Last week President Obama announced his
intention to end the policy that restricted openly gay service members from
serving in the armed forces. I've been very struck since then by the response
from both Republicans and some Democrats like Ike Skelton of Missouri. Take for
example, John McCain's post-SOTU statement on the policy shift:
"This successful policy has been in effect
for over 15 years, and it is well understood and predominantly supported by our
military at all levels," McCain said. "We have the best-trained,
best-equipped, and most professional force in the history of our country, and
the men and women in uniform are performing heroically in two wars. At a time
when our Armed Forces are fighting and sacrificing on the battlefield, now is
not the time to abandon the policy."
According to Skelton, the policy change would create "disruptions' and other "serious problems" at a time when the country in two major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Forgive my French, but what a load of crap. Apparently our best-trained and best-equipped fighting force can be ordered into harm's way to be shot at, to be bombed and potentially die at the hands of the enemy, but they can't be ordered to serve alongside homosexuals. I can't decide if this is more insulting to homosexuals or to American soldiers.
Let's cut through the BS; this entire discussion about gays in the military has little to do with whether the military can integrate gay service members or whether it will have a negative impact on morale and unit cohesion. We know from the military's own experience with integrating African-Americans and women in the past as well as the very basic fact that there are few more organizations in America as hierarchical as the United States military . . this issue can be dealt with properly. No, let's be clear; gays in the military like the debate on gay marriage is about bigotry and discrimination.
It certainly isn't about the ability of gays to serve or the ability of the military to handle the change. Don't let anyone argue otherwise. The opposition to repeal of DADT is about the prejudices, misconceptions and fear that some heterosexuals hold toward gays. Nothing more; nothing less. That such views, based on emotion and prejudice, should dictate national policy - and have the force of law behind it - is nothing short of tragic.
And if some recent polling is any indication the retrograde views of Skelton and McCain are not shared by service members: three-quarters of queried Iraq and Afghanistan servicemembers felt comfortable about serving with gay soldiers. And for these old men to say that the policy has been successful . . . tell that to the tens of thousands of gay servicemembers who have been drummed about the armed forces and the likely tens of thousands of others who have been forced to lie about their personal lives.
It was a disgraceful policy 17 years ago and it's a disgraceful policy today. That's it taken this long to change the law is an embarrassment to America; that there are men in positions of political power who would prefer to push that day even further into the future makes it even worse.