“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” discriminates

By the College Democrats

Protests by two top defense officials helped to achieve major steps towards the end of the 16-year old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. (Stoppingthehate.com).
Protests by two top defense officials helped to achieve major steps towards the end of the 16-year old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. (Stoppingthehate.com).

On July 26, 1948, President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9981 which formally ordered the desegregation of the United States military. After fighting on the same side as one another during multiple wars, white and black troops were finally allowed to fight alongside one another. Naturally, the process did not happen overnight and it was not until years after this order was issued that the last segregated unit was finally abolished. Looking back, we believe that every intelligent citizen would say that this was an important and necessary step forward for social progress in America and for the strengthening of the military. Yet it was not so cut-and-dry in 1948.

After the issuance of this order, Sen. Richard Russell (D-GA) who was the ranking minority member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, argued on the Senate floor that “the mandatory intermingling of the races throughout the services (would) be a terrific blow to the efficiency and fighting power of the armed services, because it (would be) sure to increase the number of men who (would]) be disabled through communicable diseases and the crime rate among servicemen (would) soar.”

Southern Democrats vowed to use every weapon in their arsenal, pun intended, to oppose Truman’s command. As history has shown us, those Senators were 100 percent wrong and our military has only grown stronger and more united.

Now, the country finds itself in the midst of a policy battle concerning the 16-year-old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy which allows our men and women in uniform to be discharged or “separated” from the military if they are found out to be homosexual.

Here are some facts:

• Over 13,000 service members have been discharged to date

• The Government Accountability Office estimates a total cost ?of $95 million to recruit replacements

• Defense experts study estimates total related costs exceed $473 million

• A high percentage of those discharged are technicians, intelligence gatherers and crucial language cryptologists who specialize in Arabic, Farsi and Mandarin.

Considering these figures, Department of Defense officials must ask themselves why this policy makes sense. They need not think too long, because the simple answer is that it does not. The reasoning for this policy as stated in the section of US Code pertaining to the Department of Defense is that the presence of homosexuals in the military creates “an unacceptable risk to the armed forces’ high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability” (10 US 654).

This policy is based not on scientific fact, but instead on unfounded hearsay, prejudice and fear. Allies including Britain, Canada and Israel allow openly gay members to serve and have not suffered any measurable loss in morale or unit cohesion, and in fact experienced just the opposite. Study after study has come to the exact same conclusion — integration and full recognition of gay members’ right to serve their country will only lead to a more honorable, more ready and more effective United States Military. Without servicemen and women having to lie to their colleagues and hide their true identity, there is no doubt that mission performance will increase. While the monetary and performance costs are staggering, it is not for these reasons alone that this country needs a change. It is because we hold as truth that all men and women are created equal and thus all should be entitled to serve their country equally. In this light, it is time for landmark legislation that signals America’s commitment to its values of acceptance and inclusivity. It is time to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in a timely and sensitive fashion that provides for the protection of all service members and for the necessary practical changes that will have to be made.

Shortly after President Obama’s State of the Union address in which he stated his intentions to compel Congress to act on his wishes and the wishes of this country, Republican senators reacted.

“When it comes to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ frankly, I think it’s worked very well. And we just ought to leave it alone,” Republican Minority John Boehner said.

Now where have we heard rhetoric like this before? 1948? Correct. ?A word of advice for the Republicans — ?get on the right side of the issue for your sake and your country’s sake. What America needs from Congress so desperately is leadership and so a word of advice to our very own Democrats — act and act soon, as history looks kindly on those who stand for and act on equality. Last Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee took very favorable testimony from Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Michael McMullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Seeing as both men are in support of doing away with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” it’s certainly a good start.

Sources: NYTimes.com, Center for American Progress