Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Homophobia in the military

(Please see UPDATES at end)

Jason Van Steenwyk of 'Iraq Now' (link in my blogroll at right already) posts, as a military officer, what I can only describe as a homophobic rant (however, please read the three updates at the end of this message). On the other hand, even though some of what he has written in the past has not 'gelled' with me, I accept that he is a fine writer and that his views are honestly held and always, even in this latest article, clearly and fairly expressed.

However, whilst accepting that I know nothing about the true situation in the US (or indeed the British) military, I have read over the past year or so a number of reports written by present and former US military personnel who happen to be gay. Some of them were forced to leave the military because of falling foul of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, or because they were 'outed' by someone. The experiences recounted seemed to me to be much more diverse than the generalised absolute homophobia which Jason Van Steenwyk would have us believe is the norm, although some of the cases I have read about certainly do bear out what he writes.

On balance, I suspect that whilst he accepts the political reality that the US military will, sooner or later, be forced to accept openly gay personnel amongst its ranks, he does not like this prospect one little bit. Fair enough - he lives in what passes for a free country, just as I do. But in this instance I think he has perhaps allowed his own prejudices to cloud his normal seeming objectivity in assessing what is the overall current position.

Incidentally, in reports I have read about the British military since the absolute ban on gays serving in the military was done away with a few years ago, the fears that the sky would fall in seem not to have been borne out. Some officers I have heard speaking about the matter before and after the change have expressed surprise, in fact, at how relatively smooth has been the change and that whilst acceptance may not be complete it has been nowhere near as negative as many had feared.

Jason, it will happen, get over it.

Update: I have been re-reading and re-reading his post and am now not so certain that the views I attributed to him are accurate, as the phraseology employed is, on reflection, somewhat ambiguous in a few areas. Nevertheless, I felt years ago when Colin Powell was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the early part of Clinton's presidency, during which time the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was formulated that it seemed curious that a body (the military) theoretically subservient to the will of the civilian authorities could, it seemed, coerce adoption of an alternative policy to that which had initially been planned by the President. We had the same problem for years with our own military, until eventually the matter was taken out of the hands of our government (that is the reality) by the fact that cases brought before the ECHR against the British government by dismissed military personnel who were gay resulted in judgements which exposed the breaches of the ECHR by the UK government over many years because of its pandering to the arguments of the miltary. It seems to me that in a country which considers itself to be a democracy worth the name the military must take account of changes occurring within the society it is there to defend.

2nd UPDATE on 29 JAN 04: I have just read Jason's latest posting on this matter and am happy to have the overall content of that post have the last word on this matter. The final italicised paragraphs of 'name withheld', seem to me to be very reasonable. One deviant predatory homosexual is no more representative of all homosexuals than is a deviant heterosexual (or white person or black person, etc) representative of all members of those other categories.

3rd UPDATE: (Sunday 5JUL09 15.28 BST) I was amazed this morning when consulting my overnight site stats to observe that this blog article has been linked to again by Jason, in a new article he published yesterday, 4th July 2009 ('Happy Independence Day', by the way, to any American readers). I've also now published this morning a further article on this topic in my own little blog which you can find here. The thing that strikes me about this whole question is that the issue of whether gays should serve in the military or not is, so far as the UK is concerned, now a done deal and I have not heard or read any commentary in years from anyone who knows about serving in the military (which I do not) suggesting that the change we made quite few years ago was wrong and should be reversed; it is simply now a non-issue. The US is a big strong country and no doubt knows its own business best, but for this particular Briton (who admires the US greatly) I confess to being quite mystified how a country so devoted to freedom and liberty and equality (although that last only came to pass so far as non-whites are concerned relatively recently) can continue to enforce such discriminatory practices with a straight face. Forgive me, but it is truly bizarre. Only last week I was reading about a military linguist (an Asian-American Arabic language specialist) who deliberately challenged the "don't ask, dont' tell" by announcing that he is gay and now faces discharge from the military. How many Arabic linguists have been discharged since 2003 for this reason? I understand it is several hundreds. Pure and utter madness in my humble opinion, but of course what the US does in this regard is none of my business, although it does seem remarkably short-sighted. It is quite clear that quasi-religious 'moral' zealotry does not reside solely in certain Islamic states, such as Iran, but is alive and well in the 'Land of the Free', the United States of America. As I mentioned above, a sincere Happy Independence Day to any American readers who pass this way.

PS/ I won't be permitting any more comments in this very old blog entry. There were at the time many comments to it, but when I changed my commenting system from 'Haloscan' to 'Google' at the end of 2008 unfortunately all the old 'Haloscan' comments were lost, including those in this post. However anyone who wishes to post further comments is welcome to do so in the more recent article referred to in the '3rd UPDATE' above. Apart from anything else, comments on old articles require me to pre-moderate them before they appear and I have always been happy to allow reasonable (i.e. no profanity and not offensive) comments to appear without prior moderation by me, so if you post comments to my latest post on this topic they will appear at once. I am not censoring anything, simply trying to make maintaining this blog more manageable. I hope you understand. However, please be aware that I will delete any comment which contravenes the 'Terms of Use' I have designed for this blog - there is a link to these in the top right column of the blog.

2 comments:

  1. evidently you missed the point that the military is charged by a law passed by a Democratic congress to enforce the DADT policy. Should the congress wish to change this, they can reject this law about DADT and the military will then be charged to accept both gays and straights and bi-sexuals into the military - and they will do so. The military does not make the laws. Congress does that and they did.

    If someone makes it so blatant that they harass another military guy of the opposite belief system (gays can harass straights just as much as straights can harass gays) then the military is right to discharge them. If someone breaks the DADT law by announcing that they are gay, then again it is congress that made the rule about the DADT.

    It is also interesting that the congress was ruled by Democrats then and there was a Democrat as president. This was not, therefore, a result of religious fundamentalists. Talk to them. The military just does what the law says it should do.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi dick

    Most of what you say is correct. I do not dispute it for even one second. I don't pretend to know all the detail of how the US legal system works, but credit me with the intelligence of knowing that the US military follows precisely what the Congress and President tell it to do, no more, no less - exactly as it should be in any democracy. However when Clinton wanted to allow gays to serve openly, one of the leading opponents was Colin Powell, at the time if I recall correctly Chief of the Joint Staff, who led military opposition to the proposals which Clinton had made and which led to DADT being passed into law. So please don't try and tell me the military was a completely passive observer of what civilian authority wanted to do - the military lobbied hard (and won) in opposition to that civilian authority was proposing. You know as well as I do how easy it is to whip up public opinion in the US on this issue and this is precisely what the military lobbying at the time did - politics is the art of the possible and the lobbying made it impossible.

    However, to be frank, it is boring to read this kind of mindless regurgitation of prejudice - being gay is not a 'belief system'! I'm afraid your use of this hackneyed phrase is in itself sympbolic of the religious basis of much of the nonsense that is written on this matter in the US. For God's sake, grow up!

    PS/ I won't be permitting any more comments in this very old blog entry. There were at the time many comments to it, but when I changed my commenting system from 'Haloscan' to 'Google' at the end of 2008 unfortunately all the old 'Haloscan' comments were lost, including those in this post. However anyone who wishes to post further comments is welcome to do so in the more recent article referred to in the '3rd UPDATE' to this blog post. Apart from anything else, comments on old articles require me to pre-moderate them before they appear and I have always been happy to allow reasonable (i.e. no profanity and not offensive) comments to appear without prior moderation by me, so if you post comments to my latest post on this topic they will appear at once. I am not censoring anything, simply trying to make maintaining this blog more manageable. I hope you understand. however i will delete any comment which contravenes the 'Terms of Use' I have designed for this blog - there is a link to these in the top right column of the blog.

    ReplyDelete

Welcome to my comment area. Whilst all comment is welcome you are requested to respect the views of others. To read full terms for use of this facility, please visit my 'Terms of Use' section, linked to under the 'About this Blog' heading at top right of the blog. Note added 12JUL2010 - All comments will now be pre-moderated before they appear in this blog; this is a measure to prevent 'spam' commenting, which has become frequent of late. Thank you.