Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Military Measure of Morality!?

You have probably heard on the news this week that Marine General Peter Pace, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated in an interview with the Chicago Times in response to a question about his views on the "Don’t ask, Don’t Tell" policy that allows gays to serve their country:
"I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts. I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is okay to be immoral in any way."

I find it appalling that the Pentagon’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon who oversees an estimated 65,000 gay men and women who today are serving our country as dedicated soldiers would say about our soldiers. That figure, 65,000, is about three times the number of military in Bush’s recent "Surge" deployment. Ironically, the first American wounded in Iraq was Marine Staff Sergeant (Ret.) Eric Alva, who had served his country for 13 years, lost his leg in Iraq, received the Purple Heart, and is gay.

What about the immorality of our administration and the Pentagon: the deceptions and out-right lies that made it "seem" acceptable to invade Iraq; twisted facts that implied they needed to be invaded because they were involved in 9-11; the lack of quality military supplies and weapons to fight a war, putting our soldiers at higher risk; lack of proper medical care and conditions for our wounded military; a waste of millions (or billions?) of dollars of aid to Iraq that have mysteriously disappeared; the play-up of fear in an attempt to keep the war going long after we lost it; the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal, the legitimizing of torture; illegal use of the Patriot Act; Halliburton; and other things that could be labeled immoral?

Homosexuals have always served in our military and wars. For the most part, covertly, and who can blame them for that? They wanted to serve our country, even at risk of their sexual orientation being discovered and facing jail and dishonorable discharge. My late husband, Don Pendleton served in the Navy during World War II and the Korean War, and he said there was an awareness of some shipmates being homosexual. As long as there was not any overt expression of that sexual orientation, it was left alone.

During the Civil War, a surprising number of women concealed their identity as women and fought alongside the men without their sex ever being discovered. Some of the women where married to soldiers, others were single women. Were any of these women gay? Maybe? But it does not matter. And it does not matter in today’s military, nearly 150 years later.

The Pentagon has lowered the recruitment standards during recent time and "moral waivers" granted to recruits with misdemeanor and felony convictions nearly doubled since 2003. Yet, the Defense Department purged 11,000 troops, including several hundred much needed linguists, between 1994 and 2005 because they were gay. Doesn’t make much sense does it? Would you rather be serving with a convicted felon or someone who happens to have a different sexual orientation than you do?

It appears homophobia still lingers with the macho military attitude, but it is time to "grow up" and accept diversity in all areas of life. It is said that 24 countries accept gays in the military and they serve their country without any fear of prosecution or judgment, and neither morale or military performance have been affected. Why is this country so behind the rest of the free-thinking people of the world?

The Pentagon wants these men and women added to their recruitment figures, wants to send them to war and have them lay their lives on the line for our country, yet, if in some way, it is revealed they are gay then they are shoved out of the military on their butts. And many of those men and women have had long careers as dedicated and courageous soldiers. Amazingly ?? the number of homosexuals discharged had dropped significantly in 2006. How hypocritical is that? They retain gays when needed and dismiss them when they believe they are expendable.

One of several reasons I voted for Bill Clinton was his campaigning to remove military bans on homosexuals, but after his election he faced overwhelming opposition. At that time I wrote to General Colin Powell to encourage him to give gays the right to openly serve their country in the same manner that any other man or woman. What resulted from the controversy and opposition was the compromise, "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy in 1993. It was disappointing that we had to settle for that, but at least it was a beginning. Now is time to rid this country of this policy and let gays serve openly instead of serving under the threat of dismissal for their sexual orientation.

Staff Sergeant Alva stated he was appalled at General Pace’s remarks, telling Anderson Cooper on CNN’s 360, "I think his personal beliefs, his values, his own opinions were very insensitive and disrespectful to the thousands of men and women who...who actually serve in the military under the policy of don’t ask/don’t tell. And it was offensive to quite a bit of people. You’re talking thousands."

That’s right, Sergeant. Sixty-five thousand, plus their families, and thousands and thousands like me who consider ourselves to be Gay Rights Advocates.

It is nice to know there are some military leaders such as General David Grange (RET.) US Army, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division, and who stated to Lou Dobbs yesterday that he had never had to discharge anyone for homosexuality in 30 years of his career, the don’t ask, don’t tell policy, as he recalled, worked well and never had a problem. In response to Dobbs question about Pace seeming to make a moral equivalence in terms of adultery and homosexuality in the military, General Grange did reply he had a few incidents where he was a reviewing authority for adultery charges and they did discharge those people.

Has it occurred to you, as it has to me, that the real reason that this administration does not want gay marriage or civil unions may be because then those couples could file Federal Income Tax as married filing jointly taxpayers instead of single taxpayers, and have greater deduction and tax advantage? Could this be the real administration issue and have nothing to do with "moral" issues? I don’t know how many millions (or billions) of tax dollars we’re talking about here, but obviously it would be a huge figure. Money and greed seems to always be the motivation of our government rather than a greater concern for human dignity and civil rights.

One thing I do agree with General Pace on, is his comment that the United States is not well served by policies that say it is okay to be immoral in any way. I would suggest the General take a closer look at immoral practices implemented by this administration.


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