Thursday, February 18, 2010

Don’t ask … ahh … too late!

A few days ago, I received the email below from a American Iraq war veteran who's in his mid 20's. The email is about the American military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, which prohibits discourages gay men and women from serving in the American armed forces. That policy is likely to be in the news in the coming months, because it looks like the current law might finally be repealed this year.

In most of the rest of the Western world, this issue has already been dealt with. The Dutch lifted their ban on gays in the military in 1974, Australia and Canada followed in 1992, although it wasn't until 2000 that the UK caught up. The only EU member where gays are still prohibited in the military is Greece, which is slightly bizarre because gay soldiers were common in ancient Greece!

The guy who sent me the email has actually written a book about his experiences in Iraq. Looking at his web site and the description of his book, as far as I can tell he's straight. None the less, he's comes out strongly in favour of repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, as he explains below:

My name is Michael Anthony. I am an Iraq war veteran and having spent six years in the Army, at the age of twenty-three, I have spent more than a quarter of my life in service to the United States. I have four older brothers and an older sister, all of whom have been in the military: Air Force, Marines and Army. My father and both my grandfathers were in the military.

Hailing originally for a small sheltered town just south of Boston Massachusetts, I say this in all earnestness: the only gay people I know have all been in the military. This is not a joke or some talking point, it's literal. Generals, Commanders and Civilians can talk all they want, but the fact of the matter is, the only gay friends I've had have all been in the military, in fact, my only experience of gay people (outside of the military) is when I once watched and episode of the TV show Will and Grace (it was kind of funny).

For the policy known as DADT, there is one thing people often forget. People forget that the policy doesn’t preclude gay people from entering the military it just precludes them from talking about their homosexuality. In short, someone can be gay in the military; they just can't talk about being gay in the military.

If people are already in the military and gay—from my former unit alone I know close to a dozen—what is it that people are afraid will happen with the repeal of DADT? Are people afraid that the day after DADT is rescinded; gay soldiers are going to walk in wearing a feather boa and buttless fatigues? The uniform policy will still be in effect so we can cross that option out. Are people afraid that it's going to hurt troop morale? The military suicide rate is at a thirty year high having consistently risen for the past five years, with eighteen veterans killing themselves everyday (according to the Veteran's Association) so it seems like it can't get any worse.

With everything said, there is a negative aspect to repealing DADT. Having been in the military all my adult years, my peer group is filled with Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. Several of these war veterans having done two or three tours, have sworn that they will never go back to Iraq or Afghanistan. Upon further questioning on how they plan to get out deployment if called, their answer is simple: "don't ask, don't tell," expounding further, they say that if they're called up, they will simply kiss a member of the same sex—in front of their commander. So how is repealing DADT going to affect the military? The answer is simple. My friends who jokingly suggested using DADT as a way to get out of a deployment are now stuck going to Iraq or Afghanistan!


yoshi said...

"prohibits gay men and women from serving in the American armed forces"

This is wrong. DADT doesn't prohibit gay men and women from serving in the American Military. The wingnuts keep pushing this fallacy. It prohibits the military to ask if you are gay unless it comes to their attention.

The simple fact is that there are thousands of gay men and women serving in the American military today (dating one a few years ago). This law was a stupid idea when it was passed in 1992 and it is even more stupid now. The military is already prepared for it for the shift. They are grown ups and can deal with the change. But many of our politicians can't (many of them in tight re-election races).

GB said...

You're quite right yoshi, so I've corrected my post. Thanks for pointing that out :-).

GB xxx

Anonymous said...

The "don't ask" aspect of the law is non-discriminatory, the "don't tell" part is. It breeds a subculture of enforced deception.

Not telling the truth is the same as telling a lie.