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Front Page » February 9, 2010 » Opinion » Don't ask, don't tell
Published 1,685 days ago

Don't ask, don't tell


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By TOM MCCOURT
Sun Advocate Columnist

It wasn't a surprise. Our President wants to end the "don't ask, don't tell" policy and allow homosexuals to serve "openly" in the U.S. military. He said it last month during his state of the union address. Most of us didn't see it because Obama is on TV more than Oprah and we've learned to dial him out.

His remarks were met with enthusiasm in some circles. Liberals say it's a matter of civil rights. Some left-leaning politicians claim it's a constitutional issue like freedom of speech or freedom of expression. Gay activists say it's all about the freedom "to be who they really are." Terrorists think it's a good idea, too. The more social experimenting we do in the military, the more likely we are to weaken our combat effectiveness.

So what's the problem? Gays have always served in the military, most with honor and some with distinction. There's no doubt they can do the job. It's just that up until now we usually didn't know they were homosexual and it really didn't matter as long as they kept it to themselves. But now, all of that is about to change, thanks to a liberal congress and a commander-in-chief who never served in the military.

The key word is "openly." Since the days of general George Washington, gays have never been allowed to serve "openly" in the military. The policy has been that practicing homosexuals are discharged because homosexuality compromises military decorum, good order, and unit cohesion. As a former Army officer and combat soldier, I agree with that policy. Sexual expression in any form is out of order while wearing the uniform. And when we begin to classify soldiers by things like sexual identity, religion, or national origin, we destroy the necessary camaraderie and esprit de corps (spirit of the unit) that makes a fighting force effective.

To most warriors, it doesn't matter if a fellow soldier is Catholic, Mormon, Jewish, or agnostic. It doesn't matter if he's liberal, conservative, Democrat or Republican. It doesn't matter if he's gay, straight, neutered, or indifferent. Just do the job and don't preach your religion or politics in the ranks and don't flaunt your sexuality in the semi-intimate closeness of the barracks. To quote the late Clark Gable, "frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." I don't want to know about it, see it, hear it, or be forced to make concessions to it. Be who you "really are" on your own time and someplace other than our shared living quarters. You infringe upon my rights when you make me an unwilling witness. That is why "don't ask, don't tell" is a good policy. Only those who openly celebrate their gayness are discharged. Keep your mouth shut, behave respectably, do your job, and no one has a problem. What's wrong with that?

What does it mean to serve "openly" as a homosexual in the military? No one has made that clear yet. Do gays get to wear special uniforms or insignia that identifies their sexual orientation? Can they hold hands in the ranks and address each other with terms of endearment? Do they get special arrangements with sleeping quarters and shower facilities? Will they organize special gay units? Will they have their own rainbow colored battle flag? Will there be special awards or decorations for meritorious homosexual conduct? Where are we going with this?

And there are other considerations. Will having "open" homosexuals in the ranks affect the rules governing male and female soldier behavior? Will gays be required to meet the same standards, or will regulations on sexual misconduct be changed to accommodate their coming out? Will homosexuals be allowed to recruit others from within the ranks? What happens when a homosexual advance is sharply rebuffed? Will corporal straightguy be charged with a hate crime if he is offended or actively resists?

What about housing? Will gay couples compete with soldier families for government housing? How about facilities in the field? Will straight soldiers be forced to share pup tents and open-air latrines with active and outspoken homosexuals? Will all soldiers be as tolerant as they are expected to be when gay soldiers pair-up on the battlefield? Can we maintain unit cohesion? "He's your special buddy, you go get him before he bleeds to death."

I don't think we want to go there, especially while our armed forces are suffering the stress and strain of fighting two wars and multiple long-term deployments. Don't ask, don't tell, has served us well. Let's not impose a whole new batch of problems on our troops.

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February 9, 2010
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