Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Thursday 20 January 2005

The price of homophobia in the war on terror

There is an interesting editorial in today's New York Times, commenting on the fact that 20 fluent Arabic speakers have been turfed out of the US military since 1998, solely because of their sexuality - they are gay. As an Arabic speaker myself, although nowhere good enough to be a professional translator, I know how vital it was to me during my time living in the Middle East to be able to read the odd newspaper article, or listen to the radio locally (or the BBC in Arabic). How much more vital must it be for people engaged in military operations? The stated aim of combating terrorism unfortunately seems to take second place to the necessity of ensuring that no 'dangerous elements' such as non-closeted gays are able to remain in the US military forces.

Of course the "don't ask, don't tell" policy didn't start under this Administration, but under Bill Clinton. What is equally true is that this policy was adopted (reluctantly) by Clinton to respond to the vehement opposition to complete abandonment of prohibition of gays in the military by none other than the Secretary of State Colin Powell, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who in this area at least is no liberal! All the "don't ask, don't tell" policy achieves is to force people who want to be honest about who they are to live a life of concealment and quite probably deceit - is this sensible?

Go figure... (as my North American cousins might say)

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