Monday, February 08, 2010

MN-02 : (Don’t Ask) Don’t Tell John Kline, The Times They Are A Changin’

During a 2008 Republican presidential primary debate, Fox News moderator Brit Hume raised what he described as "a fictional but we think plausible scenario involving terrorism and the response to it." He then laid out the kind of "ticking-bomb" and the candidates responded with Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo offering the crowd pleasing "We're wondering about whether water-boarding would be a — a bad thing to do? I'm looking for Jack Bauer at that time, let me tell you."

It was the unasked follow-up question that should have been most troubling : does Jack Bauer speak Najdi Arabic ? or Levantine Arabic ? or Maghreb Arabic ? or Yemeni Arabic ? As the pronunciation of words change in varying dialects … and could Bauer be attempting to stop the wrong airline ?
Of course, Bauer could rely on a military interpreter …. unless the one that speaks the language happens to be one of the many Arabic linguists that have been dismissed from the military over the DADT policy. The Pentagon has documented cases of soldiers who, despite their proficiency in Arabic or other languages of the Middle East, have been forced to leave the service at a time when the military can ill afford being short of personnel conversant in the language of the enemy.

That could change if H. R. 1283 - Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2009 is enacted. The legislation, which is being championed by Tim Walz and a bi-partisan group of 187 co-sponsors including fellow Minnesotans Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum and Jim Oberstar, would end the 1993 “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” DADT law. The legislation currently sits before John Kline and the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee which should hold a hearing this Spring.

The words of Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are clear : “My personal belief is that allowing homosexuals to serve openly would be the right thing to do. I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, it comes down to integrity -- theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.
In Adm. Mullen’s testimony, he stated that the current system is “putting individuals in a position that every single day they wonder whether today’s going to be the day, and devaluing them in that regard just is inconsistent with us as an institution. I have served with homosexuals since 1968. Sen. McCain spoke to that in his statement. Everybody in the military has, and we understand that. So it is a number of things which cumulatively for me, personally, get me to this position.
Adm. Mullen conclusion is probably based on a recent report, The Efficacy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The report offers history and analysis with the following key points :
- The 1993 “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law was a political compromise reached after much emotional debate based on religion, morality, ethics, psychological rationale, and military necessity. What resulted was a law that has been costly both in personnel and treasure. In an attempt to allow homosexual Servicemembers to serve quietly, a law was created that forces a compromise in integrity, conflicts with the American creed of “equality for all,” places commanders in difficult moral dilemmas, and is ultimately more damaging to the unit cohesion its stated purpose is to preserve. Furthermore, after a careful examination, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that unit cohesion will be negatively affected if homosexuals serve openly. In fact, the necessarily speculative psychological predictions are that it will not impact combat effectiveness.
- If one considers strictly the lost manpower (12,500) and expense ($363 million over 10 years), DADT is a costly failure. Proponents of lifting the ban on homosexuals serving openly can easily appeal to emotion given the large number of people lost and treasure spent—an entire division of Soldiers and two F–22s.
It is also worth noting that the 12,500 figure is most likely low since it cannot capture the number of individuals who do not reenlist or who choose to separate because of the intense personal betrayal they felt continuing to serve under the auspices of DADT.
- Opponents of lifting the ban offer interesting but weak arguments.
- Homosexuals who currently serve do so at great personal expense and professional risk, RAND interviews suggest such individuals are deeply committed to the military’s core values, professional teamwork, physical stamina, loyalty, and selfless service—all key descriptors of task cohesion.
- A 2006 Zogby poll of military serving in Iraq and Afghanistan found 23 percent reporting that they are certain they are serving with a homosexual in their unit.
- In a survey of over 100 experts from Australia, Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom, it was found that all agreed the decision to lift the ban on homosexuals had no impact on military performance, readiness, cohesion, or ability to recruit or retain, nor did it increase the HIV rate among troops.

So, now the Times They Are A Changin’ … it ain’t 1968 anymore … it’s not 1993 … it’s today.

General Colin Powell issued a statement : “In the almost 17 years since the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed. I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen.”
Another former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. John Shalikashvili said he supports ending the policy … for the obvious reason … its reality today – a majority of troops already believe that they serve alongside gay or lesbian colleagues. One recent study estimated that 66,000 gays and lesbians are serving today, at constant risk of losing their chance to serve.

So it is up to Congress to re-write the law they wrote … it will take LEADERSHIP.
The question for Representative Kline is : will he read the reports, listen to a cross-section of the military leaders, and embrace the change that will help protect the country OR be influenced by religious fear-mongers who would rather denounce homosexuality than acknowledge reality ?

On one hand is reality, need and cost and on the other … as Frank Rich wrote is Bigotry.

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