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John Boehner: How can we repeal ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ in the middle of two wars?

Rep. John Boehner

Rep. John Boehner

The Republican challenge to the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ is going to avoid overt homophobia. Instead, opponents are going to say we just can’t do it right now. From NYT:

Gay rights groups are calling the hearing historic even as they question how quickly the administration is prepared to act. But Republicans are already signaling that they are not eager to take up the issue.

“In the middle of two wars and in the middle of this giant security threat,” Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the Republican leader, said Sunday on “Meet the Press” on NBC, “why would we want to get into this debate?”

It’s a poor argument. Congressman Boehner needs no reminding, of course, but America has been embroiled in war for nearly a decade now. Troops are already drawing down in Iraq, but they’re ramping up in Afghanistan — and though the president has vowed to “start” bringing them home in 2011, the truth is that nobody knows when or if the state of war will ever end.

If we wait for the wars to end to end unjust treatment of gays in the military, we will wait forever.

Here’s one benefit that war has traditionally had for America: It calls us to our better selves, sometimes in spite of ourselves. We spent World War II trying to bring down a racist tyrant with dreams of empire — and we succeeded. But rallying against Hitler’s regime was a big step toward making racism untenable here at home — how could we fight for freedom we weren’t granting here? — and it wasn’t long before Harry Truman desegregated the armed forces (in the face of opposition strikingly similar to today’s); the performance of women in factories on the home front also gave lie to the idea of the “weaker sex” and paved the way for postwar feminism. Those developments have been good for our country, and for its citizens.

We face a similar challenge today. We’re fighting terrorists who want to kill Americans — and want to do so in the name of a theology that often (though not always) mutilates women and executes gays.

Besides, it’s easy to make the argument that wartime is precisely when we don’t have the luxury of casual discrimination. I’ll repeat myself here: The downside to the current policy is obvious and tangible: Under ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,’ we’ve discharged a number of military professionals — including linguists — whose skills are needed in the War on Terror. And a number of warriors have come out of the closet, post-combat, in recent years. Turns out they served with valor in combat; the closet was not a requirement for that valor.

Congressman Boehner asks how we can eliminate ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ during wartime. The real question is why we wouldn’t.

  1. Josh Powers Says: Feb 1 12:45 PM

    One might think that being embroiled in two wars would be the exact reason we’d want to have as many well-qualified people in the military as is possible. Silly me.

  2. Monkey Brad Says: Feb 2 11:28 AM

    Prompted to comment, mainly to report the Captcha (hoodlum, relax!). Okay, there was really no comma or exclamation point in the original, but you knew; you knew.

    AS for coming out of the closet after the combat service. Yes. Fine. That’s part of what works with DADT. I’ve served. You don’t seem to have addressed the point. You haven’t addressed the real argument in favor of the policy. Instead, you and commenter JP imply that the argument against gays serving openly in the military is a matter of icky feelings and arbitrary discrimination. It’s not. Until you address the real argument for DADT I’m not going to engage either of you. (You know, in debate I mean.)

  3. Joel Mathis Says: Feb 2 1:10 PM

    Brad, as always, thank you for your service. But a big chunk of the case against repealing DADT really does seem to be a matter of icky feelings and arbitrary discrimination.

    If gays threaten unit cohesion — I assume this is what you’re talking about — it’s because A) they’re so overcome by all that man meat around them that they can’t subsume their lust and perform as professionally as other soldiers or B) straight soldiers are too creeped out by the thought of serving with a gay soldier to perform as professionally as they should. In the first case, there’s plenty of rules and regulations in place that can be used to force an unprofessional soldier out of the profession. And in the second case … well, I don’t think it’s radical social experimentation to expect soldiers to behave as professionally as they would be expected if they had coworkers in civilian life.

    The armed forces already — through their nondiscrimination policies — tell their troops not to be jerks to minorities, women and people of other religions. In a military that prides itself on great discipline, are we to believe that the vast majority of soldiers cannot obey a rule telling them not to be a jerk to their gay colleagues?

    Captcha: At Spacy

  4. Joel Mathis Says: Feb 2 1:11 PM

    Oh, and: We’ve got evidence that other military forces do ok with gays openly serving.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/16/world/europe/16iht-gays.4.5740115.html

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3362505,00.html

    Are you going to say the Israeli military isn’t tough?

  5. Gay Netroots spooks Deputy White House Chief of Staff Jim Messina - AMERICAblog Says: Jun 16 6:05 PM

    [...] And yes, as Ambinder notes, earlier this year Messina, when discussing the prospect of repealing DADT this year, as his boss promised in the SOTU, famously lectured the gay groups on the fact that we were a nation involved in two wars. You might recognized that talking point. It’s one the Republicans use all the time to argue against repealing the ban. Here’s House Minority Leader John Boehner channeling Messina: [...]

  6. Gay Netroots spooks Deputy White House Chief of Staff Jim Messina - AMERICAblog Says: Jun 16 6:05 PM

    [...] And yes, as Ambinder notes, earlier this year Messina, when discussing the prospect of repealing DADT this year, as his boss promised in the SOTU, famously lectured the gay groups on the fact that we were a nation involved in two wars. You might recognized that talking point. It’s one the Republicans use all the time to argue against repealing the ban. Here’s House Minority Leader John Boehner channeling Messina: [...]

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