The Bluff Of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"


One of the saddest signs of the irrationality of even the rational Republicans (like McCain) on gay issues has been the GOP candidates' embrace of Clinton's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" nonsense. The firewall argument - the one they offer when they realize no other one works any more - is that it's too risky in wartime to change the policy. Romney - a useful indicator of GOP cynicism - epitomizes this stance, even after he clearly recognized the idiocy of DADT only a few years ago. One benefit of last night's "Sixty Minutes" report is that it reveals that, in fact, wartime is the period when gay discharges routinely decline. They decline because the military in practice doesn't want to lose trained, good service-members in the middle of a war. The anti-gay policy is in fact a peace-time luxury, designed to perpetuate and legitimize bigotry - not to ensure effective defense. In so far as homosexuality affects unit cohesion, it does so entirely as a function of some soldiers' prejudices and phobias, in a way indistinguishable from the way racists kept black soldiers segregated for so long. Here, at least, is some honesty:

U.S. Army Maj. Daniel Davis, speaking to Stahl out of uniform to emphasize that he does not speak for the U.S. military, says don't ask, don't tell is necessary to achieve cohesion among soldiers, especially those in combat. Most service members are conservative, he says, and won't readily accept gays. "If you have a moral or religious issue, you cannot order me to [bond] with that [gay] person," says Davis, a specialist in battlefield tactics.

This was Peter Pace's argument and Duncan Hunter's.

I guess it's a sad but useful reminder that gay people - even those who risk their lives to defend their country - are still, in the eyes of the Republican base, a sub-moral caste of undesirables, people whose presence in any institution - the military, the academy, the priesthood, civil marriage - inherently debases it. There is, alas, nothing we can do to rebut this - no act of courage we can display, no love we can profess, no virtue we can uphold, no family we can defend to prove our civic equality and human dignity. Our inferiority is a priori for the religious right. It makes us impossible to "bond with," because we are moral contaminants. That's what we've learned this past decade. And it's the only reason the policy remains in place.

(Photo: Staff Sergeant Eric Fidelis Alva, who was the first injured serviceman in the Iraq war. He lost a leg for his country. But he is still impossible for some to bond with.)