David Badash

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Suspended - During Gulf War

Filed By David Badash | February 09, 2010 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, gays in the military, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Oliver North

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is our nation's highest ranking military officer, and the principal military adviser to the President, the National Security Council, and the Secretary of Defense.

This country has long had a ban on gays in the military. In 1993, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" moved the ban from orientation to conduct, and from policy to law. Since then, America has had six Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And four of the six now support gays serving openly in the military.

Yet, despite evidence to the contrary -- and there is evidence -- the Republican and religious-right wing wind machines are still blowing hot and hard, suggesting repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will be the end of the U.S. military. Or worse.

Colonel Oliver (convicted felon, Nicaraguan gun smuggler, and - surprise! - Fox News contributor) North last week suggested repealing DADT would invite the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) into our Armed Forces. (I'm not quite sure how that would work, as you can't be a minor and serve in the military, but perhaps as he was running guns in Iran to help fight the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, North got a little too chummy with Noriega and what he was selling?)

The stories coming via the Beck-Hannity-O'Reilly-Palin-North Network are just jam-packed full of shock and awe. At this point, one would not be surprised to hear from them that if "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal were enacted the sun would never rise again and George Washington and Ronald Reagan would roll over in their graves.

Well, guess what? We already have hard evidence about what will happen in the U.S. Armed Forces when "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is repealed. And the answer is, nothing.

In an opinion piece in Sunday's Chicago Tribune, "Buried truths about gays in the military," Steve Chapman reminds us that last June, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John M. Shalikashvili, wrote an Op-Ed against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and pointed to hard evidence that during the six-month long Persian Gulf War (August 2, 1990 - February 28, 1991) under Republican President George H. W. Bush, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was suspended. Funny how no one (read: Senator John McCain) remembers that?

In The Washington Post, General Shalikashvili writes:

"The U.S. military itself has had successful experiences. Enforcement of the ban was suspended without problems during the Persian Gulf War, and there were no reports of angry departures."

Well, well, well. Whaddya know...

He continues:

"A majority of U.S. service members say they know or believe that someone in their unit is gay, according to a 2006 Zogby International poll, and most of those who know of openly gay peers report no detriment to morale or cohesion. A recent study co-authored by Laura Miller of Rand Corp. found no correlation between a unit's readiness and whether known gays serve in it. And last year, four retired flag and general officers studied all available evidence and found that allowing gays to serve posed no risk to force readiness."

We now have Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John M. Shalikashvili, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, under whom "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was enacted, and former Commander in Chief, President Bill Clinton, under whom "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was enacted, and many other military leaders at the highest levels, all stating that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" should be repealed.

Additionally, another former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, last fall said:

"Gays can serve in the military; they just can't do so openly. And they do, and there are lots of them, and we're the beneficiary of all that."

So, Senator McCain, Senator DeMint, Congressman Hunter, Congressman Pence, and all you other hypocritical lawmakers and fanatical right-wing pundits, when will you listen?

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With respect, "In 1993, Don't Ask, Don't Tell moved the ban from orientation to conduct" incorrectly echoes phony Clinton administration/perpetual Pentagon propaganda.

It's a convoluted charade involving an intellectually insulting Catch 22.
The policy is that if you are believed to “be gay” or admit to it you are ipso facto assumed to engage in gay sex, if not now or in the past, then in the future, and, therefore, you’re a threat and must be discharged. You CAN “refute” the allegation but how does one “prove a negative”? Zoe Dunning was allowed to stay in after simply telling a Navy administrative hearing board in 1993 that she would only admit to “being gay.” That resulted in a government attorney writing a policy which forbid any further such easy outs.

But, yes, WHENEVER the military has gotten to a point where they, as Candidate Obama phrased it when he promised to fight for immediate DADT repeal..."need all hands on deck"...THEY have ignored the ban both when it was only "policy" and after it became "law."

Based on research by Allen Berube for "Coming Out Under Fire," in World War II it once took an extreme form when "the adjutant general ordered the commanding general of the West Coast Air Corps Training Center in California to review the cases of some men ALREADY CONVICTED OF SODOMY "to determine their respective availability for military service" with "the view of conserving all available manpower for service in the Army." He canceled the men's dishonorable discharges and made them eligible for reassignment AFTER COMPLETING THEIR PRISON SENTENCES!

In 1945, facing manpower shortages during the final European offensive in Europe, Secty of War, Harry Stimson, ordered a review of all gay discharges and ordered commanders to "salvage" homosexual soldiers for service whenever necessary.

The number of men discharged for being gay during WWII was only in the low thousands out of 16 MILLION men who served. That's A LOT of "looking the other way" no matter how low one thinks the incidence of homosexuality is in the population.

Before and after both the Korean and Vietnam wars, gay discharge #s revealed an obvious stop-loss pattern.

1950, during Korean War - 483 discharges.
1953, when the Armistice was signed - 1353 discharges.

1966 - the Navy alone discharged 1708 gays.
1970 - when the US was deep in Vietnam, they only discharged 461.

During the first Gulf War, a Pentagon spokesman said in relation to gay discharges, "Any administrative procedure is dependent on operational considerations of the unit that would administer such proceedings." [And they will do whatever the President tells them to, formally or informally.]

Amplifying [or ignorant of ] 10 USC 12305, after 9/11, President Bush signed executive Order #13223 that authorized the individual service branches to initiate a stop-loss which allowed them "to suspend certain laws relating to promotion, involuntary retirement, and separation" of military personnel.

In the "Army Commander's Handbook," updated in 1999 and still in effect, under the criterion of homosexuality: "if discharge is not requested prior to the unit's receipt of alert notification, discharge isn't authorized. Member will enter active duty with the unit."

And, yes, in 2005, a military spokesperson acknowledged they were sending openly gay service members into combat in Iraq.

They have repeatedly proven themselves that "unit cohesion" isn't disrupted and we MUST rub that in their faces, demanding


You said that George H. W. Bush suspended DADT during the first Gulf War? How's that possible when Clinton was elected AFTER Bush I. DADT didn't exist in 1991.

Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | February 9, 2010 5:28 PM

The first Persian Gulf War predates DADT by almost three years and yes, I'm aware that they suspended enforcement of tossing some people out during the Persian Gulf War. I had already been told that I was going to lose my pay grade and my benefits and receive an OTH when the Gulf War broke out but since I was the only flight deck qualified troubleshooter from the Airframes shop in my unit, they put that off until I could qualify my own replacement. I'm not going to go into the whole sordid story but I will repeat what I have said before: STOP writing about the military and DADT if you have never been there! You only make yourself look bad. I'm sure you're very good at what you do and very knowledgeable in your area but the services are obviously not your area of expertise. I only WISH I was thrown out under DADT because then my benefits and my rank would have stayed intact but I was thrown out under the old ban....in 1991! BEFORE DADT or President Bill Clinton.

I will repeat what I have said before: STOP writing about the military and DADT if you have never been there! You only make yourself look bad. I'm sure you're very good at what you do and very knowledgeable in your area but the services are obviously not your area of expertise.

If that were the case, there'd be nothing to talk about online or in newspapers. Do you think every reporter is an expert on the issue they're reporting on? If you're expecting perfection from everyone, you're going to be waiting for a very long time.

Instead of getting so crabby, why not simply take the time to explain what you think are the problems with the piece and put out any pertinent facts? Do you think telling someone "You're a fuck up and should keep your mouth shut!" is going to help accomplish the repeal of DADT? It seems a rather silly strategy to me.

Well, I agree with Margareatpoa on one thing. Unless you are GLBT and have served or are active duty, then you really don’t have a dog in the fight. It really irks me when someone comes along and says things that are either truly ignorant or just wrong.

Yes, it is true that GLB types discharges do fluctuate with needs. It’s a historical fact. Also, the various CO’s also have an impact on those discharges as well.

From my experience, both pre-DADT and post-DADT it really comes down to the Commanding Officer’s desires.
I’ve been in a post-DADT command with CO who didn’t care “for those people” and (…actually I can’t say what I want to say… mostly sailor type cussin)
The CO was told of one person who was FtM Transgender. From there he forced out 30 some odd people [G1/L20+/B4+/ T5] in one shop (Line Division does a lot of work and training) resulting in hamstringing the command for months.

I’ve also worked for a CO who bent over backwards to save a hardcharging young woman from trashing her Navy career who was outted by herself in response to a demand for sexual favors from her supervisor and chief. They only knew because someone else said something. In the end of that one, an additional 4 or 5 left the service.

Seriouly, sometimes I don’t know if I want to slug them or hug them… in both instances people stood up for the one being outted by a third party. They did say “I’m Gay/Lesbian and if you don’t like it, kick me out too.” [ok, it typically was ‘kiss my ass’ but it comes out to be the same thing]

In the first instance, the CO was more than willing to do so. I ended up hooked up to a lie detector being asked “are you gay?” because of that purge. (I’m asexual…which is actually against regulations believe it or not.)[and no, I didn’t pass that test or the next one either… funny aint it?]

In the second instance, the CO didn’t want to lose a dedicated, hard worker who was a 4.0 Sailor. He wanted to do everything possible to remove the first class petty officer and the chief from the Navy that were trying to force her in to a sexual encounter (hell, enslavement is more like it). They both worked with young people coming in and the CO felt that if they stayed in the Navy they would only prey upon other young women. Also, from my experience that CO seemed to disagree with DADT.

Sad story, the number of DADT discharges a CO has is kept track of. I have over heard numbers being compared between CO’s and a CO bragging that he had the most.

> Margareatpoa, I’m a Tron and also a flight deck T/S (hugs) at least my current job lets me play with my old toys.

@ Margaret: If the sole reason for throwing you out was homosexual "status," then you are apparently one of the many people whose discharges violated policy even in 1992, intentionally or out of command ignorance [imagine that].

It's a popular myth that the availability of/tendency toward Honorable discharge characterizations began with DADT when they, in fact, predate it by several years.

The change was first partly influenced by the high profile case of Leonard Matlovich who received an Honorable discharge in 1975. The administrative review board had recommended a General or Less Than Honorable discharge but the Secretary of the Air Force affirmed his Langley Air Force Base commander's recommendation that it be upgraded [some histories erroneously assert it was the result of his lawsuit]. Leonard, backed up by the case of Navy Ensign Copy Berg, while not overturning the ban, had adequately demonstrated to the public that gays deserved fairer treatment in discharges.

The change formally dates to the results of a DOD study group in 1978 during the Carter Administration, finally ordered by Deputy Secty of Defense W. Graham Claytor, Jr., on January 16, 1981, that, in the absence of "aggravating circumstances" [e.g., being caught having sex on base] gays should receive Honorable discharges. [Unfortunately, he was also the author of the notorious "123 Words" which both eliminated the then-existing if nebulous possible exceptions to discharge and was the basis for the language of DADT.]

There was a great deal of resistance from military commanders in 1981 to the softened discharge characterization policy and some nefarious commanders still try to get servicemembers to accept a mere General discharge which disqualifies one from educational ["G.I. Bill"] benefits assuming one has served the minimum number of years.

If they didn't accuse you of "aggravating circumstances," I would look into the avenues of appeal for an upgrade.

Finally, while just talking about DADT makes for easy rhetorical shorthand, I believe it has unintentionally undermined the more powerful argument that comes from the many costs involved in the tens of thousands more that have collectively been discharged pre-DADT. [I swear there are LGBT youngins who believe gays could serve openly before DADT.]

I prefer just to refer to "the ban."

The war for oil crowd, led by Obama and cheered on by Congress are considering their options. They're way out of their league in their attempt to win permanent imperial hegemony over South Asia's oil. They simply don't have the resources to continue the wars against Palestine and Pakistan and the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Further, in spite of the loud-mouthed bullying by Obama and H. Clinton they don't really have the wherewithal to attack Iran.

The central question they face is how to get those resources? Obama has committed to long drawn out and costly occupations of both Iraq and Afghanistan, where his escalation has stirred up a hornets' nest and led to the rapid growth of the Taliban, who, in spite of Karzai's pathetic pleas show no sign of ending their insurrection against his US controlled puppet government. Likewise in Iraq the insurrectionists and the powerful, anti-American, militant oil workers union show no signs of giving up the ghost.

To get the necessary cannon fodder they may have to reinstitute the draft because enlistments are down, way, way down. For a while Bush relied on stop-loss and recruiting criminals and veterans of formations like the neo-Nazi Guatemalan Special Forces and other military murder groups. But even those sources are drying up. The Pentagon, to say nothing of Obama and the Congressional Democrats are terrified of reintroducing the draft.

Now it seems that some of the brainless idiots in the Pentagon and the White House want to give repeal of Clintons bigoted DADT a try. And it's clear that they don't give a damn about the real reasons we want Clinton's legacy of bigotry repealed - the violence against GLBT servicemembers, their loss of benefits, kangaroo courts martial and the psychological violence of forcing people to deny their sexual preference.

The one and only thing on their minds is a fresh source of meat for the grinder. In their desperation for cannon fodder they imagine that out of the blue huge numbers of working class GLBT folks are just itching to run off to the oil wars, get killed, wounded, maimed and return home suicide prone and suffering from Post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, all to the applause of a grateful oil industry and a few pro-enlistment apologists for the war.

Fat chance. Except for a few careerists, lifers and pro-war reactionaries LGBT folks are no more likely to enlist than the rest of the working class population. Maybe Obama ought to begin negotiations with his reactionary peer French President Nicolas Sarkozy to find out what it would cost to lease the French Foreign Legion for a few decades.

To date deaths in Iraq as a result of the Clinton-Bush-Obama invasion and occupation of Iraq are 4375 and 31,616 wounded, roughly half too seriously to be returned to duty. If you add in soldiers form US puppet states the total is 4693. Similar figures for The Bush-Obama invasion and occupation of Afghanistan are 986 Americans, and the total including those from puppet states is 1,631. 9496 Americans have been wounded. Causality and death figures have nearly doubled since Obama took office (from icasaulities.org ) Suicide figures for returning vets and active duty personnel number in the thousands and are rapidly escalating.

On some level I hear what Margaret is saying. Why are gays who've never been in the military nor never plan on being in the military so concerned with DADT, more concerned with it than with ENDA, queer youth homelessness, safe schools, etc.?

But the military is still supposed to be responsive to the will of the people, considering Congress has the power to control military policy. Since we're almost all voters here and many of us tax payers, we all have a right to an opinion.

"Since we're almost all voters here and many of us tax payers, we all have a right to an opinion."

And war has effects, far-ranging effects, on everyone, including people who never have been and never will be part of the military; those effects are real and physical as well as economic and political. Our economy is a war economy, given that the military is unjustly also touted as the only economic option for young people of colour and immigrants, and given how much of our budget is disproportionately dedicated to the military. The military has also permeated schools here in Chicago, which has the most militarised school district in the country.

The military is everyone's business, regardless of whether you're for DADT, against DADT, or want to know why so many gays and lesbians are bent on forgetting what the military really stands for: militarism and inequality. And the stories related by Gina above only show what a flawed institution it is.