From Planet Washington (McCLATCHY Trusted Voices):
In 1993, when Congress strongly resisted President Bill Clinton’s attempt to end the U.S. military’s ban on gay service members, Gen. Colin Powell, then the top military officer, helped broker a compromise policy that came to be known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Wednesday, Powell joined the Pentagon’s current leadership, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, now the nation’s top officer, in urging the policy’s repeal, saying that “attitudes and circumstances have changed.”
They have indeed.
Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate panel Tuesday that he’d served alongside gays and lesbians since 1968, and that ending the policy was “the right thing to do.”
“No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens,” Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Even former Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sam Nunn, a Georgia Democrat who helped Powell forge the current policy, has had second thoughts, saying in 2008 that “times change.”
According to the Defense Department, 13,000 servicemen and women have left the military because of the policy, including 1,273 in 2001.
Enter the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, followed by two wars and a massive increase in the size of the military. Last year, the number of discharges under the policy fell to 428.
The changes in attitudes toward gays and lesbians, in the military and in society more broadly — as well as the military’s needs — have all but rendered the policy obsolete. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is now more like “Don’t Care, What’s the Big Deal?”
Except for Republican lawmakers.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, who’s facing a Republican primary challenge from a conservative former congressman, Tuesday scolded Gates and Mullen for their efforts to overturn the policy. McCain had said in 2006 that he’d defer to military leaders on the matter.
Jeff Sessions of Alabama lectured Mullen, a four-star admiral.
“I don’t think (gay and lesbian soldiers) are required to lie about who they are. I think that is an overstatement,” Sessions told Mullen. “You shouldn’t use your power to influence a discussion.”
Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, who won Nunn’s former seat, said that changing the policy could lead the military to permit “alcohol use, adultery, fraternization and body art.”
“If we change this rule of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” what are we going to do with these other issues?” he asked.
From TALKING POINTS MEMO:
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has long been a supporter of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the policy which prohibits openly gay men and women from serving in the military. But his support has been predicated on top military leaders supporting it, especially Colin Powell, the former chairman of the joint chiefs who helped institute the policy in 1993.
And now Powell, in a statement released today, has announced that he fully supports the efforts to repeal DADT.
Will McCain change his mind?
He hasn’t spoken about the policy publicly since Powell announced his support, and his spokeswoman did not return a request for comment.
After the current chairman of the joint chiefs, Adm. Michael Mullen, yesterday threw his support behind repealing DADT, a McCain spokeswoman brushed it aside. She said McCain’s opposition to a repeal hadn’t changed, because Mullen was speaking on his own behalf and not that of the military.
McCain was citing Powell’s support for the policy as recently as last week (even though Powell has been saying for years that DADT should be reviewed).
In an appearance on Fox and Friends last Thursday, McCain gave a list of reasons describing why repealing DADT is a “bad idea,” as host Steve Doocy put it.
“It was a policy developed in the Clinton administration. General Colin Powell was one of the major factors. It is working. We have the best trained, best equipped, most professional military in two wars,” McCain said.
If they’re the most professional, then they should be able to work professionally alongside gay soldiers, Captain Underpants! Funny that Lindseypoo Graham’s best friend should be so homophobic.
From BBC NEWS:
When the UK took the step of allowing gay men and women to serve openly in the armed forces 10 years ago, public opinion was in favour but the armed forces themselves were not.
The situation is very similar in the US today.
An NOP poll in September 1999 found seven out of 10 Britons believed lesbians and gay men should be allowed to serve in the military.
At the same time General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley, a leading opponent of the change, told the BBC: “Two surveys have disclosed that the overwhelming majority of those in military service today find homosexuality abhorrent.”
In the US, a Gallup poll of 1,015 US citizens in May 2009 found 69% in favour of allowing gays to serve openly in the armed forces – an increase of 6% over five years. Support among “conservatives” had jumped 12% over the same period, from 46% to 58%.
But a Military Times poll in December 2008 found a majority of active-duty respondents – 58% – were against the idea of repealing the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law.
Large-scale resignations from the UK armed forces were widely expected in some quarters, when the ban on gays was lifted – but in practice they did not materialise.
At least one British army brigadier publicly resigned in protest, citing “strongly held moral and military convictions” but most observers were surprised at how smoothly the new law – which was forced on the UK government by the European Court of Human Rights – was implemented.
The Royal Navy joined the programme in 2005, the RAF in 2006 and the army in 2008 – the same year it followed the other two services in allowing servicemen and women to participate in Gay Pride marches in uniform.
Fears that allowing openly gay soldiers to serve on the front line would lead to a breakdown of discipline and cohesion within units also proved unfounded.
It’s the example of British troops operating successfully in Iraq that has prompted the first Iraq war veteran elected to Congress – Democratic Representative Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania – to campaign for a bill repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
British Security Minister Lord Alan West, a former head of the Royal Navy, told the Associated Press in July 2009 that allowing gays to serve openly was “much better”.
“For countries that don’t do that – I don’t believe it’s got anything to do with how efficient or capable their forces will be. It’s to do with prejudices, I’m afraid,” he said.