Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Don't Ask, Don't Yell

Well, the Bush Administration has one more side issue to deal with in the press this week. There's bound to be all sorts of hoopla over the fact that a Top general calls homosexuality 'immoral' [Chicago Tribune | Free Registration Required]. Here is the money quote at the center of this story:
"I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts," Pace said in a wide-ranging discussion with Tribune editors and reporters in Chicago. "I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way. "As an individual, I would not want [acceptance of gay behavior] to be our policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else's wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior," Pace said.
For those of you who don't want to -- or don't have time to -- register for an account with the Tribune, here is the full text of the story (but you should know that there is video footage over at the Tribune as well):

Top General Calls Homosexuality 'Immoral' By Aamer Madhani Tribune national correspondent Published March 12, 2007, 10:47 PM CDT

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday that he supports the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" ban on gays serving in the military because homosexual acts "are immoral," akin to a member of the armed forces conducting an adulterous affair with the spouse of another service member. Responding to a question about a Clinton-era policy that is coming under renewed scrutiny amid fears of future U.S. troop shortages, Pace said the Pentagon should not "condone" immoral behavior by allowing gay soldiers to serve openly. He said his views were based on his personal "upbringing," in which he was taught that certain types of conduct are immoral. "I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts," Pace said in a wide-ranging discussion with Tribune editors and reporters in Chicago. "I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way. "As an individual, I would not want [acceptance of gay behavior] to be our policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else's wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior," Pace said. The "don't ask, don't tell" policy caused an uproar in the military when signed into law by President Clinton in 1993. At the time, supporters of the policy inside and outside the military argued that it was essential for the cohesion of combat units, not a question of morality. Under the policy, gays and lesbians may serve only if they keep their sexual orientation private and do not engage in homosexual acts. Their commanders may not ask about their orientation. Charles Moskos, a military sociologist at Northwestern University who was instrumental in helping the Pentagon craft the "don't ask, don't tell" law, said it is unusual for a top commander to use morality as a justification for the policy. But he said he has repeatedly heard enlisted members use that reasoning when opposing gays in the military. "With the enlisted, it's a question of cohesion, but morality is something they always bring up," said Moskos, who declined to comment specifically on Pace's remarks...

[ Continued in the COMMENTS ]

How will this play out in the media this week? Will the General's attitude lead to difficulties in recruitment? Is this a matter of free speach? Your Prophet and Madman is monitoring the situation...

1 comment:

brainwise said...

::: Continuing the quoted Tribune text :::

"With the enlisted, it's a question of cohesion, but morality is something they always bring up," said Moskos, who declined to comment specifically on Pace's remarks.

Critical of Pakistan's leader

Addressing a range of other military topics, Pace said House Democrats' proposal to wind down the war could hamper President Bush's planned troop "surge" in Iraq by creating 45-day gaps in troop levels.

He said it remains to be seen whether Shiite militiamen loyal to radical cleric Moqtada Sadr have laid down their arms to contribute to stability in Baghdad or have merely "gone to ground" until the latest Baghdad security sweeps by U.S. and Iraqi troops end.

Turning to Afghanistan and Pakistan, he said that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's policy of courting tribal leaders on the border with Afghanistan has not prevented cross-border incursions by Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives.

"It is proper for us to point out to President Musharraf that people are continuing to come across the border," Pace said, noting that there has been an increase in cross-border attacks.

The "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which gay-rights advocates and other critics condemn as discriminatory, has come into question once again as the Bush administration, the Pentagon and Congress grapple with a military that commanders say has been stretched too far by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A 2005 government audit showed that about 10,000 troops have been discharged because of the policy. Among those discharged were more than 322 linguists, including 54 Arabic specialists, according to the Government Accountability Office report. The U.S. military, like the nation's foreign service and intelligence community, faces shortages of foreign-language specialists.

"The real question is: What is moral about discharging qualified linguists during a time of war simply for being gay or lesbian?" said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy group.

About 23 percent of troops know someone in their unit who is gay or lesbian, according to a recent Zogby International poll of troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. About 55 percent of troops who know a gay peer said the presence of gays or lesbians in their unit was well known by others.

Last month, Rep. Martin Meehan (D-Mass.) revived the debate in Congress by introducing legislation to reverse the military's ban on openly gay service personnel. Meehan's proposal has 106 sponsors, including six Republicans.

Issue enters campaign

The issue is also starting to percolate in the 2008 presidential campaign. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) a longtime foe of the policy her husband signed into law, has stated that it should repealed. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) says a repeal would be ill-advised.

Retired Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who once supported "don't ask, don't tell," recently reversed his position and wrote in a newspaper column that it was time to allow gays to serve. Shalikashvili cited projected shortages in the military as one of the reasons for his change of heart.

During a broad discussion about the situation in Iraq, Pace said that the U.S. military would not be able to reach its plan of sending 21,500 more combat troops and up to 7,000 support troops to Iraq if the Democrats are able to pass their proposed legislation. The Democrats' plan, which was unveiled last week and centers on the withdrawal of all U.S. combat forces by September 2008, includes requirements that troops spend a minimum amount of time at their home bases.

The legislation allows President Bush to waive those standards, but such a move could prove politically embarrassing to the White House, which has been lambasted by the Democratic leadership and some Republicans for stretching the military too thin.

Pace said the military would have no problems reaching the legislation's standards for training and equipping the troops. But the rest of the requirements could have "enormous impact" on the troops' efforts to stamp out the Iraqi insurgency and settle the country's sectarian violence.

"We would have 45-day gaps which would mean that part of a territory would basically be vacated to the enemy and ... you would have to fight your way back in," Pace said.

The required rest periods would stop the U.S. military from reaching its plan of having 20 combat brigades deployed to Iraq. And at times, it could leave as few as 14 brigades on the battlefield, Pace said.

On Monday in Washington, Vice President Dick Cheney accused anti-war lawmakers of undermining U.S. troops by supporting the Democratic measure, which would tie a withdrawal of forces by 2008 to the administration's request for $100 billion for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

"When members [of Congress] speak not of victory but of time limits, deadlines and other arbitrary measures, they are telling the enemy simply to watch the clock and wait us out," Cheney said, appearing before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Regarding Pakistan, Pace said that a controversial treaty that Musharraf signed with tribal chiefs in north Waziristan province has not produced the results that the Pakistani leader hoped it would in reducing cross-border attacks by Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgents.

Under the treaty, Pakistan withdrew its army from the area in exchange for a vow by the tribal leaders to prohibit operations by Islamic militants.

Pace also addressed a growing scandal over the shoddy treatment that injured soldiers have received at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, where veterans and their families complained of a confusing bureaucratic maze and poor living conditions.

The general thanked the media that investigated and publicized the hospital conditions, saying the military should have been more "responsive and proactive" in acknowledging the problems.

He praised the military's initial handling of the war wounded, noting that "incredibly effective and world-class" treatment on the battlefield has helped far more injured troops survive than in the past. But he said the armed services need to be better when care of the wounded is "turned" over to the Department of Veterans Affairs system.

amadhani@tribune.com

Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune

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