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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Don't ask, don't tell - end of an era?

An interesting call from the Iron Teakettle over "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the military. He brings up the case of Cook v. Rumsfeld (PDF file), whereby several gay and lesbian military personnel where discharged under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, and sued over grievances that their rights were being violated as a result of that policy.

The post goes on to argue that the current political climate would be extremely unlikely to be supportive of a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, let alone an outright ban. The author argues that an outright ban would survive scrutiny better than the wet-noodle approach with "Don't Ask", especially since there is no real "Don't Ask" provision in the regulation. A commander is free to ask, wherever and whenever they choose, about a soldier's orientation - the only thing they can't do is launch unsubstantiated witch-hunts (and even then that's a stretch). The "Don't Tell" is the gay or lesbian military member lying or wilfully deceiving others about their orientation, and still endure harassment without the recourse of complaint, lest they end their careers. The policy was part of a long history of culture in the military that believed homosexuality erroded cohesion within a military unit and wore away the fabric of combat effectiveness.

Funny thing was, those very concerns went right out the window as soon as a war was on, like in World War II and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. It appears that homosexuals could serve with distinction and honor in combat, and still maintain group cohesion. Shocking, I know. I think this case has a lot of merit - the whole policy is unnecessarily discriminatory, and is wilfully allowed to lapse whenever it suited the military's purposes. Rather than waste time on trying to get in investigations under a rubber-banding policy, it ought to removed altogether and save us all the headache of hearing about good men and women being drummed out because of their orientation. Sorry, I don't buy the load of guff we're supposed to believe here, especially when the military wilfully ignores it to suit its own ends. The military either needs to develop a rational, provable basis for the restriction, or stop pretending that it does.

Liberals, take heed- this isn't a knock on Donald Rumsfeld, or anyone else in the Bush administration. This is a criticism of a policy that has been standing almost as long as I've been alive, and predates the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy of the Clinton era by decades as well. Its a dumb idea, and it ought to be overturned on the basis that the very claims it makes are unprovable, or contradictory to what has actually happened.

I'd be very interested to see how this turns out.
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