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A ‘More Humane’ ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’?

Curious choice of words from Defense Secretary Bob Gates yesterday on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He’s talking about how to deal with the law-slash-regulation in advance of attempts to overturn it, as President Obama reiterated was his intention last week:

And so one of the things we’re looking at is is there flexibility in how we apply this law in terms of — well, let me give you an example. Do we need to be driven when the information, to take action on somebody if we get that information from somebody who may have vengeance in mind or blackmail or somebody who has been jilted….

In other words, if somebody is outed by a third party, we have to — does that force us to take an action? And I don’t know the answer to that and I don’t want to pretend to. But that’s the kind of thing we’re looking at to see if there’s at least a more humane way to apply the law until the law gets changed.

But doesn’t this kind of absurdity — *we may have to discharge a soldier who’s being blackmailed — *just argue for expediting the process of overturning “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”? Gates acknowledged that the law is “very prescriptive.” Doesn’t that just mean it’s time to get out of the straightjacket and let everyone who wants to serve in the military serve?

Something else that happened yesterday: Army Lt. Dan Choi, who is openly gay, lost his first battle with a military administrative board to contest his discharge. Choi’s West Point classmate is an Army veteran of Iraq named Anthony Woods, who’s also openly gay and is running for Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher’s congressional seat in California. Woods released this statement:

Today’s decision only highlights the fact that the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy” is undermining the strength of our military and the security of our nation.

Having served two combat tours in Iraq and brought all 81 of my soldiers home alive before being discharged under the policy last year, I understand what Lt. Choi is going through all too well.

Since 1993, the careers of tens of thousands of soldiers have ended prematurely because of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” — at a cost of more than $400 million to taxpayers, the safety of combat soldiers deprived of experienced leaders and specialists, and the readiness of a force already stretched thin by two wars and repeated, extended deployments. More than 70% of Americans support its repeal because Americans understand that in a time of war, America’s security is far more important than political expediency.

That seems like the most humane way to deal with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

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