Sunday, June 21, 2009

Former Army Secretary Says End DADT

In a powerful interview with Democracy Now, the former Army Secretary under Jimmy Carter, Clifford Alexander, spoke out forcefully for ending 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'

While the Obama DOJ filing of the brief in DOMA has gotten the most attention for glbt activists, his department's filing to the Supreme Court, defending DADT, is equally troubling.

Despite the fact that Turkey is the only other NATO nation that does not integrate gays into the military, and that there is now a demonstrable global model that proves that gays serving openly do not disrupt military cohesion (an absurd argument to begin with), the Obama folks still trotted out that argument, claiming that the policy is, in fact,
"rationally related to the government’s legitimate interest in military discipline and cohesion.”

In the interview with Amy Goodman, former Secretary Alexander had the following to say:
The policy is an absurdity and borderline on being an obscenity. What it does is cause people to ask of themselves that they lie to themselves, that they pretend to be something that they are not. There is no empirical evidence that would indicate that it affects military cohesion. There is a lot of evidence to say that the biases of the past have been layered onto the United States Army.

It has several negative ramifications. One is the fact that the people who are presently serving, and that’s thousands and thousands who are gays and lesbians, they have to lie every day. It’s like asking a Jewish person to act like he or she is a Muslim, or asking a Catholic to act like he or she is Buddhist, taking their fundamental values and exchanging it for silence. A second issue is, of course, that people who would want to serve in this nation’s armed services, because of their specific orientation sexually, they will not do so because they don’t want to engage in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

What we need to have, I think immediately, is an urgency about this issue and an urgency that goes well beyond the President of the United States, but also to the Congress, because it’s my understanding that the legislation has to be repealed with other legislation. So, as I understand, in the House there is some movement in that direction, but what I do not sense is that there is an urgency about this issue on the part of Americans, whatever their particular sexual orientation might be. This isn’t really just about, obviously, gay or lesbian people. It’s about what we stand for as a country, what the military is, how we can get the best skills in that military, and that—most importantly, I think, the way we are treating people who presently have to lie about their particular sexual orientation. It’s not the way this country should operate.

Watch the above interview, which also includes Nathanial Frank, who penned "Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America."

Non-deceiving gays in the military are still being discharged at the rate of about 2 per day. That Obama cannot immediately issue a stop-loss order to prevent further discharges, while the policy is under review, is unconscionable. And Obama had not even initiated steps that might someday lead to lifting DADT. What is he waiting for?

Since President Obama seems to always react out of fear of offending the right-wing, it is puzzling that, even when the majority of Conservatives polled support ending DADT, the president can't just take the initiative to do the right thing.

For the transcript of the above interview, click here.

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