Saturday, May 5, 2007

John McCain hates the troops

The gay ones, at least.
United States Senator John McCain (R-AZ), a candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, has reiterated his support for the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members. In an April 16 letter to Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), McCain says the law, passed in 1993, "unambiguously maintains that open homosexuality within the military services presents an intolerable risk to morale, cohesion and discipline." Senator McCain goes on to incorrectly assert that the U.S. Supreme Court "has ruled that the military may constitutionally discharge a service member for overt homosexual behavior."

The full letter is available on the website. McCain writes:
I must state at the outset that I do not believe the government should unnecessarily interfere in the private lives of its citizens.

And yet you support a policy that prevents gay servicemembers from speaking out, ever.
By its very terms, the statute subjects gay, lesbian and bisexual servicemembers -- and only them -- to immediate sanction if they speak about their sexual identities. That prohibition applies "24 hours each day beginning at the moment the member enters military status and not ending until that person is discharged or otherwise separated from the armed forces," "whether the member is on base or off base, and whether the member is on duty or off duty." Id. §§ 654(a)(9)-(11) & (b)(2). The speech restriction is "pervasive" (in the statute's own words), applying both to public discourse and to private conversations with friends and family. Id. The policy is universally referred to as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and it lives up to its name: Members of the armed forces are regularly discharged solely because they "tell" by speaking honestly about their sexual identities. Yet the district court erroneously concluded that the First Amendment is not even implicated by the military policy -- that no constitutional scrutiny is required -- because "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" does not restrict "speech."

McCain continues:
However, the legislation unambiguously maintains that open homosexuality within the military services presents an intolerable risk to morale, cohesion, and discipline.

Yes, the legislation does say that. That doesn't make it true or coherent. Actual people in the army aren't so afraid of gays that they'll forget all their training if in the mere presence of a gay person:
73% of military personnel are comfortable with lesbians and gays

And later:
As General Colin Powell stated when he served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "We have succesfully mixed rich and poor, black and white, male and female, but open homosexuality in [military] units is not just the acceptance of benign characteristics such as color or gender or background.... The presence of open homosexuality would have an unacceptable, detrimental, and disruptive impact on the cohesion, morale, and esprit of the armed forces."

Translation: we did this before for the same reasons and were proven wrong every time, but this time it's for real!!
I believe polarization of personnel and breakdown of unit effectiveness is too high a price to pay for well-intentioned but misguided efforts to elevate the interests of a minority of homosexual servicemembers above those of their units. Most importantly, the national security of the United States, not to mention the lives of our men and women in uniform, are put at grave risk by policies detrimental to the good order and discipline which so distinguish America's Armed Services. For these reasons, which have nothing to do with my personal judgments about homosexual behavior, I remain opposed to the open expression of homosexuality in the U.S. military.

The national security of the United States? Is that why we fired all those Arabic translators? It's not like we'd have any need for someone who speaks Arabic in national security.

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