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Don't Ask, Don't Tell

January 4, 2004

“Did Ask, Did Tell”: How the US Government Puts Anti-Gay Bigotry Ahead of American Lives in the War on Terrorism
My Endorsement for President of the United States

We face a drastic shortage of linguists, and the direct impact of Arabic speakers is a particular problem.
–Donald R Hamilton, Senior Advisor to National Commission on Terrorism.
In November, the Washington Post reported the backlog of untranslated documents – including secret recordings of suspected terrorists – is so “colossal” that the FBI, CIA, and NSA have decided to modify ordinary security protocols to send some of the materials by email(!) to translators without security clearances.
Yet dozens of our best linguists continue to be discharged by the military.
Why? Because they’re gay. According to Hamilton, “The loss of talent is a cost of the [‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.]”
Ten years after Congress revised the military ban on homosexuals serving in the military to create the policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Harass, Don’t Pursue,” almost ten thousand gay men and women serving in the military have been discharged for trying to serve their country at a cost of more than $300 million.
The question is not whether gay men and women serve in the military. Indeed, two retired generals and a retired admiral just came out of the closet. The question is about our priorities as a nation.
Which is more important? Should we really fire our best and brightest in the military, even if it makes us more vulnerable to terrorist attack and costs us millions? What really is the purpose of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”? Why exclude gay men and women from service at all?
Discussing the issue this Sunday are my two guests:
Alastair Gamble learned Arabic at the Defense Language Institute, the military’s premier language school, and was one of the top students in his class. He was trained by the Army to interrogate prisoners in Arabic. But after a random inspection, he was found with his boyfriend in his room after curfew. Heterosexual couples in the same situation were punished with ten days extra duty, but Gamble and his boyfriend were discharged from the military. Gamble is one of more than dozen trained Arabic speakers to be discharged from the military for being gay.
Elaine Donnelly is President of the Center for Military Readiness, an independent public policy organization specializing in military personnel issues and one of the leading organizations supporting the ban on gay service in the military because, among other things, she argues it hurts unit cohesion and morale. Donnelly has served on two Presidential commissions discussing the issue of women in the armed services, and she opposes women serving in combat positions or non-combat positions that bring them close to the front lines.
Plus: My endorsement for President of the United States!

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