Monday, June 21, 2004

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Win


A study published today offers some results of a failed policy:

Even with concerns growing about waning numbers of military troops, 770 people were discharged for homosexuality last year under the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, a study to be released today shows.

The figure, however, is significantly lower than the record 1,227 discharges in 2001 — just before the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq. Since "don't ask, don't tell" was adopted in 1994, nearly 10,000 military personnel have been discharged — including linguists, nuclear warfare experts and other key specialists. . . .

Aaron Belkin, author of the study, said: "For the first time, we can see how [the policy] has impacted every corner of the military and goes to the heart of the military readiness argument." . . .
The study found that the Army, the largest of the services, was responsible for about 41% of all discharges. The Army has invoked "stop-loss" authority to keep soldiers from retiring or otherwise leaving if they're deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. . . .

Hundreds of those discharged had held key positions, including 90 nuclear power engineers, 150 rocket and missile specialists, and 49 nuclear, chemical and biological warfare specialists.

Of 88 linguists let go, at least were seven Arabic specialists.

In 1948 Harry Truman desegregated the Armed Forces over the objections of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who thought it would damage morale. They were wrong. He was right. If anything, desegregating the military made it possible for lots of minorities to succeed in the Armed Forces. Just ask Colin Powell.

One of Bill Clinton's great failures was initially proposing the right of gays to serve openly in the military, and then backing off and folding his tent in the face of opposition by military officials and right-wing homophobes. As so often happened in his first few years in office, Clinton chose the wrong moment to push for reform and then let his opponents roll him. This combination of political ineptness and moral cowardice led to the Don't Ask Don't Tell Policy, which, while nominally better than the policy of complete exclusion it replaced, nevertheless left gay and lesbian servicemen in an untenable legal limbo.

Of course, once the Republicans-- the party of great moral clarity-- took the White House, there was no chance that this injustice would be righted anytime soon.

I miss Harry Truman. And that's not just because I'm from Missouri.


Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.
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