Guest Blogger

When our Honor Code becomes a Jilted Lover, it wants revenge

Filed By Guest Blogger | February 02, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, gays in the military, jilted lovers, LGBT, military, outing, third party, United States Army

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.

dan-choi.jpegSecretary 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.


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Sir, thanks for the excellent article.

Do excuse me for the slight twitching -- it's something that I will attend to sometime in the near future.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | February 2, 2010 4:42 PM

The record number of [on-duty suicideshttp://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/07/opinion/07sun3.html?_r=2&th&emc=th] in Iraq and Afghanistan don't even begin to count the suicides of discharged vets. They likely exceed 1,000 a month. According to Government Executive Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, "suicides and psychiatric mortality...could trump combat deaths." Insel's comments were put in context on Tuesday during a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, when Dr. James Peake, secretary of VA, said that the number of suicide attempts by all veterans under treatment by the department could exceed an earlier official estimate of 1,000 a month. Here's a [CBS videohttp://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=3516938n] with a VA doctor who says much the same.

From the Pentagons point of view these suicides and the vast numbers of vets suffering from PTSD are ominous figures cutting into the efforts to promote reenlistment and the stop-loss programs.

To date deaths in Iraq as a result of the Clinton-Bush-Obama invasion and occupation of Iraq are 4375 and 31,616 wounded, over half seriously. Similar figures for The Bush-Obama invasion and occupation of Afghanistan are 978 Americans, 253 English, 387 from other US satellite nations that total 1,618. 9496 Americans have been wounded. Causality and death figures have nearly doubled since Obama took office.

What Obama and the Pentagon brass want is more cannon fodder. What we want is an end to the bigotry and discrimination imposed by Clinton when he signed DADT.

We should do everything we can to reach out to the antiwar movement and jointly campaign against enlistment in the US military.

Bill, hope you don't mind, but your links in the above had obvious HTML problems, and I took the liberty of correcting them:

[on-duty suicides]


[CBS video]

Hope this helps --- AJL

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | February 2, 2010 8:50 PM

Thanks. I forgot to reformat them. I recently had a full knee replacement and the pain can be distrating.

Folks, This may not be the best time to bring this up but from the office of my Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) comes this timely release of information that everyone should have hoped it would have been sooner to come to pass.

Gates Appoints Panel for Potential End of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2010 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today established a Defense Department panel to prepare the military for the potential elimination of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that bans openly gay people from serving in the armed forces.

The working group is tasked to assess the relevant issues within a year in an effort to prime the department to adapt to any changes Congress makes to the 17-year-old law underpinning the controversial personnel policy -- a legislative move supported by Gates, President Barack Obama and the nation's top military officer.

"I fully support the president's decision," Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee today. "The question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change, but how we best prepare for it."

Noting the political climate in which the policy debate is playing out, Gates said a guiding principle of the department's effort will be to minimize disruption and polarization within a military engaged in two wars.

The working group, to be headed by Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon's top lawyer, and Army Gen. Carter Ham, the commander of U.S. Army Europe, will immediately begin reviewing the issues associated with implementing a repeal to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

"The mandate of this working group is to thoroughly, objectively and methodically examine all aspects of this question, and produce its finding and recommendations in the form of an implementation plan by the end of this calendar year," Gates told lawmakers.

Appearing alongside Gates was Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who echoed the secretary's endorsement of repealing the policy.

"Speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do," Mullen said. "No matter how I look at this issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens."

The chairman said "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is an issue that strikes at the integrity of the U.S. armed forces as an institution and that of individual servicemembers, who Mullen believes would accommodate a change to the policy, praising troops' adaptability. But he also acknowledged the likelihood that repealing the law would lead to a disruption in the forces.

"We would all like to have a better handle on these types of concerns, and this is what our review will offer," Mullen told the Congressional panel.

The hearing on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" comes after Obama announced in his State of the Union address last week his desire to end the policy.

"This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are," Obama said. "It's the right thing to do."

As the group undertakes the year-long review and assessment, Gates said the department also will take measures to implement the current "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy more fairly.

"The Department of Defense understands that this is a very difficult, and in the minds of some, controversial policy question," Gates told lawmakers. "I am determined that we in the department carry out this process professionally, thoroughly, dispassionately, and in a manner that is responsive to the direction of the president and to the needs of the Congress as you debate and consider this matter."

I hope this actually will happen in our lifetimes.

Thanks, Dan.
Honesty can be exhausting, if I can support you in any way, just ask.