" argument for somewhere else.

The reason why "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) has outlived its usefulness (presume it has a usefulness at some point, please) is that serving in the armed forces for the purpose of defending the US Constitution -- and the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic -- is a duty that anyone, regardless of religion, race, gender, or creed has a right to fulfill. If you can hold a rifle, fly a plane, maintain a vehicle, or do any of the myriad of tasks required by our modern military, your color, race, sexual preference, political beliefs, of anything else that makes you who you are is -- must be -- subordinate to fulfilling your duty while in the service of our great, special Nation.

Let's run this out to a logical conclusion. Consider these scenarios: Black soldiers won't fire on black enemies? A Christian won't fly a mission against a Christian opponent? A woman, in the execution of an order, won't fly a Predator (MQ-1) and launch a Hellfire missile against a Taliban target that might be female? Silly, really. Check your history. There is no evidence -- none -- that indicates gays or lesbians can't, haven't, or won't execute their assigned mission. In other words, if one can do the job, they should be allowed to do the job. I would honor - and you should, too - any veteran, whether they are like you or very different than you. In some way, honoring a veteran who is different than you might be even more important. I call you to remember the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, African-American aviators who served in World War II with great distinction, while at the same time being actively discriminated by their own Nation. You don't have to like "gayness", or for that matter anything else. But is morally wrong to disallow someone from serving their -- our -- Nation because you are uncomfortable with them.

I feel compelled to dismantle two points reported this week in the hearings on the matter of DADT. First, early this week, the Senator from Arizona "misspoke" when he questioned Robert Gates' service record, in a thinly veiled attempt to show that his own service record (and Mr. McCain, indeed has honorably served our Nation) makes him more expert to speak about DADT than Mr. Gates. Look up Gates' record if you want, but trust me when I say Mr. Gates has ample -- even extraordinary -- experience to discuss the impact of the repeal of DADT on the command structure of the modern US military. And Mr. Gates, after a long, serious, conservative study of the impact of gays serving openly in the military, has gone on the record saying repealing DADT won't negatively affect our ability to defend ourselves.

For a moment, allow that these honorable gentlemen's service records balance each other out; then deciding on the future of DADT comes down to what is right, not politically popular with one's base. Sadly, McCain is arguing against comments he has made in years past regarding DADT, and sullying his outstanding record in a drive to the right for short-term political gain. Don't go right, John. Be right. Apologize for the cheap shot against Mr. Gates' record, acknowledge your concern, bias, and phobia. And then, get on the right side of history.

General Casey's comments are far more insidious -- and more troubling -- than he perhaps he intended. First, while he was testifying under oath and in uniform -- and I trust speaking from the heart -- he approached speaking dishonorably by publicly challenging the command authority. His answers approached what will be interpreted by some, if not most, as insubordinate. He -- in fact and by law -- must support any change to (or preservation of) DADT without hesitation. He may have personal opinions -- even professional opinions -- but they are not valid in this domain. He may have done serious damage to not only his career, but worse, caused real harm to the command structure by indicating, passively or by implication, that following orders are a choice or preference. Following orders in the military are not subject to personal opinion. Ever.

What is his shield, his rally point? That the US can't change policy while at war. This statement is far scarier, far more fanatical, than his view point on DADT. Does he really believe we can't change course or policy while in a war? That, my loyal reader, is terrifying. First, we have been at war for nine years with no end in sight, although one might rationally debate whether an actual legal state of war exists. Can he really posit that we can't change any policy that affects the military while engaged in armed conflict? Well, we already have, multiple times. We have changed policy on stop-loss. We have changed command structures. We have changed policy that affects strategy in Afghanistan, just like we changed policy about how we executed the mission in Iraq, forgetting for a moment that we changed the goals and mission profoundly while in that ongoing conflict. To not change policy in the face of new tactical or strategic understanding, is preposterous on its face. We can expect to be at war -- or in a state of semi-active armed conflict -- for years to come. General Casey would have us deny Americans the right to serve until we are conflict-free? We would deny access to serve to our fellow citizens until it is convenient and easy to "give" those rights? No, sir. We must do the right thing, the American thing, most importantly when it isn't easy. We may not be at peace in our life time; the Constitution doesn't prescribe rights only when we are happy, safe, and prosperous. We must do what is right, even when we don't want to. In fact, we must do what is right when even considering change causes us great trepidation.

This issue is not about being gay, or accepting gay lifestyle. This is an issue of rights, of supporting the Constitution, of maintaining a military representative of all Americans. To those who say that there is something wrong about being gay, you may hold that opinion and I honor your right to believe it. I can - in turn - think you are wrong, but I must accept that your belief -- as unpleasant as I find it -- is your belief. But as a Nation, we must respect all citizens' rights and access to our institutions. We must allow anyone able to serve simply to serve. Mind your own business, and if you don't want to know if the veteran marching in the parade is gay, don't ask. But grow up, would you? If they are willing to sacrifice their safety, their health, even their life, to preserve your rights, do you really care if they are gay? America, it is time to grow up.

1 comment:

  1. Standing ovation over here, Mr. Odd. I hope you are sending this letter to every newspaper and political blog out there. Incredibly written. Bravo.


Please don't take me too seriously.