Saturday, December 8, 2007

Don't Ask, but Do Tell

Saying of the week: "Sometimes it's necessary to make the leap and grow your wings on the way down." Yoji Yamada.

This week I'd like to pass along an article that recently came my way. It shows that the topic of gays in the military, the backbone of my novel, Honor Bound, is becoming a hot topic once again.

I belive that the key issue keeping the U.S. armed forces from going beyond Don't Ask Don't Tell to give gay servicemen equal rights is blind fear of love relations forming, not between enlisted soldiers, but between officers and soldiers, which would undermine the chain of command. My novel, Honor Bound, tackles this topic head on. It tells the story of an enlisted sailor who falls in love with his executive officer during WWII. When the crew of the USS Pilgrim become POWs in Changi, a notoriously brutal prison camp, this sailor is elevated through hardship and love to discover his inner resources and extraordinary courage, allowing him to sacrifice himself to save the life of his beloved.
This novel is now in search of a publisher, and hopeful it will find one soon, as this topic of gays in the military is heating up once again.

Hope you enjoy the following article.

Retired Generals: End Ban on Gays
International Herald Tribune December 03, 2007

Marking the 14th anniversary of legislation that allowed gay people to serve in the U.S. military, but only if they kept their orientation secret, 28 retired generals and admirals plan to release a letter Dec. 7 urging Congress to repeal the law.

"We respectfully urge Congress to repeal the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy," the letter says. "Those of us signing this letter have dedicated our lives to defending the rights of our citizens to believe whatever they wish." The former officers offer data showing that 65,000 gays and lesbians now serve in the U.S. armed forces, and that there are more than one million gay veterans. "They have served our nation honorably," the letter states.

The letter's release came as rallies were scheduled Dec. 7 on the National Mall by groups calling for a change in the law, which is known as "don't ask, don't tell" because it bars the military from investigating soldiers' sexual orientation if they keep it to themselves.

Although the signers of the letter are high-ranking, none are of the stature of John Shalikashvili, a retired general who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when the policy was adopted and now argues for its repeal. Shalikashvili refocused attention on the issue this year when he wrote that conversations with military personnel had prompted him to change his position.
The current generation of Americans entering the armed services has proved to him "that gays and lesbians can be accepted by their peers," he wrote in an Op-Ed article published in The New York Times on Jan. 2.

"I now believe that if gay men and lesbians served openly in the United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces," Shalikashvili wrote. "Our military has been stretched thin by our deployments in the Middle East, and we must welcome the service of any American who is willing and able to do the job."

Few issues have separated the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates this year as clearly as whether to repeal "don't ask, don't tell."

At a debate in June, all of the Democrats said they favored rescinding the policy. The Republican candidates, meanwhile, have favored continuing the policy, saying that it is a sensible approach or that it would be a distraction to integrate openly gay service members into the armed forces at a time of war.

Efforts to prompt the House and Senate to repeal the legislation have gained little traction. Senior leaders at the Pentagon are on record as saying the Department of Defense would follow the lead of Congress.

"Personal opinion really doesn't have a place here," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in March. "What's important is that we have a law." He was responding to comments by General Peter Pace, who was serving as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and had re-ignited controversy over the issue when he said that homosexuality was immoral, similar to adultery.

Before the policy was put into place, gay people were barred from serving in the military. When he ran for president, Bill Clinton pledged to change that, but after he was elected he compromised with "don't ask, don't tell," under which gay soldiers could serve aslong as they did not disclose their sexual orientation.

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said Nov. 29 that there were no efforts at the Pentagon or across the military to alter the policy.

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