General Pace’s Remarks Ignite National Debate on Gays in Military

Former Republican Senator Alan Simpson has come out against the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in a Washington Post editorial criticizing recent comments by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace, who said that “homosexuality is immoral” and gays hould not be allowed to serve openly.

Alan_simpsonHere’s an excerpt from Simpson’s op-ed:

“In World War II, a British mathematician named Alan Turing led the effort to crack the Nazis’ communication code. He mastered the complex German enciphering machine, helping to save the world, and his work laid the basis for modern computer science. Does it matter that Turing was gay? This week, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said that homosexuality is “immoral” and that the ban on open service should therefore not be changed. Would Pace call Turing “immoral”?

Since 1993, I have had the rich satisfaction of knowing and working with many openly gay and lesbian Americans, and I have come to realize that “gay” is an artificial category when it comes to measuring a man or woman’s on-the-job performance or commitment to shared goals. It says little about the person. Our differences and prejudices pale next to our historic challenge.”

Good for Simpson. Incidentally, plenty of people did call Turing “immoral” at the time, and he killed himself with a cyanide apple a year after being convicted of “gross indecency” after it was discovered he was in a homosexual relationship. Following that conviction he was ordered to undergo hormone therapy or go to prison.

According to Pentagon figures released Tuesday, the number of gays discharged from the military dropped significantly in 2006: “According to preliminary Pentagon data, 612 homosexuals were discharged in fiscal 2006, fewer than half the 1,227 discharged in 2001. On average, more than 1,000 service members were discharged each year from 1997 to 2001 — but in the past five years that number has fallen below 730.” Critics have charged the U.S. Military with hypocrisy for retaining its gay and lesbian servicement simply because it needs them in a time of war.

Meanwhile, some at the Pentagon — Undersecretary of Defense David Chu to be precise — are suggesting that any national debate on gays in the military will undermine the war on terror.

Said Slate‘s Nathaniel Frank: “This is an astonishing claim for Chu to make—that not only must gays conceal their homosexuality to protect unit cohesion, but the entire country must avoid discussing homosexuality or else it will undermine the war effort. By this reasoning, we should ban discussion of whether to increase troops in Iraq and prohibit an inquiry into conditions at Walter Reed.”

More as it develops.

UPDATE: Presidential hopeful Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) today applauded General Pace’s remarks, casting his vote on the side of the bigots. Said Brownback in a circulated letter: “The question is whether personal moral beliefs should disqualify an individual from positions of leadership in the U.S. military? We think not. General Pace’s recent remarks do not deserve the criticism they have received. In fact, we applaud General Pace for maintaining a personal commitment to moral principles.”

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