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UI student: Allow gays to openly serve in military

BY RYAN TEAHEN - GUEST OPINION | NOVEMBER 13, 2009 7:20 AM

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In accordance with our government’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, an openly gay soldier is deemed “an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.”

Consider that the military also upholds an honor code that states a soldier, “will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do.” The simultaneous enforcement of “Don’t Ask” is hypocritical and results in confusion.

The “high standards” imposed by “Don’t Ask” are derived from deluded and demagogic morals that disturbingly promulgate societal contempt for homosexuality. Worse yet, “Don’t Ask” teaches young closeted homosexuals to be ashamed of something beyond their control. This certainly causes horrendous internal struggle.

Imagine a soldier having to concoct lie after lie to prevent those around him from learning the truth. Imagine soldiers unable to write or receive heartfelt letters or talk on the phone with the one person they love. Imagine someone hearing first through a newspaper that their spouse had died at war.

In the wake of Maj. Nadal Malik Hasan’s alleged recent Fort Hood shooting rampage, Army Gen. George Casey stated, “As great a tragedy as this was, it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty as well,” fearing that Muslim soldiers may be victims of a backlash. However, “Don’t Ask” already ostracizes a minority group by relying on imposed homogeneity rather than embracing diversity to build unit cohesion. Forcing upon soldiers false commonness in trivial matters leads to intolerance and impedes unity.

A misguided belief is that openness would be an ill-fated social experiment. Gen. Omar Bradley once said, “Experiments within the Army in the solution of social problems are fraught with danger to efficiency, discipline, and morale.” Interestingly, Bradley’s statement wasn’t pertaining to “Don’t Ask.” It was made in 1948 in response to President Truman’s executive order to racially integrate the troops. Has “Separate but Equal” been replaced with “Silent but Equal”?

Nearly the entire West has decriminalized openness, and none have expressed associated morale or recruitment problems. Disturbingly, America has become more closely aligned with the ideology of those militaries upholding a ban, including North Korea and Iran.

President Bill Clinton, who reluctantly supported this law in 1993, recently expressed his disdain by saying, “The thing that changed me forever on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was when I learned that 130 gay service people were allowed to serve and risk their lives in the first Gulf War, and all of their commanders knew they were gay. They let them go out there and risk their lives when they needed them, and then as soon as the first Gulf War was over, they kicked them out. That’s all I needed to know; that’s all anybody needs to know that this policy should be changed.”

Military success is a result of a soldier’s ability to trust his unit. Trust begins with honesty.

Ryan Teahen is a student in the UI College of Dentistry.


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