US: "Don't ask, don't tell" endangers us all

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon Oct 2 08:03:25 UTC 2006


Dont Ask, Dont Tell Endangers us All
Gene C. Gerard

Last month the Bush administration announced that Marine Corps Individual
Ready Reservists are being recalled to duty. This is due to a shortage of
soldiers who are willing to serve additional tours in Iraq and
Afghanistan. There are similar shortages in the Army and the National
Guard. Yet the Armed Forces saw an 11 percent increase last year in the
number of soldiers who were discharged simply because they were gay.
Perhaps never since the inception of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' has there
been a more glaring reason to abandon this misguided military policy.
According to newly released Pentagon figures a total of 742 service
members were discharged last year for being gay. Thats an increase over
the 668 soldiers discharged under the policy in 2004. Since 1993, when the
policy was implemented, approximately 11,000 military personnel have been
discharged for being gay. Theres little doubt that this has served only to
weaken our Armed Forces, and endanger our national security interests.

Last year the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the nonpartisan
investigative office of Congress, released a report on Dont Ask, Dont
Tell. The report found that the military had discharged more than 300
language specialists who hadskills in a foreign language that DOD had
considered to be especially important. And the GAO report determined that
nearly 800 military specialists, including those in intelligence,
analysts, divers, and combat controllers were discharged, despite holding
an occupation identified as critical. While the discharge of all soldiers
since 1993 is troublesome, this is particularly the case regarding Arabic
language experts.

The report by the 9/11 Commission acknowledged that the governments
inability to translate Arabic communications quickly and efficiently
contributed to the terrorist attacks of 2001. Yet no less than 55 Arabic
language specialists have been discharged because they were gay. This
summer, Army sergeant Bleu Copas, a decorated and well respected Arabic
language expert, was discharged under Dont Ask, Dont Tell. Discharging
Arabic language specialists during a period in which, as the Bush
administration frequently remind us, we are engaged in a global war on
terrorism, is counterproductive.

It takes years of intensive study to master Arabic languages. Given these
demands, its not surprising that few service members are willing to commit
themselves to learning these languages. For the military to fire 55 of
these dedicated specialists is foolish. It places our military personnel
serving in Iraq and Afghanistan in greater danger, because they lack
sufficient translators. And its a threat to our national security, because
the various military intelligence agencies lack adequate language
specialists to translate Arabic communications. Many Americans no doubt
agree with C. Dixon Osburn, the executive director of Servicemembers Legal
Defense Fund, an organization that advocates on behalf of gay soldiers,
when he recently said, No American cares if the person who thwarts a plot
to blow up an airplane is gay. We care that our nation is secure. In fact,
most Americans do agree. A Gallup poll taken earlier this year found that
a whopping 79 percent of Americans favor allowing gays to serve openly in
the military.

And although Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is unwilling to
reconsider the policy, an increasing number of former defense and military
officials support reversing the ban. Former Secretary of Defense William
Perry, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence J. Korb, Admiral
John Hutson, USN (Retired), and Claudia Kennedy, the first woman in Army
history to achieve the rank of Lieutenant General, have all called for an
end to Dont Ask, Dont Tell. Former Lt. General Kennedy called on Congress
this summer to end the ban on gays serving in the military. She argued
that, The Army teaches its soldiers to live by seven values: loyalty,
duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and courage. Tell me:
which is only found in the heterosexual population? If a young man or
woman wishes to serve his or her country, and defend this nation, they
shouldnt be barred from doing so simply by virtue of their sexual
orientation. And we certainly shouldnt be stopping them at this time in
our history.

Our military now needs competent and experienced personnel more than at
any time since World War II. According to Pentagon figures, the Army is
bracing for a shortage of 2,500 captains and majors this year, and the
shortage is expected to grow to 3,300 by 2007. The Department of Defense
has attempted to overcome recruitment shortages in the last year by
relaxing enlistment requirements concerning age, physical fitness,
education, and even criminal history. Clearly, we cannot afford to
continue to prevent men and women from serving our nation in the military
simply because they are gay.

Gene C. Gerard taught history, religion, and ethics for 14 years at
several colleges in the Southwest, and is a contributing author to the
forthcoming book Americans at War, by Greenwood Press. He writes a
political blog for the world news website OrbStandard at e-mail: genecgerard at


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