"As a lifelong Republican who served in the Army in Germany, I believe it is critical that we review -- and overturn -- the ban on gay service in the military. I voted for 'don't ask, don't tell.' But much has changed since 1993.
My thinking shifted when I read that the military was firing translators because they are gay. According to the Government Accountability Office, more than 300 language experts have been fired under 'don't ask, don't tell,' including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. This when even Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently acknowledged the nation's 'foreign language deficit' and how much our government needs Farsi and Arabic speakers. Is there a 'straight' way to translate Arabic? Is there a 'gay' Farsi? My God, we'd better start talking sense before it is too late. We need every able-bodied, smart patriot to help us win this war."
The former Republican Senator from Wyoming goes on to wryly observe that the armed forces have been forced to issue an increasing number of "moral waivers" to convicted felons, leading us to wonder how, say, a convicted rapist is less of a problem in service to our nation than a gay man or woman who has committed no such offense.
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was a bastard compromise that had one benefit; to allow some time for it to percolate through the military that gay people could, have and do serve without it becoming an issue. It seems that it has.
Military attitudes have also shifted. Fully three-quarters of 500 vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan said in a December Zogby poll that they were comfortable interacting with gay people. Also last year, a Zogby poll showed that a majority of service members who knew a gay member in their unit said the person's presence had no negative impact on the unit or personal morale. Senior leaders such as retired Gen. John Shalikashvili and Lt. Gen. Daniel Christman, a former West Point superintendent, are calling for a second look.
There's another point here. It was properly Conservative to be concerned about the potential effects on the military of open service in '93. I would have argued that the concern was misplaced, but nonetheless I could not then and cannot say now that I'd have been correct. Open service, given our military culture, might well have led to some very ugly problems - though probably more due to the attitudes of "straight" service-members.
But that was then and this is now. Sen. Simpson demonstrates for us what a "reality-based" Conservative looks like.
tag: don't ask don't tell, gays in the military, military readiness, Iraq War, Supporting the Troops, Uniform Code of Military Justice, cultural warfare, Alan K. Simpson
This article is illustrated with a beautiful Gays in the Military design kindly provided by The Last Straw, an extremely gay shop featuring a variety of patriotic and flag designs.