Bil Browning

A reader writes with concerns

Filed By Bil Browning | September 22, 2010 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Site News
Tags: Defense Authorization Act, Don't Ask Don't Tell, from the inbox, NDAA, reader concerns, repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell

Yesterday evening Projector Leigh wrote in with some concerns about our push to urge Senators to vote for cloture on the defense authorization bill. The repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and the DREAM Act are both attached as amendments to the bill and both would greatly help LGBT people.

follow-the-money.jpgLeigh makes some good points so I asked her if I could share her thoughts with the rest of you. She has done some digging into the NDAA and felt obligated to point out the other things we're asking our Senators to support by voting for the bill.

I'm very concerned with the movement being led by HRC, Bilerico, Courage Campaign and most of the other groups out there who support the rights of we queer folk (and even groups like NOW and ACLU) in support of NDAA/ S. 3454 which most of the aforementioned refer to simply as the legislation that would repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Many of my friends have been encouraging this support of DADT and calling their elected officials to voice their opinions and one of my favorite artists, Lady Gaga, has gotten out there to encourage everyone to voice their support of repealing DADT by voting for the bill. I'm really disturbed by this.

The rest of her e-mail is after the jump. I'll be interested to get Projectors take on it.

One reason that I will, in a way, cast aside is my opposition to having queer people (and women who are also in something of an unequal position) join the military. I believe that the military is plagued with a number of disturbing problems that have created a system that is broken. It is a recipe for disaster and not a recipe to which queer folk (and women) ought be added with the view that equality could or would be achieved. I view the military as systematically oppressive, exploitative, violent and damaging to those who enlist. I say this not simply as an idealistic activist but as someone with numerous friends, family and loved ones who have been/ are enlisted. But again- this is the argument I will cast aside.

I take issue with the contents of the legislation to which the proposed amendment repealing DADT would be attached and the blanket support that we, in contacting legislators, are giving to this bill. Each organization encouraging people to support passage of the amendment to S. 3454/ NDAA should make note of that to which the amendment would be attached. So far I have not gotten an email from any organization that both encouraged me to contact Washington to support the repeal of DADT that also included the slightest bit of education regarding the bill which we were to request the amendment be made. This is dangerous and irresponsible.

True- we all have a responsibility to research and educate ourselves regarding any and all legislation we support, oppose, etc. People don't always have the time, energy, knowledge or resources to do this and very often people rely on trusted organizations to give them a heads up about action they need to take. Maybe I've missed the piece on Bilerico that included discourse on the pros and cons of the repeal of DADT via NDAA - if so, I do apologize! I am reaching out to Bilerico because of the nature of the organization. Bilerico has been an awesome place for voices that are not always heard to have a much needed outlet and a chance to reach a larger audience than they otherwise might.

I spent some time last night researching NDAA because of my aforementioned displeasure with the military- I wanted to know what exactly I might be supporting if I called into my officials and what I might be suggesting my friends support. In case you haven't noticed thus far I am pretty hard core about politics and tend to be known as such by friends who are less so. Like many of us who have trusted organizations whose call to action we almost immediately heed, many of us have friends we respect and whose leads we frequently follow on specific topics. I think I am occasionally that friend for some- the one who has rather obsessively researched a matter! I put together the following as a Note on Facebook to share with my friends with the hope that should they decide to contact their elected officials that they would do so with knowledge of some of the contents in the entire bill.

Aside from my opposition to adding queer folks to the very broken system that is the military industrial/ scientific/ technological complex which has proven itself repeatedly to be skilled at oppression, exploitation and dehumanizing (never mind violent)- well, I've got some issues with the rest of the bill. So to all who might make a call, might have made a call and those who might encourage others to pick up their phones as well I remind you that if YOU Don't Ask what is in S.3454 they sure Don't Tell!

In case you haven't met, I'd like to introduce you to Thomas. Thomas is the go to place for reading up on legislation! Why trust the media pundits when you can read it yourself? Ok, it's a little dense. But sometimes it is VERY important to do a bit of research!

So S.3454 is titled National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011- it isn't just legislation that seeks queer the military. We queer folk would need to be attached via amendment which is what some are saying could happen with the DREAM act as well. It's about a whole lot more than DADT and/ or the DREAM act which is why, I think, that many of my queer family members might want to reconsider jumping onto the bandwagon and calling your elected officials in support of NDAA/ S.3454 and you actually might want to make some calls in opposition to it- even if you're all for queering the military. At base this is a military spending bill- this is how we're going to pay for continued involvement not only in Afghanistan and Iraq but in South America, Africa and Asia. Is that something you can support? Have a look yourself at some of the parts I picked out and better yet, have a look at the whole thing for yourself!!!

Here is the current outline:

It's a lot to go over- I've been skimming over it to find some parts that might be of interest!

TITLE X

Subtitle C: Counter Drug Matters ----discusses what I would refer to in general as War on Drugs stuff like involvement in Colombia and Nicaragua

Subtitle E: Miscellaneous Authorities and Limitations ----makes sure that at least 6,000 National Guard Personnel will be heading down to the southern border to build a fence (double and triple layered) do unarmed aerial and other types of surveillance to protect the border.

And a little further on there is a bit on what the military is and is not going to be required to make available to the public (reports and that sort of thing).

I'll jump down a bit to...

TITLE XII--MATTERS RELATING TO FOREIGN NATIONS

Subtitle A: Training and Assistance ----lending military equipment to foreign forces for use in Iraq, Afghanistan and in other peacekeeping missions. Not only that- the Yemen Ministry of Interior Counter Terrorism Forces are getting support (supplies, training, equipment) and $75,000,000 if the Sec of Defense and State decide that is the way to go! Payment/ travel expenses may also be given to students, officers and others for cooperation in African countries.

Subtitle C: Reports ----some reports related to exiting Afghanistan look to be getting an extension of a couple of years but it is nice to see that some reports are to be generated in regards to the relationship between the U.S. and Iran (unless that's the next step for our endless war). There is also to be a report on Cuba and their ties to terrorism/ drugs/ cyber warfare...And also investigation on any possible involvement of Venezuela with terrorist groups to include (but not limited to) Hamas, Hezbollah, National Liberation Army, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and then back in Africa there is the focus on dismantling the Lord's Resistance Army and capture/ removal of Joseph Kony and crew from the battlefields.

TITLE XIV--OTHER AUTHORIZATIONS

Subtitle B: Chemical Demilitarization Matters ----they'll be trying to get rid of stockpiled lethal chemical agents/ munitions by the end of 2017 (those that existed in 1985, that is) and Kentucky and Colorado facilities are going to be handled separately from those in other areas.

TITLE XV--OVERSEAS CONTINGENCY OPERATIONS

Subtitle C: Other Matters ----no more than $105,000,000 will be used for detainee operations at Guantánamo

So that is what is on the table, aside from the possible DADT amendment.


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Or we could let the filibuster stand, wait until after the mid-terms when the GOP controls the house and probably the senate. Not only will we not get a repeal of DADT, but more onerous amendments which the President will sign on to.

I would prefer to see the expenditures cut at least in half. 730 billion is huge. Bring the troops home and get our collective noses out of the world police business. The nation is mired in a recession and also concerned about massive deficit spending yet we pass larger and larger funding for the military/industrial complex. Somehow from my perspective Defense has turned into aggression.

So we should wait to repeal DADT until after we dismantle the military industrial complex and convert the Pentagon into the Department of Peace and Light? That's certainly going to be successful. Ironically, having DADT repeal and the DREAM Act included in the legislation is what kept the bill from passing, so she really should be thanking folks who supported attaching those provisions to the bill. This sort of radical reform purity is really just left-wing teabaggery, only less relevant to our actual political system. I know, I know, everyone's point of view is valid, but some are just a waste of time.

Aaron, If you'll read carefully I mentioned that the argument I was going to put aside- the concern I would keep separate was that which relates to the military industrial complex. I'm all for dismantling that, however; the concern I wanted to express foremost in relation to this piece of legislation was the content of the legislation. As queer people (that is how I identify) we've been bombarded with requests to contact elected officials and encourage the repeal of DADT. But by calling into the offices of Senators and Representatives to support this amendment that would repeal DADT we're at the very least implying that we support the legislation to which it is attached. Maybe people are supportive of that legislation- the legislation that provides for the items I briefly outlined above. I personally want no part in furthering the wars in which we are involved. The emails I received from various organizations made no mention of the content of the actual legislation only the amendment. And I fully accept my responsibility to check out something before I decide to call in to get my Senator to vote yes or no. I have a degree in political science, I've been an activist for years and I've participated in various events/ seminars/ etc. that involve helping people understand what legislation means, how it effects them and all of the other things that aren't always easy to grasp if you only rarely read or even encounter legislation. Let's face it- this is not the most accessible, clearly written stuff!

HRC, Courage Campaign, NOW and all of these other groups who have sent me URGENT ACTION ALERT! emails have people who do read legislation on a regular basis (I hope so, at least) and I think that they really ought provide more information. And while again- I think everyone needs to do their homework- not everyone does, can, knows how or even thinks twice about whether or not they should trust a group as well known as HRC or NOW. It seems a bit misleading at least- to not mention that this is an amendment to a bill that is not entirely about recalling DADT.

I am very aware that many queer people serve in the military. I have family and friends who are queer and members of the Army, the Navy and the Airforce. I hate that they are unable to be honest about who they are in order to maintain their positions. The idea that someone could be dishonorably discharged for being honest is deplorable. A dishonorable discharge is in some ways treated like a felony- you can lose your benefits, your right to vote, the ability to own a gun, a shot at being employed by the federal and sometimes state governments. That is horrible and nothing that anyone should experience. Having said that I believe that DADT repeal ought be part of another bill.

ENDA makes sense to me. Maybe something else, but not a military spending bill. I cannot support DADT in that way at all.

p.s.- I'm a Ms. not a Mr.

There's nothing on the table now.

I think Reid used the vote to get Republicans to vote against the Dream Act. He already knew that Republicans (and several Democrats) were against the repeal of DADT and that it couldn't pass, so he attached the Dream Act to damage Republicans and NOT to help DADT repeal or even to pass the NDAA.

It's a game. The outcome is what many of us have been suggesting - the LGBT Community does not have 60 votes in the US Senate. At best we have 56 or 57. Now, it's about to get a lot worse. After the midterms we may only have 52 or 53 Senators that support LGBT-issues.

As far as military spending goes, we are entering a new era. I think military resources are going to be re-directed to domestic needs and international disaster relief. We have 1 million enlisted members that have nothing to do but "wait." Look for new initiatives to put them to work on infrastructure, like the power grid. Not utilizing these 1 million Americans wastes $100 billion a year. "Serving your Country" is going to change dramatically during the next few years.

Well done, Mr. Leigh. The military-industrial complex consumes over a third of the national budget every year. And so very few of us taxpayers ever bother to look into where all that money is going and what exactly it is funding.

I've suspected for a while now that the huge interwoven corporate interests are what really call the shots in Washington, and that a majority of our legislators have been in their pockets for years.

Empires throughout history have ultimately failed because they have spread their resources too thin and ultimately bankrupted themselves of treasure and lives in the process.

Thanks to Bil Browning for posting this thoughtful letter from Mr. Leigh.

Neither DADT nor its repeal is about determining whether the military is a good thing or a bad thing, or whether any particular mission assigned to the military by the President and/or Congress is a good move or a bad move. It is not about the ratio of funding between social problems and the military; it is not about whether or not we accomplished anything in Iraq or Afghanistan; it is not about the drug war or stopping illegal immigration.

DADT and its repeal is about whether LGBT Americans are going to be characterized as cripples and freaks who are unfit for service, or are we going to be recognized as fit, competent, reliable citizens whose dedication to their country is just as thorough as any other group of citizens.

We can argue all these other questions about the military as separate issues. They are indeed separate, since these issues will exist whether or not LGBT people are allowed to serve openly. Stirring these questions all together is sloppy thinking (I like Aaron's term, "left-wing teabaggery"), IMHO, and will never get us to the goal we claim to have set for ourselves, social equality with straights.

I don't know when it will happen, but DADT will be repealed.

I agree A.J. it was absolutely silly to attach DADT repeal to the defense bill. Repealing DADT should stand on its own merits.

I'm with you on that, Deena!

Except people with disabilities, apparantly. As one of those 'crippled freaks' that doesn't help me much either. Also, the DADT repeal movement does push militarism pretty constantly.

Oh wow! Now I'm being accused of insulting people with bona fide disabilities!

I don't know what disability you are talking about specifically, and it does not matter for the purposes of this discussion. Unfortuantely, some disabilities do disqualify a person from military service, and I don't see much that can be done about that.

But being GLBT is not a disability, and the military should not call it one. Period.

And as for "the DADT repeal movement does push militarism pretty constantly" ... well, no apology there either, because if you want to serve in the military, then you have to at least support the idea of serving and defending your country. If you'd rather do something else, such as maybe supporting the socialists or communists or whoever, maybe even the fundamentalist Christian theocrats, you have a perfect right to do that, too.

It's a free country --- our soldiers fight to keep it that way. And, believe it or not, there are brave GLBT people who are willing and eager to do their part, without coming up with a million excuses about why they shouldn't.

Newsflash:
There are already tens of thousands of gay people in the military. This isn't about "adding queers"