Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Keep the Queers During Wartime, But Then…

This is interesting.

Scholars studying military personnel policy have discovered a document halting the discharge of gay soldiers in units that are about to be mobilized.

The document was made public Tuesday by Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military (CSSMM), a think tank at the University of California, Santa Barbara. It was found during research for a story for the ABC news program Nightline.

The regulation was contained in a 1999 “Reserve Component Unit Commander’s Handbook” and is still in effect, according to the Center.

It states that if a discharge for homosexual conduct is requested “prior to the unit’s receipt of alert notification, discharge isn’t authorized. Member will enter AD [active duty] with the unit.”

The document is significant because of longstanding Pentagon denials that the military requires gays to serve during wartime, only to fire them once peacetime returns. According to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, gays and lesbians must be discharged whether or not the country is at war.

Gay soldiers and legal groups have reported for years that known gays are sent into combat, and then discharged when the conflicts end. Discharge statistics corroborate a pattern of rising expulsions during peacetime and plummeting rates during military conflicts, and Pentagon statistics confirm that, as has been the case in every war since World War II, gay discharges have declined during the current conflict in the Middle East.

But the Pentagon has consistently denied that, when mobilization requires bolstering troop strength, it sends gays to fight despite the existence of a gay ban, and some observers have insisted there is no evidence of such a practice. During the first Gulf War, Pentagon spokesman, Bill Caldwell, said the military would “absolutely not” send gays to war and discharge them when the conflict ends.

So it’s okay for gay servicemen to go into combat and possibly die for their country, yet once the war’s over, it’s Aloha on the steel guitar. It sounds like something out of an old tearjerker: “Oh, sure, use me for all your manly pleasures, then once it’s over, toss me aside like an old shoe!” Typical macho bullshit.

This whole thing about keeping gays out of the military is stupid. There have been gays in the military since the time of Alexander (although that movie didn’t help the cause any), and just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are no homophobes either. I have yet to meet a soldier who gave a rat’s ass about another soldier’s private life — or if he was sleeping with a private. All he cared about was whether or not the other guy knew his job and would watch his back in combat. The added insult of keeping a gay soldier in the unit until the war is over is just one more argument against this discredited and hypocritical “don’t ask don’t tell” policy.