Now that Colin Powell and the country’s two top current defense officials have called for repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” we’ll surely be hearing many exquisitely reasoned arguments agin’ it from Texas’ Republicans members of Congress in coming weeks and months. (Most of the Texas Democrats, as usual, will maintain a careful and cowardly silence—though there’s one notable exception quoted below.) But they’ll have to do some fancy thinking to come up with something as convoluted and ass-backwards as Sen. John Cornyn’s expression of disapproval last week.
“There has been a lot of stresses and strains, particularly on the Army but also in the Marine Corps,” Cornyn said. “I just don’t think that it’s helpful to do anything that might discourage more people from enlisting or reenlisting.
“Say what? Cornyn is referring, it appears, to the idea that some hetero-Americans will refuse to serve their country anymore if they might have to—God help us, everyone!—shower or bunk with queer folk.
But there are hard numbers pointing out who is really “discouraged” from serving by “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Since the policy became law in 1993, more than 13,000 members of the military have been discharged because of their sexual orientation. (There is no telling, of course, how many gay and lesbian Americans haven’t signed up for the military because they didn’t want to have to lie about themselves or risk being drummed out if they don’t conceal their sexuality well enough.)
When he spoke out against the policy in January 2007, former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. John Shalikashvili made the opposite argument to Cornyn’s. (But, hey, how would he know better than a senator who never served?) “Our military has been stretched thin by our deployments in the Middle East,” the general said, “and we must welcome the service of any American who is willing and able to do the job.
“Perhaps Cornyn needs to take a more persuasive tack. He might follow the lead of Congressman Duncan Hunter, Republican of California, who said on National Public Radio: “I think the folks who have been in the military that have been in these very close situations with each other, there has to be a special bond there.
And I think that bond is broken if you open up the military to transgenders, to hermaphrodites, to gays and lesbians.”
Ah, yes: The hermaphrodite threat, alive and well!
And now to the brighter side I promised above. Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, “openly” supports repealing the policy. He said yesterday: “Most other countries do this. … It’s time for America to let good patriotic Americans who want to serve to do so and not say a word that will cause them to lose their privilege to serve simply because some people have decided that this is not an appropriate thing. … In the Declaration of Independence, we say that all persons are created equal.” On KLTV in East Texas, Green’s argument was seconded by a Texan who speaks from experience: Troy Carlyle, who was the first person discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” after nine years of service. “The arguments against black people being able to serve are very much the same as those against gay people being able to serve,” Carlyle said. “They said that if we allow blacks in the military, it will destroy unit cohesion, it will destroy morale … it’s the exact same arguments against the gays.”
Sure, sure: But what about the hermaphrodites? And how do we know that racially integrating the military didn’t also “discourage” white supremacists from enlisting and re-enlisting, thereby thinning the ranks and severely compromising our national security? Food for thought, Sen. Cornyn and colleagues …