Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Justified anger over Sec. Gates' letter on don't ask don't tell

You might not know this, but all hell broke loose between the gay community and the Obama administration on Friday. In response to a letter from House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) requesting "views on the advisability of legislative action" to the repeal of don't ask don't tell before the Pentagon completes its review, Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated flatly, "I strongly oppose any legislation that seeks to change this policy prior to the completion of this vital assessment process." I should point out that Skelton's letter seems a bit of a set-up, since he's a known repeal foe.

The reaction was swift and angry. And I can't say that I blame folks on the front lines of the repeal effort. President Obama said in his State of the Union address that he wanted to get this thing done "this year." During congressional testimony in February, Gates said, "We have received our orders from the commander in chief and we are moving out accordingly." But there have been signs of late that Obama might be willing to let that self-imposed deadline slip. Most recently, there has been a push to get an Oval Office assist in putting the elimination of the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military into the Defense Department's authorization bill. The Gates letter appears to snuff that effort out.

The military is different from civilian society. As I've written before, the politics of ending don't ask don't tell requires the precision of a drill team. Activists might be angered by the slow pace of change, but there's no denying that change has already begun. Gates issued orders for a more fair implementation of this unfair and unjust law that raises the bar on who can start an investigation and on what constitutes evidence. Third-party "accusers" would have to do so under oath.

Gates appointed a high-level working group in February to thoroughly review all of the issues involved in junking the ban on gays in the military. Their deadline is December. I can understand Gates wanting to finish the Pentagon's survey of troops. While it will give him a complete view of what they are thinking on the subject, it also will give him and Congress the added political cover they'll need to follow through on what Obama and most of the country want done. Again, this is the military we're talking about, not civilian life. The last thing we would want is for the military to respond in a way that makes ending don't ask don't tell more difficult. Remember, we have don't ask don't tell in the first place because of the intense pushback from the military on President Clinton's move in 1993 to fulfill his promise to end the ban.

Don't ask don't tell is an act of Congress. Thus, it will take an act of Congress to get rid of it permanently. That's why I've been more than a little cranky about protesters focusing all of their attention on Obama and letting congressional leaders off the hook in all this. There was yet another protest in front of the White House on Sunday resulting in 12 six arrests. But the Gates letter is a stark reminder for me that pressure on the president is paramount if the repeal is to get done. Without Obama's leadership, we wouldn't be as close as we are today to reaching our goal.

By Jonathan Capehart  | May 4, 2010; 7:22 AM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Political incivility hits ESPN
Next: Brown finds his voice in Britain -- too late?

Comments

It's depressing to think it's up to Congress to end this discriminatory policy. They would rather use the issue to raise cash then actually act on it.

Posted by: dnahatch1 | May 4, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

"Don't ask don't tell is an act of Congress. Thus, it will take an act of Congress to get rid of it permanently. That's why I've been more than a little cranky about protesters focusing all of their attention on Obama and letting congressional leaders off the hook in all this. There was yet another protest in front of the White House on Sunday resulting in 12 arrests. But the Gates letter is a stark reminder for me that pressure on the president is paramount if the repeal is to get done. Without Obama's leadership, we wouldn't be as close as we are today to reaching our goal."

A couple things. Just wanted to let you know that I was at the protest. There were only 6 people arrested. Your source material you linked said that the total numbers arrested in the three actions is now up to 12.

The GetEQUAL protesters have also been working on Congress. Go to their Youtube site and look at the visits to Senators to talk about DADT (and ENDA). Granted, there's a tilt towards Obama, but Congress hasn't been ignored. After the May 24th deadline for the president to transmit his requests to the Defense Authorization Bill, I'm sure we'll be spending more time on Congress.

With your last sentence, I would like to thank you for starting to show some understanding of our point. Right now, Obama can do something to push the process along. These demands are not wasted energy or misdirected pressure.

Posted by: DCCharles | May 4, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

What the joint chiefs have said is keeping morale of in theater personell is more important than being fair. The hardest military objective is Kandahar being done today. By next spring with a successful Kandahar campaign plans for drawdown and policy change will come. Perhaps a non-combat role policy first then the grunts with the CIBs. Can't argue with their success so far in calling the shots in Afghanistan. The right thing is subjective morally or strategically. Tough call.

Posted by: jameschirico | May 4, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Is there a way to tell the attitudes of actual troops on this rather than rely on the polemics of politicians trying to exploit it to further their own pro/con agendas?

Posted by: orange3 | May 4, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Jonathon, I'm retired military; I've been around the military for 45 years. I am still associated with the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Jonathon, the troops just don't want homosexuals in the foxholes with them.

Sorry about that Jonnie...the don't and if they are put there, there will be "problems." Look Jon, the US military men and women don't want them and won't have them...what don't you understand?

Posted by: wjc1va | May 4, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

To the retired military, there are ALREADY homosexuals in the military. What don't YOU understand?

Posted by: linroy62 | May 4, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

My straight brother had a gay roommate in the Marine's. No problems there, the guy even used to sing him to sleep at night. If you aren't gay you don't see the tons of "straight" military frequenting bathhouses and anonymous gay sex (who are most likely married.) That's what the closet and DADT does. I have so many friends that were miserable and married for years because of the closet. I decided not to join the Navy in college because of DADT. Now I'm too old for the Navy but I'll join the Army (if I can get in) if they repeal DADT; not that I couldn't pass as straight anyway but I'm not a hypocrite.

Posted by: Alfy | May 4, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

How many more brave, selfless American servicemembers will have to be hurt before the Administration, the Pentagon and Congress can get around to ending this useless policy? How many more critical military jobs will go underfilled? How much more will taxpayers have to pay for wasted training and the extra fees/salary when private contractors hire those discharged under DADT to do the same jobs in Iraq & Afghanistan that they were already doing more cheaply in the military? How many terrorist "chatter" messages will go untranslated because someone got a bee in his bonnet about an arabic or farsi or urdu translator not being heterosexual?

The President's "leadership" on this issue is useless if it never accomplishes the end goal. The one that was promised to the nation in the State of the Union address. End DADT THIS YEAR!!!!

Posted by: mikhastur | May 4, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" forthwith!

Posted by: dru4819 | May 4, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

1st of all DADT is policy not law. Federal law is what must be appealed & this law proclaims homosexual conduct is not conducive to military service. Has anyone provided any concrete evidence homosexual conduct is now acceptable? Even nitwit civilians seem to back down when the question of serving moves from the description of "Gays" to "Homosexuals".

Gates & Mullen opened the can of worms with their devoted support of Obama's IOU but with the caveat that a "survey" of the one's stuck implementing & dealing with the issues of Obama's IOU must 1st be initiated to plan the best way to bring forth this social experiment. Now, the agenda crowd obviously prefers that the law be repealed before the troops get their chance interject a reality check of lifwe for a Soldier or Marine exposed as a homosexual and staying in population in contrast to today's policy of removing & sending home, but hell, it's not going to be the activist or IOU paying Politico making that home visit.

Posted by: waltk1 | May 4, 2010 7:07 PM | Report abuse

I wonder what process they followed back in Harry Truman's day when they integrated the armed forces? Did they ask the white troops if they were OK having black soldiers in the foxholes with them?

Posted by: HayDegha0917 | May 4, 2010 7:34 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company