Yasmin Nair

DADT and the Silence / Silencing of Queer Anti-War Voices

Filed By Yasmin Nair | February 05, 2010 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media, Politics, Politics, The Movement

The news of a possible repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell has gay and straight liberals billing and cooing at each other like long lost pigeon lovers. If the words of military top brass are to be believed, they really, really, really wanted us in the army all along and were just waiting for the times to change. John Shalikashvili, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff proclaimed that "'Don't ask, don't tell' was seen as a useful measure that allowed time to pass while our culture continued to evolve. The question before us now is whether enough time has gone by to give this policy serious reconsideration. I believe that it has."

The press and teh gayz are playing up the repeal of DADT as an issue of fairness and cultural "evolution" while downplaying the real reasons for this change of heart: The country is far less pro-war than it was at the start of this century, and the armed forces are desperately in need of fresh bodies to send to fight in the wars that have made the United States the most loathed power in the world.

I'll save a fuller critique of DADT and the LGBT community for later (although I do encourage you to look at a new website that will take on that and related issues; www.againstequality.org). For now, I want to raise the issue of queer silence around the wars we are engaged in and, more specifically, the possible silencing of queer anti-war voices against the war.

I can remember being part of queer contingents against the war(s) in Chicago and of having our critique covered by sometimes curious but engaged media representatives. But lately, even the purportedly progressive/liberal media (few will openly declare themselves leftist these days) has been going along with the idea that the gay community is unified in its reasons to see DADT repealed ignoring the shockingly conservative ways in which it voices its bloodthirsty desire to kill in the name of war. Even liberals and progressives are unwilling to question gay militarism. Just as they are unwilling to recognise and deplore the conservatism of the mainstream gay marriage movement, whose rhetoric about how marriage will make for better children and cause married gay people's dogs to crap gold is no different than that of the right-wingers who support "traditional" marriage).

Much of the problem with the media's one-sided and simplistic coverage of LGBT issues has to do with its sense that something "gay" can only be covered in the way that the big gay organizations would like them covered. But an equally large problem is with the media's depoliticising of gay topics. Talk to any reporter about a "gay story" and you will immediately see the "human interest" button light up above her/his head. Matters are not helped by the current mainstream gay discourse around marriage, the military, and hate crimes legislation. All of these issues, including marriage, are nothing if not deeply political, and speak to the disbursement of power in our society. Yet, over and over, gays reduce them to stories of pathos and "love," effectively erasing their political potency.

Amy Goodman's Democracy Now had Dan Choi on and his rhetoric should make any anti-war protester's toes curl. Instead, the famously progressive Goodman listened uncritically as Choi repeated a conversation he had with an Iraqi doctor who is supposed to have said to him:

Brother, I know that you're gay, but you're still my brother, and you're my friend. And if your country, that sent you to my country, if America, that sent you to Iraq, will discharge you such that you can't get medical benefits, you can come to my hospital any day. You can come in, and I will give you treatment. In South Baghdad, you can come, because it's my duty to pay you back somehow for the sacrifices that you've made. It would be my honor." So I hope that our country can learn from that Iraqi doctor.

It's unlikely that Goodman would have let any straight soldier get away with this kind of rhetoric, the sort that renders U.S complicity in Iraq's devastation utterly invisible. Goodman repeated much of the interview's content in a column on Huffington Post, which you can read here. I could go on with the many problems with Choi's words, but I think they should be obvious to many. I've been uneasy with such moments in the media, and have been wondering:

Where are the queer anti-war voices that also give us a critical perspective on DADT and have a critical analysis of the reasons why a dependence on a war economy is disastrous for our country's youngest and poorest people of color, the main targets of the military's current recruiting tactics? Where are the queers carrying on the queer tradition of being anti-war? I'm not talking about wishy-washy power liberals like Urvashi Vaid, who hold up the status quo in the high towers of the mainstream non-profit industrial complex and emerge with bland statements about "the interconnection of all of these battles for justice" without acknowledging that marriage and war are, for many queers, not a part of any social justice project.

I'm talking about down and dirty queers who resist the war machine, who agree that DADT is unfair, but also insist that there can be no queer support of the military machine, and who refute the kind of pro-war miltaristic rhetoric spewed forth by Choi and his compatriots.

Well, as it turns out, they are all around us but their voices have been silenced, either in the din of the hype around DADT or of the war drums that are beaten endlessly by gays and lesbians who go overboard with their rhetoric about how willing they are to kill for their country. More unnerving is the fact that even programs like Goodman's are going along with this gay conservatism around war and DADT and not questioning the contradictions that they, surely, discern.

More and more, radical queers are loudly questioning this kind of explicit and implicit silencing of anti-war queer voices. In a brilliant radio piece on the gay movement by Women's Magazine on KPFA-Pacifica, which you can find here, Kenyon Farrow of QEJ is explicitly critical of Goodman's lack of questioning of gay militarism. More recently, Kate Raphael of LAGAI - Queer Insurrection and QUIT (Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism) posted an open letter to Amy Goodman, and I think it's worth quoting at length:

You would never have a heterosexual soldier on your show uncritically talking about their work, and not even ask them one question about why they want to be part of an institution whose purpose is to oppress and repress people all over the world and maintain U.S. control over the world's resources. By having those gay people on air, and not even challenging them, you are treating them - us - as less human than straight people. You are reinforcing the very policy that Don't Ask, Don't Tell is based on - that gay people are less moral, or cannot be held to the same ethical and human rights standards, as straight people.

It's a daring and fresh perspective, one that rarely gets heard in either the mainstream or the supposedly progressive media. I got notification of the letter in an e-mail from Raphael asking recipients to send similar letters to Goodman, and it will be interesting to see how many do so and what the response will be. You can read the entire letter here. You could, conceivably, also just forward the link to Goodman and other liberal/progressive media outlets and ask them consider having more nuanced perspectives on DADT. Who knows? Maybe, just maybe, she'll have Raphael, Farrow, or Ryn Gluckman on the show. Or all of them and more. Who knows? Maybe the media will finally admit that it's not homophobic to admit that queers disagree with other queers and that an uncritically pro-war rationale against DADT is something that needs critique, not acceptance.

No one can pretend that any of this is uncomplicated, but the least that progressive media can do is lay bare the complications instead of keeping silent about them in the hope that they will just go away.

And on a lighter note, here's Ryan Conrad's posting of Bill Hicks on gays and the military.

And here's how I feel about the "gay movement" right now, h/t to my friend Tony Hussein Cochran.

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Thanks for this, Yasmin.

I want to hear a roundtable with Kenyon, you, Mattilda, and plenty of others on Democracy Now! I do believe (hope?) Amy G. might sigh a sigh of relief when she realizes doesn't have to turn conservative-liberal and evaporate her general political analysis when it's time for a "gay" issue. (Of course, that she doesn't seem to know that yet says a lot about both heteronormativity and the volume of conservative-liberal mainstream gay orgs.)

DN!, FSRN, and so many other critical progressive news outlets do amazing investigative, public-interest work - but they need a serious intervention around queer politics ... and feminist politics too (but that is another post, someday ... )!

Many thanks for your work to that end.



SkepticalCidada | February 5, 2010 9:14 PM

This gay man was in the streets repeatedly protesting the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but I don't find anything in this column remotely persuasive.

As far as I'm concerned the appropriate use of American military power and the propriety of discriminating against gays and lesbians are separate and distinct issues.

What seems completely lost on Ms. Nair is that there is an enormous difference between questioning why a gay person would choose to join the military and questioning whether the federal government should deny a gay person the freedom to make that choice, a denial motivated solely by bigotry. Because the public debate is about the LATTER, not the former, voices making the former point are not material. Conflating the two ultimately leads to the spectacle of gay advocates demanding that of gay people continue to be stripped of the freedom of choice because the advocates want to make the choice for the prospect gay soldiers. That is its own form of fascism, and it is a form that, unfortunately, radical movements tend toward--specifying for everyone what everyone's appropriate preferences and choices should be. I completely reject that.

The appropriate role of gay anti-war activists is to lobby prospective gay soldier not to choose to join the military. It is decided not an appropriate role for those advocates to essentially stand arm-in-arm with bigots in an attempt to deny prospective gay soldiers the freedom to choose. The call is to advocate and persuade, not to perpetuate official discrimination.

Nor is anyone obligated to allow gay anti-war advocates to hijack a public debate about eliminating official government discrimination and turn it into a debate about a separate issue: whether gay people ought to choose to join the military.

Finally, not one word uttered against DADT and in favor of open service has changed my mind in the least about the immorality of the Iraq invasion. I does nothing to make me a militarist to demand that the government stop forcibly treating gay people differently from straight people in every aspect of life.


The thing you have to remember about people like Yasmin Nair and R. Conrad is that they're "queers," which means they subscribe to a far-left political ideology based on impractical, pie-in-the-sky idealism that renders them incapable of nuance or compromise. Realistic and reasonable people can, as you said, distinguish war/militarism from government-sanctioned discrimination and see them as distinct issues, reconciling opposition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with a realization that discrimination against GLBT people is a problem that needs to be remedied.

"Queers," however, see the military and marriage as wrong. They have no practical or realistic means of eliminating either institution and coming up with suitable alternatives, but they see our legally mandated inability to marry or serve openly in the military as means to an end. That's why they are, as their Web site says, "against equality." Not only that, but they don't seem to realize that not all GLBT people sympathize with their left-wing extremism.

The black civil rights movement had the Nation of Islam; feminists had Andrea Dworkin; we have "queers." It seems that every civil rights movement inevitably has extremists who go so far that they end up finding common cause and, in some cases, even collaborating with our enemies.

Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | February 6, 2010 9:34 AM

You're guilty of the same thing you're accusing the author of: Seeing things in simplistic terms. You talk about how people with a far left ideology can't see things in complex terms yet you have just rendered a verdict about her that is entirely black and white in it's terms and it's results, with no gray, no nuance, no room for distinction with your own stark ideology.
I am more "far left" than anybody you will ever meet, yet I served, proudly. I am very much pro marriage equality yet so liberal I make your worst liberal nightmare appear conservative. I just wrote an extensive post in this very thread describing the nuance in LGBT service members and that very distinction between militarism and service that you just accused the "far left" of being incapable of grasping due to our "ideology". Sort of doesn't fit in with your narrative though, does it? The fact is that your perspective is no more and indeed is far less nuanced than the author's. The author accepts that it is largely the media driving this simplistic narrative of the DADT debate but you have to have everybody in the neat little box you designed for them, the left, the right, reasonable, unreasonable and so forth. Your entire comment drips with contempt for the very quality that you so proudly display.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | February 8, 2010 2:06 PM

"The thing you have to remember about people like Yasmin Nair and R. Conrad is that they're "queers," which means they subscribe to a far-left political ideology based on impractical, pie-in-the-sky idealism".


Conrad is a Democrat, if a bit miffed at his party just now. Nair, if I remember correctly, refused to call for voting against Obama and McCain last fall. She hasn't described herself as a revolutionist, a Marxist, or a communist or socialist of any flavor to my knowledge.

People who fall for or promote the delusion that any Democrat, even an Obama, is better than any Republican end up enabling war, union busting and homohating. Neither by any real definition are far left and saying that is about as silly as some Teabagger saying that Obama's a socialist.

I wonder if you'd have had the same disdain for Sam Adams, for Tecumsah, for Fredrick Douglass, for Big Bill Hwywood or for Malcolm X. They were all, in context, about as far left as you can get.

"Queers," however, see the military and marriage as wrong.

Just Queers? Bullpuckey.

Millions and millions of people, including more GI's than you imagine, oppose the war and militarism and agree that the war and the actions of the US corporate, political and military brass are not just wrong but evil.

Millions and millions of people disdain marriage, shack up, live together, have flings and affairs and don't give a rats ass about marriage. There are more 'unsanctified' forms of partnering than you can count and all of them thumb their noses at formal marriages.

Conrad and Nair are hardly alone in their opinions. Their only big errors as far as I can see are self isolation and not understanding that the Democrat Party and reformism are deadly traps.

I am a socialist, Alaric, something that you in this country accuse people of being but which you really do not have

I served, with distinction,

Leftist pie in the sky gave the US social security and air traffic control. Leftists took Spain away from it's Phalangist past.

But then, we've no nuance, as opposed to the Right,

Just out of curiousity, when and where did you serve? In fact, not out of curiousity but out a sense of rightwousness on the part of we looney left winger nuance-less pie in the sky idealists who deal with your criticism of us:
What brance of the service were you in and what was your assignment?

Armada Espanola
Naval Advocates' Office, Counsel

Patrol Duty
Islas Canarias - Bahia Vigo Patrols

Thanks, Jess! I think we, including you, should *all* get on that roundtable - and there are far more of us than some in the media would want to acknowledge.


Please read the piece carefully, as well as Kate R's powerful letter. The complications you raise are exactly the ones many of us would like to see raised in the media. The point of the piece, titled "DADT and the Silence / Silencing of Queer Anti-War Voices" is to question the silencing of the anti-war queers in the media. What you've addressed is a rather different post, which puts me in mind of exactly the kind of "hijacking" you refer to.

Let me put it another way: What, specifically, do *you* have to say to the points raised about Amy Goodman ignoring and even repeating Dan Choi's conservative rhetoric, the exact kind of rhetoric that you, doubtless, have protested against? And the fact that queer anti-war voices have not been heard on her and other's programs? Given your own avowed politics, I would imagine you would want to at least address that issue.

Tony Cochran | February 5, 2010 9:39 PM

As usual, brilliant and complex analysis!

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Yasmin, thanks so much for this important piece -- you may know that just two days ago Amy Goodman did another fawning report on the repeal of DADT, and I was just thinking of writing about that one -- and, as always, the disastrousness of progressive/liberal reportage regarding anything gay/queer, but seeing all these pieces at once (the links, thanks for the links!) is motivating me towards an idea I've had for a while... expect a phone call, my dear!

Mattilda darling,

I'm so pleased that this spurs you on to what will doubtless be a provocative and insightful piece; can't wait to talk and to see it!

Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | February 6, 2010 9:17 AM

Is that what we people who served are to you? Warmongers? My reasons for serving were many but none of them included being "bloodthirsty" or "pro war militaristic". In point of fact, I was among over 7,000 people protesting Bush's war in Austin, Texas in 2003, barely twelve years after I returned from the Persian Gulf War. A war which (BTW) I participated in while awaiting an "other than honorable discharge" for being trans. Get that? I was being thrown out in disgrace but I was extended to serve in Poppy Bushs' war because though I was being stripped of my rank and benefits earned, I was "indispensable to the war effort". They waited till after it was over to act on their hatred against me. So I'm no fan of the military and though DADT is an abomination, it's wonderful by comparison with what was done prior to it becoming law.
Though I served with distinction, I never fired a weapon the whole time I was in the service and there we get to my complaint about your piece. You seem to suggest that all LGBT persons who are pro service are pro war or pro violence an insist that anti war LGBT people stay silent. I have never, ever heard such a thing from any pro service Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered person. There are many OTHER things to do in the service or during wartime that don't involve killing people but are honorable pursuits. I, for example, was an airframe mechanic and though directly after the Persian Gulf War, the air was thick with claims from people who insisted that they were there, involved in some sort of heroic special forces landing or desperate charge against an advancing enemy, I never claimed to be anything but an airframe mechanic.
It's been my experience that people who talk about war in those terms have never been there. War for me was work, work, work until I was pushed to exhaustion followed by more work and randomly punctuated by terror. Nothing glorious about it, nor had I expected it to be when I found myself heading there aboard the USS Independence. War for me was pushing politicians and media reporters and staff out of the way to do my job. The people you are talking about either don't exist or largely weren't there. I can't speak for the more contemporary conflicts except to say I have no evidence that things are different now. The people who celebrate violence and bloodshed and talk ad nauseum about patriotism and duty and so forth worked in the kitchen or flunked out of boot camp or their tech school or simply can't support their claims of heroism and hard won victory.
I respect your pacifism and I always will. I also respect your right to speak up for what you strongly believe but you don't know the first thing about the service or about service members, let alone LGBT ones.

The "centrist" talking point about DADT is that there is simply too much going on with two wars to win to be sidetracked with the issue of LGBT discrimination in the military. It accepts and then trivializes the discrimination against LGBT.

This piece has exactly the same perspective that there is simply too much going on with two wars to stop to be sidetracked with the issue of LGBT discrimination in the military. It accepts and then trivializes the discrimination against LGBT.

Both arguments fail.

The only difference is that the centrist position, while wrong, is honest in its disregard from LGBT people.

The issue is that the federal government specifically designates one class of citizens, or four if we get specific, as ineligible based solely on prejudice. That is the LGBT issue.

As regards the complaint that anti-militaristic "queers" don't get sufficient media coverage, and the implication that this is somehow the fault of LGBT people, it is true that right wingnuts are currently in vogue in the media, but don't worry, the pendulum could swing.

I think Alex has done a great job in refuting the more simplistic analyses of my piece, so I'll refer you to his comment on that.

As for the comment about right wingnuts: Amy Goodman and her ilk in the "progressive media" are hardly on the right, regardless of the issues I have with their coverage.

I was thinking along the same lines, Yasmin. Thanks for posting.

I don't think the message, as some people are taking it, is "All people who join the military are bloodthirsty and want to kill brown people and steal their oil." That's silly - lots of people join the military for many reasons, one of which is economic stability (notice how the military met recruitment goals for 2009 for the first time in years... all it took was a good depression to convince people to die for their country!).

What I took from this post was "Dan Choi is a pro-war conservative, and why isn't anyone challenging that?" It's fairly obvious that Choi leans to the right, at least on national security issues. Here are a couple statements from his guest post on Bilerico this past week:

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?

Not that there's anything wrong with being conservative, I suppose, and not that he can't be right on the fact that DADT should be lifted and wrong about Israel (are they fighting only for their survival?) and Iraq (is "winning the war" even possible? is that a good paradigm? what does that even mean?).

Here's some from the interview Yasmin linked:

Now you look at a couple of the things that are going on since then. There’s been a debate on whether we should send more troops to Afghanistan. I was just marching out here two days ago with thousands upon thousands of college-age Americans. They would gladly join their ROTC programs; in a heartbeat, they would join.

Instantly from "we're debating sending more troops to Afghanistan" to "Lots of gays would join up!" Where's the "a surge in Afghanistan may or may not work, whether or not gay people are included?"

And this:

And if this law gets repealed and I happen to be discharged by then, I will be the first person in that recruiting station, because whether we’re going to war or whether we are helping with humanitarian reconstruction and rehabilitation or helping out with the operations in Katrina or putting out fires all throughout our nation, there are people that are willing to step up and be part of the team, and you’re stripping away that ability and that responsibility from those people because they refuse to sacrifice their integrity, and you’re forcing them to lie.

If "we're going to war[...] there are people that are willing to step up and be part of the team[....]" That seems to affirm the "war for the sake of war" mentality, a hallmark of American neoconservatism.

None of this means that Dan Choi is a bad person, but it is strange that if the same statements were made by a rightwinger during a discussion of general national security issues, Amy Goodman and most progressives would respond and say, "Well, Israel isn't really just fighting for their own survival, as Palestinian civilians who have lost family members during bombardments this past year can attest to."

Yasmin's argument for the reason people don't do that is because they've cordoned off DADT into a little "gay issues" box, they give people Dan Choi a pat on the head for being so brave as to come forward, and then move on to discuss the real issues of war and peace outside of the "gay" discussion since a gay discussion can never be serious.

When a gay person says "We're not sending gay people to Iraq so the terrorists will win," the usual straight liberal reaction is "That's terrible discrimination that should end!" When a straight person says: "We're not sending enough people to Iraq so the terrorists will win," the straight liberal will say "The terrorists weren't in Iraq in the first place, and our presence there is only exacerbating the problem."

Why is the straight person responded to on a ideological level and the gay person on an identity level? Why can't we bring ourselves to respond to the first statement appropriately?

Personally I don't think that DADT and being anti-war go together. For me it's a question of the LGB soldiers themselves, who are already in the military and will continue to enlist as they're often semi-forced to because of economic conditions and might not even know that they're gay or bi until they're already in. But there's a way to argue against DADT from a workers' rights perspective and a way to do it from the pro-war perspective, and it seems lots of gay people choose the latter.

Excellent summing up, Alex (and a provocative and thoughtful post as always, Yasmin.)

I think you really hit the nail on the head when you say people have "cordoned off DADT into a little "gay issues" box." Which is doubly problematic. First because, as Yasmin highlights in this post, it keeps people from critically examining the institutions LGBT folks are clamoring to participate in. (In this case the military, but also marriage, the criminal justice system, modern capitalism in general.)

But the second issue I see with this sort of cordoning off of "gay issues," is that it only allows queers to care about a few discriminatory institution. Our activism is confined to marriage equality, DADT, hate crimes legislation, and possibly ENDA. But just because the rest of the world doesn't have a big legislative 'Straights Only' sign on it doesn't mean that our lives wouldn't be affected (and I would argue, significantly more affected) by working for universal health care, a real jobs bill, environmental justice, a stronger labor movement, or an accountable financial system.

The fallacy of the mainstream gay rights movement is that if only we had all the rights and protections of heterosexuality, we'd be alright, without recognizing that we are still women, people of color, people with disabilities, poor people, working-class people, immigrants, or otherwise outsiders in an oppressive system.

Anthony in Nashville | February 6, 2010 11:59 AM

I used to be very harsh towards people with any connection to the military.

Then I realized how many African Americans have historically used it to gain access to opportunity, education and employment. Even John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix were in the military at one point and they were very much about peace.

Switching it to gay people, I believe some of the early members of Gay Mens Health Crisis were veterans. I know several lesbians and gay men who at one point were in the military and they are doing good work for LGBT rights and AIDS activism.

People have their own motives for enlisting. I'm not going to join, but if people want to they should not be discriminated against.

Being anti-war and DADT are separate issues.

Strategically, I think DADT is significant because the military is respected by so many people. If LGBTs can "prove" themselves in that environment, I believe other places of employment will have a better attitude towards LGBTs.

Critiques of militarism and capitalism are not inherently LGBT issues in my mind.

Thank you Anthony.

And, of course, there are some in the black community that, like Yasmin, would ask why a black American would join the military at all, particularly as it's on a voluntary basis.

As the only male in my immediate family who hasn't joined the all-volunteer military (and that includes nephews) it kind of runs in the family, for one. Also, it is a way up and out and it can be a step up on the economic ladder...it's not necessarily a patriotism thing.

Actually, critiques of capitalism and militarism are absolutely germane to the discussion of LGBT politics. I'm always astonished at the extent to which the "community" strives to gain larger pieces of both pies, and then claims that critiques of the same are not warranted. More often than not, when people say that such critiques of capitalism and militarism are not required in a conversation about LGBT identity, they usually mean: We like them. And that's fine, but then it's only inevitable that the rest of us will be critical of the roles these institutions play in our lives.

John D'Emilio's classic and always fresh "Capitalism and Gay Identity" is an excellent piece and can be readily found in most gay anthologies. Or you can read it here, in a slightly smudged copy:


For more on prisons and queers, see this: http://popdev.hampshire.edu/projects/dt/21

I cited it in my piece above, but it's worth repeating.

Both capitalism and militarism play a role in defining what gay identity should look like. There's a reason why HRC so desperately wants to look more straight than gay in its corporate imaging and there's a reason why we fought against sodomy laws.

As for the notion that the military is good because "many African Americans have historically used it to gain access to opportunity, education and employment": That erases the historical fact that people of colour (Latino/a immigrants are the most targeted recruits today, with often fictitious promises of citizenship) often find themselves pigeonholed with no opportunities and the army is presented as the ONLY option for them. What gets left out, of course, in all the recruting material is the fact that going to war can often mean losing lives or limbs or suffering long-term debilitating injuries. The economic argument for the military is in fact the worst argument that can be made on its behalf because it assumes that the poorest among us, who are usually people of colour, deserve nothing better and are utterly disposable.

For that reason, public school activists in Chicago, the most militarised school district in the country, have been against recruitment in schools.

Erica Meiners and Therese Quinn have addressed this issue head on:


This site gives some fantastic resources about recruitment and its targeting of the poor; people of colour; and youth, and also offers sources for alternatives:


I'm putting up these resources for those who need to know that there are alternatives, both to the miltary AND to the idea that the military is an economic option. It's not. It's part of the war machine, and its only intention is to recruit soldiers in war. Let's call it what it is and let's not now pretend that it is also somehow provides sound economic benefits.

And, finally, no one here is saying that the blatant discrimination is fine. We are saying: The discourse is a lot more complicated than the media will allow for and the voices of dissent against the war are also many queer voices.

SkepticalCidada | February 6, 2010 10:30 PM

LOL! I forgot the extreme condescension that radical thought also tends to engender in its adherents. How breathtakingly arrogant to assume that anyone who questions your perspective has never read D'Emilio and needs to be introduced to his work like a child.

Making personal comments and assumptions about people is usually the last resort of people who can't respond to the questions posed to them. See above for my response to your previous comment. Let me know if you have a response.

Chitown Kev | February 7, 2010 1:45 PM

Well, Yasmin, but let's not erase the fact either that it was the fact that African American serviceman fought in World War II spurred the claims of black people for equal citizenship (not saying that they have achieved that!). And, in fact, black Americans were making those claims DURING the Second World War.

"Fightin for your country" makes people feel even more a citizen of said country and gives a groups rights to full and equal citizenship (however that looks) more solid ground.

Anthony in Nashville, are you trying to tell us that being wounded, disabled, or being a fatality of combat, accident, or suicide is the way to 'gain access to opportunity, education and employment'.

E-mail Iraq Vets Against the War at www.ivaw.org and ask them what they think. Or go to your nearest VA hospital and ask around.

Secondly, well over a million civilians died in Vietnam and about a million in Iraq. Lots of them were murdered or died as 'collateral damage' at the hands of invading US and satellite troops, especially in bombing and rocket attacks. Please tell us what justifies that? Are 'opportunity, education and employment' justifications for that.

Anthony in Nashville | February 7, 2010 11:12 AM

Bill, being wounded/disabled/killed is a risk of being in the military. I am not making light of that reality, but people who enlist know that is a possibility when they sign up and they do it anyway.

The veterans I know were aware of the dangers but were willing to take that chance in order to improve their financial/educational situation.

I think most people get through their military service without the kind of personal harm you mention. For me, that risk is too high, but people have their own choices to make.

And to piggy back on Yasmin's point about hitting the "fatigues ceiling" in terms of advancement, I am aware of that as well. To me, that is like any other job where you feel you aren't getting the respect you deserve - you either make a plan for changing jobs or decide to ride it out.

In my mind there is a huge difference between the military and militarism. I believe we should support the former and oppose the latter.

There are many ways in which these wars have been wrong, but in my mind the only way in which they were *evil* is that the wars destroyed countries and destroyed soldiers and the government that started the wars was not prepared to fix either of these afterwards. To the extent that DADT is used to discharge soldiers who have been through combat, just to avoid treating them, it is also *evil*.

I think it's absolutely possible to oppose both of these evils at the same time.

I think the problem that you've identified with the media coverage is actually a completely *different* problem -- the inability of the media to deal with more than one thing at a time. Amy Goodman literally *didn't care* what Lt. Choi said about the war, because that's not what her story was *about*, so his opinion was just color. Most reporters aren't going to challenge an interviewee for opinions outside the Subject At Hand. If you want an anti-war perspective to come out as color, then you have to push forward a spokesperson who is both anti-DADT *and* anti-war.

The problem there is most of the natural spokespeople against DADT are current servicemen who are trying to stay *in* the military -- and they won't tend to hold that viewpoint. Maybe a queer veteran whose service experience led to a pacifist awakening, and who would be fighting to have benefits restored would be the kind of spokesperson you should be looking for.

Again, no one here is saying that DADT is just fine. I'll refer to my own words above, to Kate Raphael's, and to Alex's eloquent summary above.

As for the bit about Amy Goodman not caring about what Lt. Choi said about the war because she was simply reporting the story: That was my initial summary as well. But she didn't stop there; she went ahead and published an op-ed piece in HuffPo about it as well. I've linked to it above, but here's the link, again:


And it's titled, "Lt. Choi won't lie for his country." You'd have to admit that this op-ed is above and beyond the reporting she's required to do. You're right about needing a spokesperson who can handle the complexity - but that's exactly Kate's point: There are such people in abundance, and at least one of them has even worked for Goodman. The progressive media (and AG is simply representative of the same) is hiding its head in the sand with regard to the voices of anti-war queers.

As for militarism vs. the military: Dan Choi, in his own words, is as militaristic as you can get. The interviews and his own op-eds make that abundantly clear. Even keeping your distinction between the military and militarism in mind: Why is no one challenging him on his militarism?

Again, these are all complicated issues. And the complications need to be laid bare, not made invisible.

Per your self-described sense of "respect for others," why wasn't this entire post banned, or at least a rewrite demanded that didn't result in DEMONIZING ONE OF YOUR OWN CONTRIBUTORS, Dan Choi?

Alex might have a more editor-like response, but I'll just jump in for now.

a) He's not a contributor; he was a guest blogger. It says so quite clearly next to his name on his piece for Bilerico. Which, as I understand, was disseminated quite widely elsewhere.

b) Even if he were a contributor, I'd be perfectly within my rights to disagree with him and/or or call him out on his views. That's not demonising; that's called disagreement. It's fairly common in a (real) world that doesn't run on the hysterics allowed by blog anonymity, and well within the limits of civil discourse.

c) Wow. Banning an entire post? I know you're the same Michael@Leonardmatlovich who keeps showing up (that information is public knowledge since it comes to my inbox every time you post a response), and you're very pro-armed forces/military. Is this what the army stands for? Squashing anything that even looks like dissent?

d) There's a not-quite-delicate irony in wanting my post banned when you're also against the, um, banning of gays in the military, no? After all, it's not just the bodies that are banned; it's everything they bring with them, including their narrativising of their lives as gay people.

Your response is really just helping me prove my point, so thanks for that!

I was raised in Church of the Brethren which is one of the historic peace churches. In times of war, the Brethren have encouraged their children to resist direct military participation, yet dutifully serve their country in the role of a Conscientious Objector. The Church of the Brethren historically resists war and all forms of violence. There is a wide range of disagreement throughout the denomination concerning the interpretation of peace and non-resistance. There are some Brethren who resist any involvement with the military while others enlist and serve without reservation. You will find Brethren opinions scattered all along the political spectrum from doves to hawks.

Yasmin Nair's denunciation of the approach of Democrats in the GLBT movement, the "liberal" and "progressive" right centrists among us, begins well enough but derails. She seems to be confused and upset that Democratic (sic) liberals and progressives support the war and want more cannon fodder.

That's extremely naive. FDR pressured the Japanese imperialists and the Nazis to attack us; Truman invaded Korea and initiated the Cold War; JFK tried to invade Cuba and got his patrician ass kicked for his trouble; LBJ invaded Vietnam, killing over a million civilians and 55,000 plus GI's and he attacked Laos, Cambodia and the Dominican Republic and used the US Army against civilians in Detroit and a dozen other cities.

Democrat leaders, with the cheerful support of Republicans, are very much the party of war and the party of anti-GLBT bigotry.

There are three major factions in the LGBT movement. On the one hand there are independents and on the other partisans of the Democrat and Republican parties. It's the latter two groups, and not the 'gay movement' who cravenly support the lie of 'national security' and the wars and occupations in South Asia. Confusing partisan Democrats with the LGBT movement is a major error. Leaders and partisans of the Democrat and Republican parties have to be identified as opponents of our agenda if we're to defeat them politically and move the country out of the centrist swamp and to the left. Specifically regarding DADT, it's been the policy of the Democrats for over a decade. It's part of Clintons ugly legacy of antiLGBT bigotry

For months the left and the antiwar movement have been denouncing the role of Obama and the Democrats in continuing and escalating the US oil piracy. The invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan have been US policy under the Bushes, Clinton and now Obama. So has a policy of menacing Iran, aiding the zionist ethnic cleansing against Palestinians and air strikes against Pakistani civilians. Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have been murdered and thousands of American and satellite troops have been killed. (1)

People who voted for Obama voted for war and by now it should be clear to even the most partisan Democrats that his decision to maintain the occupation of Iraq and escalate the AfPak war will lead to a long drawn out conflict with heavy causalities. Obama and the Pentagon know this and know they need more cannon fodder. In calling for an end to DADT Obama and the liberals said nothing about the violence against GLBT servicemembers, or their loss of benefits, kangaroo courts martial or the psychological violence of forcing people to deny their sexual preference. The one and only thing on their minds is a fresh source of meat for the grinder.

SLDN and other Democrats operating in the LGBT movement seem to agree wholeheartedly with Obama that more cannon fodder is needed and want to encourage working class youth to enlist. (As a rule Choi and other officers don't get involved in actual combat unlike working people who enlist to escape poverty and unemployment.)

For the real GLBT movement, as opposed to partisans of the Democrats and Republicans, the fight against DADT is solely to end discrimination and violence in the military. Beyond that our goal should be to join with the civilian and GI antiwar movement to fight for the total and immediate, total and permanent withdrawal of all US mercenaries, military forces, spy and kidnap agencies and other combatants to their US home bases. And we should support convening an International War Crimes Tribunal to investigate the roles of leaders of the aggressor nation in the genocide, mass murder and ethnic cleansing being perpetrated in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

(1)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. If you add in soldiers form US puppet states the total is 4693. Similar figures for The Bush-Obama invasion and occupation of Afghanistan are 984 Americans, and the total including those from puppet states is 1,624. 9496 Americans have been wounded. Causality and death figures have nearly doubled since Obama took office. Suicide figures for returning vets and active duty personnel number in the thousands and are rapidly escalating.

"(As a rule Choi and other officers don't get involved in actual combat unlike working people who enlist to escape poverty and unemployment.)" This is profoundly untrue for Lieutenants, and often Captains. They lead from the front.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | February 8, 2010 1:15 PM

RE: "This is profoundly untrue for Lieutenants, and often Captains. They lead from the front."

Is there documentation for that claim. And does it take into account officer deaths by fragging, which was common enough in Nam but perhaps less common now? (Fragging is an attack on an officer or lifer with a fragmentation grenade or other weapon. Estimates for Vietnam range from 430 incidents to as many as 1400. Many enlisted soldiers have been charged with fragging in Iraq but I found no totals Googleing 'fragging deaths in Iraq Afghanistan' in the 21,900 citations.)

Vietnam fragging - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1Z3Y7AYiNY

Iraq fragging - http://www.alternet.org/world/15466/

What are the comparative numbers of officers and enlisted personnel and their causality and death rates? In Nam and in South Asia? Are some or most ground combat 'friendly fire' deaths of officers actually decidedly unfriendly fraggings?

Do you think that junior officers learned from the frequency of fragging events in Nam and now back off?

We know that working class enlisted personnel do what they can to avoid combat in Iraq and do you think that's why they were withdrawn from the cities? http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=39788 Do you think that eventually US forces will no longer be effective combatants as was the case in Vietnam?

Do you think working class enlisted soldiers will consent to being used to kill striking or demonstrating Iraqi oil workers trying to prevent US takeover of Iraqi petro industries? http://www.democracynow.org/2007/7/6/founder_of_iraq_oil_workers_union

Nitpicking of writers' different characterizations, while a predictable rhetorical cheat, proves my original point not yours. I doubt it is Bill's or Jerame's belief that you as a sanctified "contributor" is any more entitled to real or artificial "respect" or any less responsible for showing it to others than a lowly "guest blogger."

"personal attacks will not be tolerated"

Except by "Contributors"?

"Please be respectful of others."

Inapplicable to "Contributors"?

It's one thing to repeat another one of your boiler plate rants against militaries generally, but surely even the Lowest of Lows, a mere commenter, has the right to assert that you crossed the line when you slurred every gay servicemember as people who, by the passage quoted, want:

"to oppress and repress people all over the world and maintain U.S. control over the world's resources;" and by definition, "less moral, or cannot be held to the same ethical and human rights standards, as straight people."

But why stick to generalization fallacies when you can name names and then, no matter how often you try to deny it as "civil discourse, demonize Dan Choi as a warmonger eager to kill, not to mention a possible liar re "an Iraqi doctor who is SUPPOSED to have said to him...."

"ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door"

Again, a different standard for "contributors."

As for the issue of "banning" [or the alternative "rewrite" which you chose not to mention], there IS such a standard/precedent already at Bilerico as established after the Ron Gold incident.

Mr. Gold, one of THE few surviving pioneers of our post Stonewall movement, was using his rights of free expression, too, but, though I don't believe he named anyone, so many, particularly but not exclusively in the trans community, were offended/hurt by his characterization of trans people, that the creators of Bilerico felt obligated to apologize repeatedly, finally removed the article entirely, and effectively said nothing echoing his opinions would ever be permitted to appear here again, which COULD qualify as your "squashing anything that even looks like dissent."

Of course, it's not, anymore than anyone is "silencing" you, anymore than would a site editor saying to you, "Uh, your brush is a bit broad, and disrespectful, denouncing members of our community in Ron Goldenesque tones, etc., etc. Could you, please, rewrite it?"

As for your comment, "I know you're the same Michael@Leonardmatlovich who keeps showing up (that information is public knowledge since it comes to my inbox" ... thanks for effectively characterizing me as a pesky rodent unmasked by your detective work. AS IF, I was trying to disguise myself above.

Nevermind the disrespect, ill-mannered personal attack on me, but I believe you or Bilerico owes Dan Choi and every other LGBT vet and servicemember an apology for labeling them nothing but eager killers and warmongers.

Get off your cross, Michael. Plenty of people have disagreed with Yasmin and their comments are still up. Everyone's is except for yours.

Your comment was a string of personal insults, and we don't accept those around here. Find a way to disagree with Yasmin's ideas or consider not commenting at all.

If a "You're an asshole"-esque comment was left on Dan Choi's guest post, rest assured that we wouldn't have allowed it either. But I'm not going to start determining the appropriate level of "support the troops" people who comment on this site must display in order to be heard. There isn't a yellow ribbon in the right column, and the troops aren't delicate flowers whose work can't be questioned (I know plenty who are fully aware of what their job is about and every soldier I've met has been very excited to discuss military policy, no matter where their opinion on the subject falls).

I still work with the military.

And I support the war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I know too many people from both places not to.

But then, the last time I was shot at was in Haifa Naval Base in Israel. I don't blame Hamas for that, I was a "legitimate military target" and they were using the most accurate weapons they had available in an attempt to hit military targets not civilian ones.

I wish war wasn't necessary. I also wish people wouldn't rush into it. But it is, sometimes, and they do, sometimes.

While I have the greatest of respect for the moral courage of Jeanette Rankin, I give her 0 out of 100 for sense. It takes two sides to make war, but only one to make massacre.

I don't notice anyone "silencing the anti-war voices" here. Not silencing voices like mine. I just tend to keep quiet about my views, as they're bound to attract some unpleasant comments. That's my choice though, just as it is to temporarily break my silence here.

Now I'll just go and shut up.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | February 9, 2010 10:00 PM

Careful, in this neighborhood they already have crosses and nails at the ready! And the desire to pull you off before fully dead. :D

Regardless of your known and considerable accomplishments, you of all people choose to remain, at least partially, silent. Perhaps, the paper impregnated lotus carrying the means of accelerated evolution is the solution, once you have developed the correct biochemical components.

I'll provide the plane!

Chitown Kev | February 8, 2010 9:17 AM

Yasmin, there is one important point that I need to add here to the comparison that I am making...

Leaving aside Dr. King's opposition to the the Vietnam War, one of the positive things about the black power/black nationalist movements of the 1960's and early 1970's was that they did make these critiques of American capitalism and militarism. As a rule, it was posed as an ethical question of whether black Americans should be fighting wars against the determination of self-rule for other people of color, primarily in Southeast Asia by also with an eye on the decolonization movements in Africa.

Of course, very few of these critiques of this kind made it to the mainstream media although this particular POV was discussed in some of the black press and in othe black institutions at that time.

I do have to add, too, that yes the embracing of militarism by black Americans was also seen by some as a movement toward assimilation that should be rejected by a people whose full citizenship rights weren't recognized.

Maybe I need to read some of your links to find some answers, but I simply don't know what a "queer critique" in this case looks like.

Chances are that whatever form this critique takes, if history is any indication, very, very little of it will make it to the MSM, though I do agree with you that there should be a space for vigorous debate in queer media.

It does seem to me that the media is unable to handle complex arguments. I don't think they're "silencing" anti-war voices on DADT - it just becomes too nuanced for your typical media outlet to handle.

I will say that, while it has been common over the years to blame Soldiers for the militaristic policies of their government, it is not particularly useful. Yes, if no one joined up, they couldn't fight. How realistic is that? Better to organize in ways that influence the decisionmakers.

Finally, most Soldiers join up to protect, not destroy; to serve, not to oppress. Change the politics at the top, and the military will follow. Yes, as a matter of fact, they DO build hospitals and schools.

Full disclosure: I am a West Point grad, commanded a company in Germany, opposed the war in Iraq, work closely with Dan Choi, and disagree with Dan politically about many things. And I believe DADT must be overturned.

BTW, thanks for a thoughtful discussion.

I did a drag piece about this, which was met with a (somewhat surprising) positive reaction. But still, I never cease to be surprised and disappointed by how little talk there is in the queer community, and how much people are willing to go along with championing these conservative causes.


Since its January 20th arrival in Haiti 644 surgeries have been performed aboard the USNS Comfort.

Kelly Saulsberry | February 9, 2010 5:23 PM

Interesting piece, Yasmin. Thanks for addressing the issue, challenging the framing, and expanding the dialogue.

One Name: Jeff Key

His play is coming to NYC soon. Jeff bridges the need for peace and the need to lift DADT in such a way that honors humanity and does NOT glorify war. His is the voice we need.

Here we are, simultaneously rejoicing over the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and mourning young queers whose suicides have been highly publicized in the past few months. I find this ironic since “nearly as many American troops at home and abroad have committed suicide this year as have been killed in combat in Afghanistan,” according to a recent report by National Public Radio (NPR).

Yes, now bisexual, lesbian and gay soldiers are free to announce their sexual identities and relationships in the military, but what happens when they come home from Iraq or Afghanistan with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? Is the queer movement going to be fighting for them then or will we simply hold candle-lit vigils after they’ve taken their own lives?

I've written a full article on this issue, which can be found here: www.theundegroundrainbow.org

I'm a part of a newly-formed group called the Queer Liberation Front here in CT. We plan on endorsing the upcoming bi-coastal anti-war demo's on April 9th in NYC & San Francisco. We are also working on organizing a queer contingent for the New York one. Interested? Keep in touch with us through our website! Our emails are on there, too.

Aaron McAuliffe