The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is our nation's highest ranking military officer, and the principal military adviser to the President, the National Security Council, and the Secretary of Defense.
This country has long had a ban on gays in the military. In 1993, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" moved the ban from orientation to conduct, and from policy to law. Since then, America has had six Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And four of the six now support gays serving openly in the military.
Yet, despite evidence to the contrary -- and there is evidence -- the Republican and religious-right wing wind machines are still blowing hot and hard, suggesting repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will be the end of the U.S. military. Or worse.
Colonel Oliver (convicted felon, Nicaraguan gun smuggler, and - surprise! - Fox News contributor) North last week suggested repealing DADT would invite the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) into our Armed Forces. (I'm not quite sure how that would work, as you can't be a minor and serve in the military, but perhaps as he was running guns in Iran to help fight the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, North got a little too chummy with Noriega and what he was selling?)
The stories coming via the Beck-Hannity-O'Reilly-Palin-North Network are just jam-packed full of shock and awe. At this point, one would not be surprised to hear from them that if "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal were enacted the sun would never rise again and George Washington and Ronald Reagan would roll over in their graves.
Well, guess what? We already have hard evidence about what will happen in the U.S. Armed Forces when "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is repealed. And the answer is, nothing.
In an opinion piece in Sunday's Chicago Tribune, "Buried truths about gays in the military," Steve Chapman reminds us that last June, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John M. Shalikashvili, wrote an Op-Ed against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and pointed to hard evidence that during the six-month long Persian Gulf War (August 2, 1990 - February 28, 1991) under Republican President George H. W. Bush, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was suspended. Funny how no one (read: Senator John McCain) remembers that?
In The Washington Post, General Shalikashvili writes:
"The U.S. military itself has had successful experiences. Enforcement of the ban was suspended without problems during the Persian Gulf War, and there were no reports of angry departures."
Well, well, well. Whaddya know...
"A majority of U.S. service members say they know or believe that someone in their unit is gay, according to a 2006 Zogby International poll, and most of those who know of openly gay peers report no detriment to morale or cohesion. A recent study co-authored by Laura Miller of Rand Corp. found no correlation between a unit's readiness and whether known gays serve in it. And last year, four retired flag and general officers studied all available evidence and found that allowing gays to serve posed no risk to force readiness."
We now have Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John M. Shalikashvili, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, under whom "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was enacted, and former Commander in Chief, President Bill Clinton, under whom "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was enacted, and many other military leaders at the highest levels, all stating that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" should be repealed.
Additionally, another former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, last fall said:
"Gays can serve in the military; they just can't do so openly. And they do, and there are lots of them, and we're the beneficiary of all that."
So, Senator McCain, Senator DeMint, Congressman Hunter, Congressman Pence, and all you other hypocritical lawmakers and fanatical right-wing pundits, when will you listen?