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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

IS THIS FINALLY THE END OF DADT?

“Senator McCain is a hero of mine . . . I felt that I owed him personally and his generation a debt and I wanted to repay that with service to my country.”

These are the words spoken by Lt. Colonel Fehrehnbach on the Rachel Maddow Show last night (02/02/2010). They cut me to the heart, because Lt. Col. Fehrehnbach, like Lt. Dan Cho and 13,500 OTHER GLBT members of the military aren’t going to be allowed to continue their careers. Because they’re queers. OPEN queers. Just like me – and about 100,000 OTHER GLBT former members of the military. Like Grethe Cammermeyer.

I was at one time a very conservative Republican here in Texas - until 1997, the year that I finally came out of the closet. I was challenged by a gay male friend to tell him exactly what it was that I found so attractive about the Republican Party, since I was now out, and since the platform OF the party was so inimicable to the GLBT community. So, I went and looked - and almost overnight became a liberal Democrat.

As my life has evolved, I have gradually returned to appreciating some of the core values of the Republican Party, while still appreciating and working for the social justice programs that the Democratic Party supports. That's why I now list myself as an independent; I cannot fully support the complete platforms and political agendas of either party, so I try my best to follow my conscience and work for and support those policies with which I DO agree. One of the policies with which I’ve got serious, SERIOUS issues is that contemptible compromise that President Bill Clinton betrayed the GLBT service members, and indeed the entire GLBT community that wanted to serve with called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.
(He did the same thing with DOMA, but that's an entirely different column).

I'm one of those that "served in silence" for 20+ years. I find it truly distressing that there is so much controversy surrounding repeal of DADT, because we have lost – hell, thrown away - some of our best and brightest to this entirely unnecessary and discriminatory policy. I especially loathe Senator John McCain’s shallow, self-righteous and self-serving nonsense on this policy. He was for the policy in 2004. Now, because he’s facing a serious challenge to his Senate seat from a Tea Partier, he’s taken the opposite position – and in so doing, he’s betrayed soldiers like Lt. Col. Fehrehnbach.

Today, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell made a statement that made me doubt my own sanity. Seriously. I honestly looked outside to see if the sky was opening up to swallow up the earth. Today, Colin Powell came out in support of repealing DADT. He was one of the chief architects of this policy – and he’s changed his mind. I REALLY think that I hear a choir of turtles singing the Brahms REQUIEM.

“In the almost 17 years since the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed,” General Powell said in a statement issued by his office. He added: “I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen.”

Robert M. Gates, the defense secretary, and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers on Tuesday that they supported President Obama’s proposal to repeal the 1993 law forbidding gay men and lesbians to be open about their sexuality while serving in uniform. Admiral Mullen was the first Joint Chiefs chairman ever to take that position, signaling the evolution in attitudes both inside the military and in the broader society since the debate under President Bill Clinton.

When Mr. Clinton tried to end the ban on gay soldiers, General Powell was the Joint Chiefs chairman and opposed the move on the grounds that it would undermine discipline and order in the military but he supported the “don’t ask” compromise. In his statement on Wednesday, General Powell said “the principal issue has always been the effectiveness of the Armed Forces and order and discipline in the ranks.” He noted that he had said for the past two years that it was “time for the law to be reviewed,” but his new statement of unequivocal support for the effort by Mr. Gates and Admiral Mullen could be an important factor as the debate moves forward this year.

Wow. Just, WOW. This is the second time in this past year or so that I’ve sat and cried, and thought to myself, “I DID live long enough to see it”. First time was when President Obama was sworn in, and the sky didn’t fall. This is the second time – and the sky STILL hasn’t fallen.

NOW, I’d like to know just why it’s going to take a year to decide that the GBLT members of the military community not only don’t want to but also are NOT interested in running rampant in the barracks, slavering lustfully after heterosexual men and women. As Lt. Col. Fehrehnbach pointed out last night on the Rachel Maddow show, 25 member countries of the UN have sexually desegregated, and – GOSH, folks – NOTHING HAPPENED. Nothing. AT ALL. Well, actually, something DID happen. The unit members were a lot more comfortable with each other, morale actually went UP, and these countries didn’t throw away some of their best and brightest members because of sexual orientation. NOBODY CARED, after about a month.So, WHY is it going to take a year to get rid of DADT?

Some of the provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice provide for either a General Discharge, a Bad Conduct Discharge, or a dismissal from service for “Conduct Unbecoming”.
(Citation: http://www.qrd.org/qrd/orgs/CMS/1993/BriefingBook/BB06-fs-UCMJ). I’ve put the citation up because there is an explanation of it at the end of the citation, which y’all need to read. The other articles that were cited last night as grounds for dismissal with prejudice were adultery (yeah, and when was the last time that THAT happened?), arson, murder (same comment, see Lt. Calley and what happened to him), and “visible body art” IE tattoos. Seen any UNtattoed Marines lately? Me neither!


Which brings me back to Senator McCain. He was gung-ho in 2004 for modifying or getting completely rid of Article 125. Now he thinks that having openly GLBT folks serving in the military would have a “deleterious effect” on morale and unit cohesion. I wonder, has he talked to the members of Lt. Cho’s former unit? THEY all knew he was gay, and they didn’t give a damn. Neither did they tell anybody. Senator McCain is a great example of what NOT to be and what NOT to do – an inspiration that’s turned out, in the end, to be nothing more or less than a sleaze.

Y'know what it would take to do the research for ending DADT? About 10 phone conferences over the course of about a month, collation of that information, which shouldn't take longer than about a week, and then presentation OF that material, which shouldn't take longer than about three days, at most. Then, VOTE THE DAMNED UNCONSTITUTIONAL DISCRIMINATORY POLICY OUT, OUT, OUT! Restore those service members that want to complete their terms of service, give them the rank that they would have attained had they been allowed to serve openly, and get past this most shameful, horrific latest episode in American military history. The same things that are now being prophesized for the inclusion of openly GLBT service members were also predicted when President Truman desegregated the troops after WWII - and the sky didn't fall then. It's not going to fall now, either.

Mr. John. Elliott, who is a former GOP spokesman for the Armed Services Committee, had this to say today on NPR: “There’s a camp, privately among Republicans, that believe that the party would probably be better off not going to the mat over something that is - that has the support of the top of the military as well as a lot in the rank and file, and something that is rapidly becoming a nonissue for younger generations of voters.”

A non-issue. Sexual orientation becoming irrelevant in job performance.

I AM going to live long enough to see it, after all.

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