So, what do you think about gays in the military? That’s a question I was recently asked, and I answered it here (scroll down), albeit briefly. My brevity was due to my reluctance to say anything about the issue. This unusual shyness – unusual for me, that is – is due to a number of reasons, the primary one being the sort of “allies” I’d have in taking up such a fight.
Those opposing abolishing “don’t ask, don’t tell” are, almost to a man, unmitigated bigots, the sort of people I have nothing in common with, either politically or culturally. Bill Kristol, for example, the well-known war-monger and editor of the Weekly Standard, opposes getting rid of the manifestly unfair and punitive policy on the grounds that gays are inherently a disruptive influence and – of course – as a way of pandering to the evangelical Christian conservatives who have made up such a large part of the GOP’s activist base.
(By the way, neoconservatives have no real problem with homosexuality, per se – or, at least, it doesn’t get in the way of their veneration for this guy, who was a Major Homosexual and eventually died of AIDS. Deceptive and double-dealing in all things, however, neocons of the Kristolian persuasion have no compunctions about tolerating in private the sort of behavior they excoriate in public – as long as the sinner is one of their guys.)
Having sprayed the air with enough intellectual disinfectant to rid the atmosphere of the foul flatulence emitted by these hypocrites, whose odiferous opportunism stinks up our public discourse, I can proceed to discuss the issue of “gays in the military” without being misunderstood.
To begin with, there is no “right” to engage in mass murder, and, under the current regime as well as the previous one, that is precisely what the US military is engaged in: unabashedly naked aggression. Today we are fighting three unjust (not to mention unwinnable) wars simultaneously: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the unacknowledged war on Pakistani soil. Hopeful neocons are planning a fourth, and the President’s rhetoric and actions give them ample reason for optimism. Anyone who joins the American armed forces at this point necessarily becomes an accessory to murder on a mass scale.
My position is not derived from pacifism, although I respect those who hold that view: it is, instead, based on a moral evaluation of US foreign policy as it has been conducted at least since September 11, 2001, although the roots of the moral rot precede that date by a few decades. In a normal context — that is, the context of a non-aggressor nation, one that neither seeks to dominate others, nor is willing to submit to domination by a foreign power – a military career would be just another occupation, neither calumniated nor valorized in an unseemly way. In the present context, however, enlisting means being an accomplice to the commission of a crime. To claim the “right" of gays, or anyone else, to join the US military is to claim the “right” to be a war criminal.
Yet it isn’t enough to simply say no one should join, although that is certainly my view. It is necessary to go further, and examine the meaning and ominous implications of this kind of push for “gay rights.”
The series of post-9/11 wars engaged in by the United States were sold to the American public by hook and by crook – faked “evidence” of Saddam’s alleged nukes, lies retailed by the New York Times and spread throughout the journalistic bloodstream – but the capture of the elites by the War Party was another matter entirely. While John Q. Public was fed a steady diet of scare-mongering – at one point, President Bush claimed Iraq was capable of launching drone attacks on the continental US – the elites were treated to a rather different line.
The neoconservative intellectuals who agitated for the war and defended as it unfolded touted the invasion as the first step in a general war to “liberate” the Middle East. The “swamp,” we were told, had to be “drained.” The Muslim world was depicted as fatally flawed, an entire civilization fallen victim to a syndrome that stopped its development and produced a virulent hatred of the West, and modernity itself.
Our elite’s conception of modernity naturally includes a liberal, “enlightened” attitude when it come to issues involving sexuality. The lack of women’s rights, as understood by the National Organization for Women and Emily’s List, in the Middle East was and is being emphasized in order to rationalize our civilizing crusade. Gay rights fits under the same rubric, and often during the run-up to the Iraq war, and in general support of Bush’s foreign policy, the more “enlightened” sectors of right-wing opinion – say, as represented by Andrew Sullivan – would sometimes bring up the horrific treatment handed out to gays under Sharia law. This allowed the War Party to argue that anyone who opposed Bush’s wars of “liberation” was supporting the oppression of women and gays – a perfect example of how the neoconservative right appropriates the language of political correctness and bends it to fit their own purposes.
In the age of Obama, such appeals to political correctness are necessarily a staple of war propaganda. Imagine the possibilities: On one side we have our multi-sexual military that includes women and gays, and on the other we have the Forces of Reaction lining up behind the anti-woman anti-gay Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. It’s a perfect modern-day morality tale, one made to order for liberals still squeamish about Obama’s determination to prosecute the Afghan war and go into Pakistan.
Can’t you just hear the arguments? We may be killing plenty of civilians over there, and making a lot of enemies in the process, but at least we’re making the lot of women under Islam a bit easier, and, who knows, helping to at least plant the seeds of a society where gays won’t be subjected to the death penalty. Etc., ad nauseam….
Now, one could argue that in fact our foreign policy does nothing to concretely improve the lot of either women or gays. Indeed, in Iraq both are in a much worse position than they ever were under Saddam, where the situation now resembles that of Iran – a deadly environment for gays in particular.
Yet one has to ask: in how many countries will the oppression of women and gays have to become a casus belli? Okay, so gays are persecuted, often to death, in Iran – does that mean we have to invade that country in the name of “humanitarianism”? How many nations in the world ill treat gay men and women – are all of them subject to invasion? If not Iran, then what about Uganda (if it passes that proposed “kill-the-gays” law coming up for a vote). You can see where this is going.
The mobilization of liberals behind a crusade to make the world safe for the American empire is a key goal of the War Party, and one way to accomplish it is to market the conflict as a war to rid the world of political incorrectness. That fits in rather nicely with this “gays in the military” campaign, which is being brought up at a pivotal point in the life of the Empire: the transition from the conservative Bush regime to an administration much more conducive to the left-liberal imagination. Obama is having increasing problems with the “progressive” wing of his party, and throwing them this sop will help inoculate him against criticism of his foreign policy from the left.
For years, the US military has proscribed, tracked down, harassed, prosecuted, and imprisoned lesbians and gay men, entrapping them, depriving them of their pensions, and disrespecting them as people – and now that they’re desperate, and backed up against a wall, with an unpopular couple of wars to fight, suddenly they need us, they want us, and, by the way, they’re oh-so-sorry about the past.
Anyone who agrees to such a deal — far from being noble, or even patriotic — must be suffering from an enormous lack of self-esteem. We hear so much about “gay pride,” these days – so what kind of “pride” is that?
Finally, to any gay person contemplating a military career at this point, I have to ask: are you ready to not ask and not tell about the atrocities you could well be ordered to commit? If not, then my advice to you is simple: forget “don’t ask, don’t tell” – and just don’t go.