The following editorial appeared in the Miami Herald on Friday, March 23:
General Peter Pace, Chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff
U.S. government photo
Read the U.S. Department of Defense's "faq" on the "Don't Ask,Don't Tell" policy, free from defenselink.mil.
Pace's gaffe jump-started another round of debate about the issue. Rep. Martin Meehan, D-Mass., a long-time opponent of "Don't ask, don't tell," reintroduced a bill he first offered two years ago to repeal the policy. The previous bill had 122 co-sponsors in the House, indicative of broad support. Congress should support the measure, despite the likelihood that President Bush would veto a successful bill.
The Pentagon introduced the policy in 1993 as a compromise intended to allow gays and lesbians to enter the armed services. Since then, though, there has been a flood of evidence showing that the policy is harmful to the men and women in the services, that it hurts America's ability to project the full strength of its military forces and that it even runs counter to the prevailing attitude among service-age men and women who don't object to having gays in the military.
In an interview with a Chicago newspaper, Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said homosexual acts were "immoral" and that the U.S. military isn't well served by "saying through our policies that it's OK to be immoral in any way." The general should have apologized, but he didn't. After a storm of criticism, he "clarified" his comments: "I should have focused more on my support of the policy and less on my personal moral views," he said.
The truth is that neither Pace nor the U.S. military can afford to stand behind such a damaging policy. In addition to the personal harm to individual soldiers, it squanders valuable resources. A recent Government Accountability Office report showed that more than 50 Farsi and Arabic translators were among the more than 300 language translators who have been dismissed under "Don't ask, don't tell" rules. This is how you lose the war on terror, not win it.
In the 14 years since the military adopted "Don't ask, don't tell," many thousands of U.S. service men and women have learned first-hand that the qualities most valued in the soldier next to them in the foxhole are courage, personal integrity and commitment to achieving the mission. Sexual orientation isn't part of the equation.
It's about time that the generals and lawmakers who send soldiers into battle learn this lesson. It is long past time that Congress repeal this damaging, counterproductive policy.
(c) 2007, The Miami Herald.
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