Editors' note: 1st Lt. Dan Choi was a West Point graduate with degrees in Arabic language and Environmental Engineering. He was an infantry officer and Iraq combat vet, co-organizer of the National Equality March, and co-founder of Knights Out.
Secretary Gates and President Obama have betrayed our country's values.
The reason why Don't Ask Don't Tell is repugnant is clear: it enforces lying, hiding, and closeted paranoia. When I joined the military more than a decade ago I learned on my very first day at West Point that the foundation of our military is built upon our values. Honesty. Integrity. Personal Courage. Putting your country and its values before your benefits or your career. Nowhere in the military's ethos do we see a value of hiding and defensiveness that this administration, including my commander in chief, have rolled out as a "plan." Any plan to repeal DADT must be firmly grounded in American values that put integrity and truth above all else. That's where we start on Day One of any operation.
Any plan that focuses on protecting "victims" of DADT from "jilted lovers" misses the point entirely. We are soldiers who are willing to die for our country. We are not victims. "Jilted Lovers" should not be discounted as irrelevant, third party, or distractive simply because they tell the truth. In fact, they reveal the fundamental disease of the DADT issue as well as our own LGBT community. Why are we afraid of the truth? What do we have to hide? What is so crippling about a simple statement of truth?
This focus on the "danger of gay relationships" is an alarming insult to the American people (including the vast majority of soldiers) who have matured beyond the fear of gay. In fact, the "jilted lovers" conversation misses the mark completely. Stating that the focus of repeal is centered on the negative impacts of gay relationships is based on a false premise that gay relationships are still hostile to the proper functioning of a military unit, an organization, or even society as a whole. This topic must be cause for spirited pushback from our community. My love relationship bolstered my military career, my journey into maturity, my inspiration and spirituality, and my life. It made me a better soldier knowing there was someone who supported me in the most difficult times, it made me a more complete person who knew the freedom and life we were fighting for, it made me a better officer and platoon leader who understood the pain of a break-up or the joy of a second date. I knew what my soldiers were going through. I learned about the real world.
Any official who focuses on the danger of gay relationships under DADT flaunts their ignorance of reality and their thinly veiled contempt of gay patriots who have strong, healthy relationships. And they are completely out of step with reality. Further, they are on the wrong side of history.
Look around at the militaries around the world: let's start with our allies. The British, Canadian and Australian militaries, as well as practically all of NATO, laugh at us because in this discussion to repeal DADT, we tread with a caution that insults the professionalism of our own soldiers. We begin conversations about implementation of DADT repeal with discussions of "comfort zones" and fear. To assume that uncomfortable soldiers will be so unprofessional to act based on fear is a slap in the face to the strength of our military.
I came out very publicly. Sure, some of my infantrymen and my peers in my unit were shocked to find out that I was gay, but by the time were done performing maintenance on our rifles they asked, "So when can we meet your boyfriend?" It takes a matter of seconds, not years, for professional, educated soldiers to get over the shock. To assume that full implementation would require years is in fact betting against our soldiers. And betting against our soldiers is no way to begin strategy sessions for any operation.
Our allies laugh at us with patronizing glare that is earned by our cowardice to follow our own doctrines and values. Our doctrine must begin with our perennial goal: Win the War. Our values must begin with cold hard truth telling. Kicking out Arabic, Farsi, Pashto and Urdu linguists who tell the truth about their orientation and love relationships validates neither our doctrines nor our values.
Many have pointed out that other militaries around the world do not shoulder the same responsibilities as us. I wonder if they consider Israel, in the heart of the Middle East: perhaps they do not have huge responsibilities. They're only fighting for their survival. Do they know that Israel not only allows gay soldiers to serve openly in every branch (including the infantry) but provides same-sex partner benefits?
You don't have to look as far as Israel. Our own CIA, our police and fire departments, every one of our government agencies has no issue with honesty. Why does our military? Why do the leaders of our military, including the commander in chief, tolerate lying when it absolutely contradicts our fundamental values? Why are some of us appeased by the "progress" in the plan to incrementally lessen the impact of DADT? Have we forgotten that the real poison of DADT is its betrayal of our values?
"A cadet will not lie... nor tolerate those who do."
Until I am allowed to follow West Point's Honor Code, I am not satisfied.
I ask our community and I ask America: do not accept anything less than full, immediate repeal; do not tolerate any compromise to our values.