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The Headlines Are Wrong: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Has Not Been Repealed

December 27, 2010

The headlines said that the Pentagon’s homosexual exclusion policy had been repealed. “‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ is repealed by Senate; bill awaits Obama’s signing,” was the headline over the front page article in The Washington Post by Ed O’Keefe. But the article went on to note, in the 22nd paragraph, that top military leaders must find or certify that changes to the current policy “must not affect troop readiness, cohesion or military recruitment and retention.” How is this possible when Marine Commandant General Jim Amos has already said that the changes would cost lives?

Calling repeal a major distraction, Amos said, “I don’t want to lose any Marines to the distraction. I don’t want to have any Marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda [National Naval Medical Center, in Maryland] with no legs be the result of any type of distraction.”

The Post went on, “Even after the finding, lawmakers will be able to hold hearings for two months to review the Pentagon’s policies and procedures for accepting openly gay troops, according to congressional aides familiar with the matter.”

This leaves open the door for Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), the incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, to hold hearings. McKeon opposes repeal and praised Amos for his comments.

McKeon had told reporters that he wanted to hold hearings that would include rank-and-file service members along with military leaders. “I would really like to hear from battlefield commanders,” McKeon said. “I would like to hear from battalion commanders, I would like to hear from company commanders on the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq to see what their feelings are.”

The New York Times story on the “repeal” simply noted, “The repeal will not take effect for at least 60 days while some other procedural steps are taken. In addition, the bill requires the defense secretary to determine that policies are in place to carry out the repeal ‘consistent with military standards for readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention.’”

The “procedural steps” that are part of the bill give the new conservative-controlled House an opportunity to derail the repeal policy.

In terms of recruiting, Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness points out that the Pentagon survey of the troops found that if open homosexuals were admitted, 32 percent of Marines said they would leave the service sooner than planned, and 16.2 percent would consider an early end to their careers. Among Army combat arms personnel, 21.4 percent would leave sooner than planned, and 14.6 percent would think about leaving.

These losses “could put remaining troops in greater danger, and break the All-Volunteer Force,” Donnelly points out.

So will Congress approve the changes, knowing that they could result in the return of the military draft?

As the Times indicates, the specific language of the bill is that the repeal must be “consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.”

The burden is on the gay rights lobby to prove that the changes would have no negative effect on any of the above. How can they prove such a thing when the Pentagon has already concluded that the change is risky and faces opposition from as many as 60 percent of our combat troops?  

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