8 December 2010: Upholding military liberty

Trying to uphold military liberty

I for one am not holding my breath in anticipation of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell despite the overwhelming assent by “troops on the ground”—soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen/women alike—for allowing gay and lesbian cohorts to serve openly in the military and the more-overwhelmingly desire of the American people. Senate Republicans have their priorities: Nothing gets done until the uber-rich, their base as George W. Bush called them, get their permanent tax cut, equivalent to or more than a Wal-Mart checker’s annual take-home pay.

That stance also serves for them to hide what is really behind their refusal to can DADT: homophobic bigotry, plain and simple.

Of course, if there were Democrats with backbone in charge of the Senate, the histrionics of the Republicans would go on full display. All Majority Leader Harry Reid has to say is “If you want to filibuster, start talking because we aren’t leaving even for Christmas until this gets done.” Don’t expect that to happen either…something about preserving the dignity of the “world’s greatest deliberative body,” but I digress.

The fact that DADT is still on the books is an indicator of America’s third-world status when it comes to social and moral issues. As it is, the USA stands with shining beacons of national morality such as Iran on the issue of gays and lesbians serving in the military.

Nations allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly include Israel, Great Britain, France, Canada, and Australia. Of the 26 NATO countries, only the US, Portugal, and Turkey forbid such.

Interestingly, the Human Rights Campaign points out that within the civilian sphere, “CIA, FBI, Defense Intelligence Agency and Secret Service agents all serve proudly as openly gay and lesbian personnel fighting the war on terrorism.” So it seems gays and lesbians can serve as spooks without fear of being blackmailed—one cannot be blackmailed if he/she has nothing to hide—but cannot tote a gun and shoot those hell-bent on destroying our country.

The general American population gets it: Public opinion for repeal of DADT shows a remarkably high level of support “for any moral or ethical polling topic,” as the folks at the Religious Tolerance website note. Polls consistently indicate 75 to 81 percent of Americans want the law undone. That reflects a 30 to 35 point jump since 1993 when DADT was enacted. What part of the throw-away line “the American people want” don’t congressional Republicans get?

Repealing DADT is more than an issue of justice or fairness; it’s one of national security. Thousands of men and women who possessed critical skills such as Arabic language translators were inanely ousted during the Iraq War. Apparently, when it came to values, moral ickiness outranked keeping America safe from Saddam’s invisible WMD.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates made a serious point which ought to give resisters to repealing DADT pause: Either we do it legislatively or the courts will do it judicially. His message is DADT is akin to “separate but equal” in education and literacy tests in voting: inherently unconstitutional.

Ironically, Sen. John McCain has become the face of the opposition to repealing DADT. It’s not ironic due to McCain giving lie to his promise to wait and hear from the military leaders on the issue, implying he would honor their conclusion, but because Arizona was once represented by a noble conservative and veteran, Sen. Barry Goldwater, who framed the issue succinctly when he said, “It doesn’t matter whether the guy is straight; what matters is if he can shoot straight.”

In desperation, McCain is now using the fear argument that holds that if DADT is repealed, thousands of soldiers will leave the service. There are several problems with that, though. First, as Adm. Mullen has pointed out, they simply cannot just walk away; they have legal commitments. Second, that same argument was made in other countries when they transitioned and not one experienced it. Third, that line of thinking is condescending to those serving: They enlisted ostensibly to do their duty by fighting and perhaps dying for their country; patriotic servicemen and women will continue to do so.

Repealing DADT would signify another step forward in the inexorable course of our history in extending “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (Declaration of Independence) and “the blessings of liberty” (Constitution) to every American regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Doing so will require backbone on the part of Senate leaders and moral fortitude on the part of its members. We’ve been done this path a number of times over the past two years on a variety of issues. So, forgive me, but while hopeful I am not holding my breath.

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