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February 14, 2007

Military grants waivers to felons, while dismissing gays
Posted by Rosa Brooks

From today's NYT, an example of true policy irrationality:

The number of waivers granted to Army recruits with criminal backgrounds has grown about 65 percent in the last three years, increasing to 8,129 in 2006 from 4,918 in 2003, Department of Defense records show.

Meanwhile, the military continues to dismiss highly qualified personnel (including Arabic and Farsi linguists) because they're... gasp... homosexual.

I'm actually not all that disturbed by the increase in waivers for would-be recruits with past felony or misdemeanor convictions. Quite a lot of extremely trivial offenses are misdemeanors and even felonies, and it seems perfectly reasonable for the military to conclude, in many cases, that someone with a minor criminal record should nonetheless be welcome in the armed services. Rapists and murderers, no-- but shouldn't the military be open to people who have committed trivial offenses in the past, offenses which don't necessarily speak at all to their current character? I'm in favor of second choices.

But if we need recruits so much that we're taking a second look at former felons, it sure seems crazy-- as well as just plain wrong-- to exclude talented gays and lesbians from the military. Don't Ask, Don't Tell ought to be sent to the dustbin of history, there to join Jim Crow laws and other idiotic and unjust regulations.


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"The Pentagon adopted its "don't ask, don't tell" policy based on legislation that Congress passed in 1993. Gays and lesbians may serve in the military only if they keep their sexual orientation private. Commanders are not supposed to ask if they are gay." (from the link you provided). Congress needs to fix this, the military follows the law. I agree completely that this law needs to be changed, seems to me more important than non-binding resolutions. I do have to ask though, is it discrimination or just preventing people from saying they are gay? There are a lot of things I am not allowed to say in the military. I personally would like to expand the law to Don't ask, don't tell about any sexual relationships gay or straight.

Bernie, one of the main issues involved with the "Don't ask, Don't tell" policy was the UCMJ, itself, which outlaws sodomy.

Although there has been a SCOTUS decision on similar state laws that seems to directly contradict both the letter and spirit of the UCMJ on this matter, it has not been tested.

Personally, I have always opposed any effort to exclude gay and lesbian recruits from joining the military. Having known not a few closeted homosexuals in the ranks over the years -- and finding them to be just as honorable, capable and efficient as heterosexual warriors -- I wish that Congress would amend BOTH the policy AND the UCMJ to allow greater diversity in our military experience.

I would take issue with this, however:

"I'm actually not all that disturbed by the increase in waivers for would-be recruits with past felony or misdemeanor convictions."

This seems to point to a major divide between military officers and civilan laymen. We do NOT want any recruits with any arrests for felonies or non-traffic misdemeanors, much less convictions!

Nearly 18 years ago when I entered military service, the odds of finding any active duty recruits or officer candidates without high school or college diploma and a clean rap sheet was negligible.

Today, commanders -- most especially in the Army National Guard and Reserves -- must deal with a rising number of men and women who were civilian troublemakers. My point is only that we're not an institution that is very good at turning bad apples into good apples; the problems a troubled youngster brings from the civilian world will too often become a cancer within the ranks.

These are young people who have proven either they don't have the aptitude to achieve academically or the character to avoid trouble. We're not nursemaids in the Army. We're not there to serve as a remedial backwash for society's problems.

There is a Rand study, in re Air Force recruiting of youngsters with criminal records, that speaks directly to this. Suffice it to say, as a cohort their presence in the ranks isn't beneficial, although there are certainly some kids who mend their ways and prosper.

As a whole, however, this isn't remotely true. I would suggest, humbly, that these are the last sorts of people we want in a war zone.

We exist to prosecute America's foreign policy goals that can't be achieved diplomatically. The greater technologization of the force requires increasingly brighter, more disciplined candidates -- men and women who can make good, fast decisions and inspire others to do the same under the most stressful of conditions.

I have been on record within my service as declaring I'd rather have fewer troops than more potential discipline problems.

Unfortunately, we are under greater pressure in the AVF to recruit within a dwindling number of young people. We seek to avoid those who are uneducated, illiterate, drug addicted, suffering from asthma, Attention Deficit Disorder and obesity. Perhaps now fewer than three out of every ten youngsters between the ages of 18-24 are considered military material.

Allowing out-of-the-closet homosexual candidates into the armed forces will not solve this problem. There simply aren't enough people within this demographic available to overcome the fact that we must bypass 70 percent of the young population.

I am for their inclusion in our forces purely because of democratic reasons, not demographic. It's not a question of pragmatism, but what is morally right, and they certainly belong in our ranks.

The thing about gays in the military is that a whole lot of military men are actively homophobic. So people who're openly gay tend to cause discipline problems etc. From a practical view it doesn't matter whether they're at fault, the problem is that problems are caused by them being there.

For awhile it was that way with blacks, we had a whole lot of racism in the country and so of course there was some in the military, and trying to get those people to work well with blacks was a big issue. If it was a choice between not having blacks or not having racists, the numbers said there were more racists who were educated and capable of doing the work than there were blacks.

Then education for blacks gradually improved, and the fraction of racists declined, and it made more sense to go ahead and have blacks in mixed units. It happened when it did for social reasons, but if the generals had thought it had hurt the military they wouldn't have accepted it.

The US military can be ahead of the country on social issues, but it can't be too far ahead. My sister's kind-of-liberal episcopal church just split over the issue. They agreed that homosexuals could join. I think they agreed that homosexuals could be married there. They didn't agree that a homosexual priest could have his live-in lover live in the parsonage. Or something like that. Anyway, my sister wound up leaving the church over the issue partly because it turned into such a big issue. The USA is not settled on the question, and it's too early to expect the US military to be settled on it either.

Does anyone know the legislature history on recruits with criminal waiver program being used by the Defense Department? Is the Justice Department the approving federal agency? How does this work?

Just look at the wars before, no diploma's and an arrest you were good! Yes allow convicts and save a young child with a chance to keep their father, anyone who say's no has dodged the law while growing up!

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First things First. I personally would Prefer to be in combat with a unit filled with felons rather than gay and/or lesbian folks. As unfortunate as it may be most young men would find it difficult to take commands from or even trust a gay superior in combat. The individual would need to be a highly accomplished soldier to commamd any kind of respect,order or dicipline. The potential to commit murder may be higher among Felons rather than gays. Gays are more likely to commit suicide than almost any other Labled group. I believe the object of combat troops is to kill others not yourself. While I have no problems with gays or their being in the military, Convicted Felons have far more desirable characteristics of a combat soldier. As for the terribly ignorant statement that the military is not an institution that is "very good at turning bad apples into good apples". Ha Ha Ha HE HE HA What! Have you EVER read a book. A very large majority of this nations heros were and/or are Misfits. Individuals who were actually forced to serve do to legal troubles. Audie Murphy was one such soldier. While he was not forced he was definately a misfit and a trouble maker. Not to mention our nations most highly decorated soldier following world war II. Where do you want felons to do? continue to commit crimes? Why not give them something to focus there energy on. If they are such a problem give em their own unit. I will be the first to serve with them. When I was in college a student was doing a study. She took 100 normal students, for lack of a better way to put it, and 100 students who were recovering drug addicts. They were then given IQ tests. The 100 addicts had higher IQ's on average of 15 points higher than "Normal folks" and all of the top 10 highest scores were turned in by addicts. Being a felon or addict has absolutly nothing to do with intelligence. Personally you are one of the most un-imaginitive,Ignorant,naive persons I have had the misfortune to have contact with. Read a book or two.

I would like to be sure my statememt about the high rate of suicide within the gay community in no way reflects poorly on soldiers returning from combat in iraq who very unfortunatly also have a sadly high rate of suicide. While it is unfortunate if anyone for any reason decides to take their own life,these soldiers have very real reasons for ending their lives prematurly. I sincerly hope no honor is taken from those who have served in Iraq/Combat and feel suicide is their only option. May God help them,and if it be his will, keep them with us. e Plurabus unum or some such. "fortune favors the brave"

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