Friday, December 03, 2010

Senate ASC continues DADT hearings, queries service chiefs

On Friday December 3, the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on repealing “don’t ask don’t tell” continue at 9 AM, with the following speakers.

To continue to receive testimony on the report of the Department of Defense Working Group that conducted a comprehensive review of the issues associated with a repeal of section 654 of title 10, United States Code, “Policy Concerning Homosexuality in the Armed Forces.”

The speakers are as follows:

General James E. Cartwright, USMC, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

General George W. Casey, Jr., USA, Chief of Staff of the Army

Admiral Gary Roughead, USN, Chief of Naval Operations

General James F. Amos, USMC , Commandant of the Marine Corps

General Norton A. Schwartz, USAF, Chief of Staff of the Air Force

Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr., USCG, Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard

The link for watching the broadcast is the same as yesterday.

The general concern was that in combat, social values are different, and that it is more problematic to make a change during the middle of war. The Marine Corps Commandant Amos expressed the strongest concerns (particularly with respect to small combat units), but even he admitted that the policy would probably be changed eventually, but suggested that adjustment should take place during a historical period of less combat. (At one point Amos made a gaffe, saying that this session was about “homosexuality in the Armed Forces”, the way we used to talk in the barracks at Fort Eustis in 1969 with all the “OGAB” Tiny Tim gestures!) The Air Force Chief said that the expectation of physical combat is less generally in the Air Force (except when being shot down), but that repeal would be more orderly if delayed until 2012.

At the end, the service chiefs were asked if they would be able to help Secretary Gates certify that the service chiefs would be able to implement the change in policy.  But Amos characterized the "risk" as "moderate".

The chiefs did say that most separatiosn were "statement based".  There was a question as to how many discharges might have been requested to avoid completing military service, but the law actually probibits discharges solely to avoid completing service.

Toward the end, Mr. Levin reiterated the study, saying that even in combat forces, the report showed that the presence of gay soldiers didn't disrupt unit cohesion. The service chiefs seemed to agree that the infamous "123 words" from Randy Shilts's book no longer apply ("Homosexuality is incompatible with military service...").  Levin quote as respondent from a special operatios group. "He's big, he's mean, he kills a lot of bad guys. But he's gay."  Levin seemed focused on thay one anecdote. 

Back on Sept. 14, 2001, Levin had warned (on CNN) that we might have to go back to the draft!

On Wednesday December 1, the Washington Post had an op-ed by Patrice B. Pexton, p A17, “What makes a warrior? It’s something that both straight and gay soldiers value?” and titled online “What gays and straights both seem to affirm in the military: their masculinity” (what about female soldiers?), link here.

He talks about warrior culture, and also throws around the concept of “sacrifice”, and treats sexual orientation as an immutable property of a person. Yet, the “culture war” and social conflict impute sexual orientation in complex ways whether Sen. McCain wants to admit it or not. The battle over the capacity to serve in the military presents a bit of a paradox in an individualistic society, reminding us that sometimes it’s the shared vision of “the group” that has to take the day.

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