February 3, 2010
Dear Senator McCain
Your decision to chastise the military leaders in the Senate hearing regarding the repeal of the military’s failed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy served to remind me how grateful I am you were not elected President of the United States of America. Unfortunately, even if your age wasn’t a factor, you do not have the integrity to be a Commander in Chief. You, Sir, are a liar.
Your willingness to blatantly flip-flop from the position you took when you were seeking the Presidency – namely to defer to the military leadership who are better equipped to make such determinations – suggests that you were either lying blatantly in the interests of political expedience, or that your memory is not reliable enough to qualify you to lead this nation.
Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates and Adm. Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both offered compelling testimony as to why the policy remains a disservice to the dedicated servicemembers forced to serve under it, as well as the integrity of the institution itself. You, however, saw fit to not only contradict yourself and your position, but in a petty fit of anger that you weren’t consulted. As if your perceived slight should in any way, shape or form have even the slightest impact on a policy that weakens our military.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was intended as a compromise between allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military and adhering to the warnings of military leaders and advisors who claimed their open presence would threaten military readiness, weaken America's might and create a climate of distrust that would erode unit cohesion. That was in 1993. Get with the program.
Your insistence on retaining a policy designed as a supposed “compromise” to satisfy the prejudices of those who believe that dishonesty and denial have a place in the military does little other than compromise our nation’s national security, and demonstrates that you cannot and should not be trusted.
There are those who have given you the benefit of the doubt regarding your alleged capture and torture in Vietnam. But unfortunately, Senator McCain, credibility is not something that is selectively or conveniently applied. While there is no evidence to contradict the veracity of your account in Vietnam, or what you did or didn’t reveal to your captors to advance your own self interest and preservation, there is evidence to doubt your commitment to telling the truth, and thus throws into question not simply your recounting of Vietnam, but even your qualification to speak to the issue at hand with any degree of authority.
Anyone who believes that unit cohesion is strengthened by a gay servicemember lying to fellow servicemembers in the unit about their core identity needs to rethink what unit cohesion is. Anyone who thinks that firing highly qualified, superbly trained and dedicated servicemembers for being gay doesn’t negatively impact the military effectiveness of a given unit, not to mention the overall cost to the military as a whole, is ill equipped to handle the responsibility of leading the United States.
Servicemembers, if you can remember that far back, are imbued with honor codes, such as “a midshipman never lies, never cheats, and never steals.” These aren’t just hokey catch phrases. These are codes by which servicemembers govern their lives. The notion that it is acceptable to continue a policy that demands deceit and dishonesty can only be sanctioned by someone for whom these deplorable traits occur naturally.
Your startling comment – that it would be far more appropriate to “determine whether repeal of this law is appropriate and what effects it would have on the readiness and effectiveness of the military, before deciding on whether we should repeal the law or not” – only emphasizes how little you know about the impact of the policy or, perhaps worse, how little you care.
Here’s what those of us who have bothered to look already know.
When one joins the military, it's the military lifestyle that becomes the only one by which a servicemember is bound to serve. Young, drug-imbibing singles have to relinquish the characteristics of their lifestyle, adulterous swingers have to relinquish the characteristics of their lifestyle, racist skinheads, anti-Semites, anti-Catholics, anti-anyone or anything, no matter how socially acceptable or unacceptable, depending on the community standards by which such acceptance is evaluated have to relinquish those traits. All are required to adapt their lifestyles to a military lifestyle, and one that is compatible with serving and performing within the strictures and structures of a military environment. It is the role and duty of the military to expunge societal influences that negatively impact morale, discipline and good order, whether it's racial, religious or sexual prejudice.
There is no distinction, under this policy, between speech and conduct. This is where the greatest problem with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" rises to the surface. Self-expression, the mere articulation of who a person identifies as - a simple statement to that effect - is considered conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman (or woman). In short, engaging in anal sex and simply expressing that you're gay is the same violation under this policy and the punishments equally harsh. A rebuttable presumption that stating you're gay means you will, unless you can prove otherwise, engage in conduct that is forbidden. In fact, if one was to even joke about being gay, like you did about bombing Iran, it’s enough to warrant an investigation and subsequent discharge. Unless, of course you lie, which is, apparently, easier for you than most.
And if indeed, under the difficult and demanding operations of combat, homosexuals are, although highly unlikely, engaging in sexual activity - conduct - in the foxholes and trenches, or whilst trying to dodge IEDs, one can appreciate the extent to which this might negatively impact order, morale and good discipline. Just as it holds true if heterosexual intercourse - conduct - were to occur during an inappropriate time and place under combat conditions. And further, heterosexual women in particular and, to a lesser extent, heterosexual men are also caught within the web of this flawed policy. You, Senator, appear to be unfamiliar with "lesbian baiting" -- the practice of pressuring and harassing women by calling, or threatening to call them, lesbians. The Dyke/Whore Syndrome, which means for women, put out or get out. But it seems there’s a lot about this policy with which you’re unfamiliar.
Your assertion, like the cowardly Commandant of the Marine Corps, James Conway, that the policy should remian in effect because America is involved in two wars is equally deserving of scorn and derision. During wartime the military uses what is known as a "Stop-Loss" policy. Indeed, when the "bonds of trust" that are imperative for unit cohesion and combat effectiveness are the most crucial, the military employs a policy that suspends any discharge proceedings against gay servicemembers until the mission is accomplished or war is over. The threat, it appears, only applies during peacetime. If the gravest threat by the presence of open homosexuals is to unit cohesion, discipline and morale, why is such a grave and dangerous phenomenon ignored at the most mission-critical moments?
The other free speech violation under this policy, although seldom adhered to is not to ask. But I am asking you Senator McCain.
Is a policy that is designed to create liars supposed to foster trust and bolster military readiness? Does denying expression - fermenting a climate of suspicion that requires lying to create a false impression that hidden truths will make any difference in a combat situation - engender unit cohesion? Does kicking out the best and the brightest we’ve spent billions training improve our effectiveness or help thwart terrorists that seek to do this country harm? When men and women of the Armed Services are being killed or stretched to breaking point, is it really strategically in our interests to lose willing, dedicated, skilled servicemembers because they happen to be gay? Do you really still stand behind a policy that would lower recruitment standards to include idiots and criminals rather than retaining honest, intelligent servicemembers who are gay?
As the current military leadership, and indeed even earlier supporters of the policy, like Colin Powell, throw their support behind the repeal of this misguided and inherently unworkable policy, all we can do is ask ourselves what kind of leaders we want representing this nation. Liars? Complacent and complicit liars advocating institutionalized lying? Supposed leaders who accept a demonstrably flawed, ineffective and dangerous compromise rather than striving to improve or change it? Supposed leaders who are more concerned about kicking out openly gay servicemembers than they are about curbing terrorism?
One thing is quite certain. The future of the military and country depends on a more insightful and wise caliber of leadership than you can provide in your capacity as Senator. And thankfully, the country elected a President who isn’t either suffering from Alzheimer’s or a politically expedient, unadulterated liar.