58 Gay Arab Linguists Ousted From Military
Lawmakers who say the military has kicked out 58 Arabic linguists because they were gay want the Pentagon to explain how it can afford to let the valuable language specialists go. Seizing on the latest discharges, involving three specialists, members of the House of Representatives wrote the House Armed Services Committee chairman that the continued loss of such “capable, highly skilled Arabic linguists continues to compromise our national security during time of war.”
The law allows gays to serve if they keep their sexual orientation private and do not engage in homosexual acts. It prohibits commanders from asking about a person’s sex life and requires discharge of those who acknowledge they are gay.
Democratic Rep. Marty Meehan, who has pushed for repeal of the law, organized the letter sent to Skelton requesting a hearing into the Arab linguist issue. “At a time when our military is stretched to the limit and our cultural knowledge of the Middle East is dangerously deficient, I just can’t believe that kicking out able, competent Arabic linguists is making our country any safer,” Meehan said. The letter, signed by about 40 House members, says that, with the latest firings, 58 Arab linguists have been dismissed from the military under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. It said Congress should decide whether this application of the policy “is serving the nation well.”
Marine Maj. Stewart Upton, a Pentagon spokesman, said the Defense Department is enforcing the law. “The Department of Defense must ensure that the standards for enlistment and appointment of members of the armed forces reflect the policies set forth by Congress,” he said, adding that those dismissed can serve their nation by working as contractors or at other federal agencies.
Meehan’s bill to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has 124 co-sponsors, but efforts to get Congress to take another look at the issue have failed so far. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said this year that he had no plan to review the policy.
Meehan is right on the merits. Regardless of whether the presence of openly gay soldiers compromises “high morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion” — the stated rationale of the law — in an infantry unit, it is quite unlikely to do so among office workers.
However, outrage over this policy is directed at the wrong target here. The AP headlined their report “U.S. military continues to discharge gay Arab linguists, and Congress members seek hearing.” John Aravosis declares, “we have complete bozos running our military. This is criminal.”
Upton is right: The military is simply following the law, ousting service members who make it publicly manifest that they are gay. Indeed, the sailor that is the focus of the anecdotal hook that anchors this story was begged to sign something stating that he was not gay so that he could stay in. (The law has a bizarre provision that allows people who have been found to engage in homosexual acts to say it was an aberration and that they won’t do it again.) He refused.
The military has a much more conservative culture than society at large for a variety of reasons. That’s especially true of senior leaders who help advise the president and Congress on policy. Still, this longstanding policy is a matter of public law, not military whim. It would be “criminal” for commanders not to obey it.
Jill @ Brilliant at Breakfast blames Bush.
As the decimation of the U.S. military under George W. Bush continues, with criminals and the mentally ill being recruited in a desperate effort to fill the ranks, there is still one group that is judged unfit to serve: gay Americans. No matter how valuable your skills, if you’re gay, this Administration of Closet Cases does not want YOU.
The military has hardly been “decimated” under Bush. It was radically reduced in size under Bill Clinton, his predecessor, but that likely would have been that case regardless of who was president given that the Cold War was over. The authorization ceiling has rightly been increased under Bush.
We’re not recruiting criminals and the mentally ill. We are, as is customary during periods when recruiting is more difficult (i.e., the economy is booming and/or there’s a major war on) granting more waivers to people we would not accept if there were long lines at the recruiting office. The reference to the “mentally ill” apparently stems from a much-cited Damien Cave story in the NYT about a recruiter who signed up someone with bipolar disorder to help meet his quota; he was subsequently disciplined.
The military has excluded homosexuals as a matter of law from time immemorial. Bill Clinton engineered the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” compromise at the outset of his administration. This was not some new edict by the Bush-Rove Theocracy.
Now, Jill is likely right that Bush could have seized the war as an opportunity to reach out on this issue. It’s understandable, from a purely political perspective, why he hasn’t. From a military standpoint, he likely should have.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum quibbles with me on the case PO2 Stephen Benjamin, whose homosexuality became manifest, not because of public conduct, but because he was sending mash notes to his lover on a government computer and got caught in a routine security sweep.
So Benjamin wasn’t making it “publicly manifest” at all. Publicly, he was keeping a low-enough profile that nobody had ever hassled him before. Rather, he was fired for writing explicitly private emails that could have quite easily been ignored
Well, except that there’s no such thing as a private email sent from an employer’s computer, let alone a military one. And, certainly, Benjamin “engaged in, attempted to engage in, or solicited another to engage in a homosexual act or acts” with those emails and, given the opportunity to do so, failed to provide assurances that these acts were aberrational and unlikely to recur.