Ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

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If you want to know why it isn’t a bright idea to permit homosexuals to serve openly in the military, consider the subject of “snorkeling.”

That, according to The Atlantic, was one of Rep. Eric Massa’s occupation specialties as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy. You might have heard of Mr. Massa. He quit his job as U.S. representative for New York’s 29th congressional district after he was caught, figuratively speaking, chasing the guys in his office around his desk. Massa had the same problem in the Navy. As The Atlantic reported it:

According to Peter Clarke, a Navy shipmate, Massa was notorious for making unwanted advances toward subordinates. . . .

Clarke says that Massa’s roommate, Tom Maxfield, was also assaulted. “Tom lived on upper bunk,” Clarke say [sic]. “When you’re on ship, you’re almost exhausted 24-7. So a lot of times you sleep with your uniform on. Tom and Massa shared a stateroom together. Massa climbed up on the top of his bunk, which is hard to do—you never crawl up on somebody else’s bunk. He wakes up to Massa undoing his pants trying to snorkel him.” . . .

Massa’s shipmates didn’t turn him in for fear that he would retaliate.

And that, in a nutshell, explains why homosexuals are not conducive to good order and discipline, and why the Clinton administration’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” regulation, which current and former top federal and military officials want to “repeal,” was a disaster waiting to happen.

Nearly 20 years ago, President Bill Clinton conceived “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) to fulfill a campaign promise to stop the military from discriminating against homosexuals. In classic Clintonian fashion, he tried to devise a compromise that would make everyone happy. He would placate real men and concerned officers, such as Gen. Colin Powell, who didn’t want homosexuals openly serving. And he would pacify the sodomites who believed they had a right to serve unmolested. In 1993, Congress passed a law, which Clinton signed, permitting the military to discharge homosexuals, but then he concocted DADT. Don’t bring up the subject, and you won’t be asked or otherwise harassed. Zip your lips and your trousers.

The policy was the camel’s nose under the tent. The homosexuals’ goal was always to serve openly, which is why DADT was unacceptable. Why the obsession with the military, a predominantly male organization? It’s a target-rich environment. Military men are a staple of homosexual pornography.

But back to the history. Along comes leftist Barack Obama, who promised to scrap DADT and allow gays to serve openly, a move that apparently has the support of military men, conservative public officials, and, more disturbingly, the American people.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a U.S. Senate panel that Americans must allow homosexuals to serve openly as a matter of justice:

[I]t is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. No matter how I look at this issue, 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.

Former JCS chairman Colin Powell backs him up. Years ago, Gen. Colin Powell explained why barring homosexuals from the military was not akin to barring blacks or keeping them segregated. Skin color, he said, is a “benign, non-behavioral characteristic,” while “Sexual orientation is perhaps the most profound of human behavioral characteristics.” Thus, forbidding homosexuals to serve was reasonable.

Now, apparently, he has changed his mind: “Attitudes and circumstances have changed,” Powell told the Washington Post. “Society is always reflected in the military. It’s where we get our soldiers from.”

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose daughter Mary is a lesbian, agrees. So does Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. And according to the Washington Post, 75 percent of Americans agree. Gen. David Petraeus, former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, says the military should reconsider its policy.

All this is well and good, except for one thing: DADT is not “the law,” as newspapers repeatedly and mistakenly report. It is a regulation that simply says, as one Department of Defense pamphlet explains, that homosexuals may not be asked to reveal their “preference”:

A person’s sexual orientation is considered a personal and private matter that is not a bar to military service unless manifested by homosexual conduct. Upon entry into the Army, applicants may not be asked nor required to reveal their sexual orientation. Applicants will not be asked if they have engaged in homosexual conduct. While on Active Duty soldiers will not be asked about their sexual orientation unless there is credible evidence of homosexual conduct.

Yet DADT did not alter and is not part of Title 10, Section 654, of the U.S. Code, the statute passed in 1993 that reaffirmed the military’s long-standing ban on homosexual behavior. That statute says the following:

There is no constitutional right to serve in the armed forces. . . .

The prohibition against homosexual conduct is a longstanding element of military law that continues to be necessary in the unique circumstances of military service. . . .

The presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.

The military may discharge a service member if it is found

That the member has engaged in, attempted to engage in, or solicited another to engage in a homosexual act. . . .

That the member has stated that he or she is a homosexual or bisexual. . . .

That the member has married or attempted to marry a person known to be of the same biological sex.

Late last year, Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness explained the law to the Conservative News Service. “The 1993 law (10 USC 654) states homosexuals are not eligible to be in the armed forces,” Donnelly said. “Bill Clinton signed the law (prohibiting gays in the military) but then he issued some enforcement regulations that are quite different” from DADT.

The policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” suggests that you can be in the armed forces, provided that you do not say that you are homosexual. Now that’s “don’t ask, don’t tell”—that’s the concept that Congress considered but did not vote for.

In testimony before the personnel subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee in 2008, Donnelly observed that Congress

recognized an inherent inconsistency that would render [DADT] unworkable and indefensible in court: If homosexuality is not a disqualifying characteristic, how can the armed forces justify dismissal of a person who merely reveals the presence of such a characteristic?

Donnelly made the obvious point in her testimony:

Describing the law as a “compromise” and referring to it as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” gave political cover to President Clinton, who had promised to lift the ban. . . . [D]ue to overwhelming public opposition, President Clinton failed to deliver on his promise.

DADT never became “law.” Active homosexuals may not serve in the military. In some sense, then, opponents of DADT are right: It doesn’t “work.” But as Donnelly asks, “work to do what?” Answer: Permit homosexuals to serve without fear of discharge.

So repealing DADT won’t change anything, and it may well subject homosexuals to immediate dismissal by removing the one regulatory shield they had: a directive telling the military to mind its own business about their carnal activities. Strictly speaking, President Obama must persuade Congress to change the law before homosexuals may openly serve. Then again, perhaps the military will follow Obama and Mullen’s lead and simply ignore the law, then refuse to discharge homosexuals even if they trumpet their “lifestyle” or get caught.

Neither Obama, Powell, Gates, Mullen, nor Americans who answer polls serve with rank-and-file soldiers who will bear the brunt of repealing the ban on homosexuals in the military. And what would that be? Precisely the kind of behavior of which Massa is accused: in general, using the military to hunt for homosexual partners; in particular, using rank to intimidate subordinates into performing sexual acts or keeping quiet, whether they give in to or rebuff his advances.

Along with forcing women into combat, permitting homosexuals to serve openly has long been a cherished goal of the radical left. Allowing women and now homosexuals is fraught with problems. Experts predicted that allowing women would encourage promiscuity, pregnancy, and, of course, single motherhood, the latter two being major impediments to unit readiness, cohesion, and morale. That’s exactly what happened.

Now, higher-ups who don’t bear the consequences of that stupid decision say perverts must be permitted to serve. Perhaps if a few of them had suffered Massa’s attempt at “snorkeling,” they wouldn’t be so cavalier about it.

This article first appeared in the May 2010 issue of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.

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