I Am an American Citizen and I Want Dan Choi in the Military

November, 2002: "Nine Army linguists, including six trained to speak Arabic, have been dismissed from the military because they are gay. The soldiers' dismissals come at a time when the military is facing a critical shortage of translators and interpreters for the war on terrorism."

June, 2005: The Army begins recruiting Arabic translators on Craigslist, desperate for specialized linguists after having prioritized institutional homophobia above national security.

July 2006: Sergeant Bleu Copas, a decorated soldier, graduate of the Defense Language Institute in California, and highly specialized Arabic translator is dismissed from the military for being gay, one of more than 11,000 service members who had already been dismissed under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, 55 of whom, including Copas, had critical language skills.

December 2008: In an interview with The Advocate, then-president elect Barack Obama says (emphasis mine): "I think there's increasing recognition within the Armed Forces that [DADT] is a counterproductive strategy—ya know, we're spending large sums of money to kick highly qualified gays or lesbians out of our military, some of whom possess specialties like Arab-language capabilities that we desperately need. That doesn't make us more safe, and what I want are members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who are making decisions based on what strengthens our military and what is going to make us safer, not ideology."

May 2009: "An Arabic translator and Iraq veteran who came out on national television received notice Thursday that he will be fired from the military under the Pentagon's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy. … Dan Choi is a West Point graduate and officer in the Army National Guard."
The blogger who disclosed the firing, Aaron Belkin, directly rebuked President Barack Obama, who as the commander-in-chief of the nation's armed forces can ultimately be seen as responsible for the man's dismissal. … Belkin acknowledged that the policy preceded Obama, but said a group of experts in military law say that President Obama could nix the policy by executive order. Previously, Washington insiders have said that any such change would have to be approved by Congress, because the gay ban is part of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

"A new study, about to be published by a group of experts in military law, shows that President Obama does, in fact, have stroke-of-the-pen authority to suspend gay discharges," Belkin writes. "The 'don't ask, don't tell' law requires the military to fire anyone found to be gay or lesbian. But there is nothing requiring the military to make such a finding. The president can simply order the military to stop investigating service members' sexuality."

Obama's executive order would not get rid of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," but it would suspend the practice of firing servicemembers who come out as gay. Belkin argues that by suspending the policy, those who support it will see that serving with other gay men and women doesn’t have a deleterious effect on military morale.

"I spent a day with Dan Choi last month, and he is not someone we want to fire from the military," Belkin remarked. "He loves the armed forces. He served bravely under tough combat conditions in Iraq. His Arabic is excellent, and he used his language skills to diffuse many tough situations and to save lives, both Iraqi and American. All of his unit mates know he is gay, and they have been very supportive of him. But he doesn't want to live a lie."
I'm decidedly unthrilled about the president even having the power of executive order, but, as long as the president has the power, and as long as the president is using it, I can think of few things more worthy of his proverbial pen-stroke than discontinuing the threat to national security that is the practice of discharging critical military personnel because they are gay.

Especially since his administration has "quietly shelved the president's campaign promise to repeal the 16-year-old 'don't ask, don't tell' policy."

The article notes that Obama's decision to push the repeal the DADT down the road has "the tacit acquiescence of Washington's gay lobbying establishment," which I know to be true and with which I strongly disagree. I can dig picking your battles, but it seems a painful irony to abandon the battle on behalf of the people who put their very lives on the line for us every day, who risk life and limb and the possibility of coming out of the service a totally different person than they went in, and only want in return the same rights for which they are willing to sacrifice their lives.

That this battle, the one to give soldiers the freedom to be who they are and the rights they protect for others but not themselves and the equality they have been denied, is the one deemed unworthy of spending political capital to engage, to fight, to win, is anathema to my sense of fairness and decency.
Choi, a 2003 West Point graduate and fluent speaker of Arabic who served an extended combat deployment in Iraq, received his notice Wednesday.

The letter told him that because of his public expression of his homosexuality, "I have negatively affected good order and discipline in the New York Army National Guard, the entire New York National Guard," Choi said. "That's what the letter says."

…He said the policy is "forcing soldiers to lie, forcing them to hide. It's not only morally bankrupt, it goes against everything in a soldier's training that says, 'Have courage. Stand up. Don't hide. Be honest.' "
How dare we let them stand on the line for us and slink away from a fight for them.

Dan Choi says he wants to deploy again.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus