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The Morality of General Peter Pace

Jim Burroway

March 13th, 2007

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Chicago Tribune yesterday that he supports “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” because homosexual acts “are immoral”:

“I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts,” Pace said in a wide-ranging discussion with Tribune editors and reporters in Chicago. “I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.

“As an individual, I would not want [acceptance of gay behavior] to be our policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else’s wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior,” Pace said.

Now Gen. Pace is expressing extremely limited regret over his comments:

In a statement Tuesday, he said he should have focused more in the interview on the Defense Department policy about gays — and “less on my personal moral views”.

However, Gen. Pace’s senior staff members who wished to remain anonymous said that the general had no intention of apologizing. Senator John Warner, the senior Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, strongly rebuked Pace’s comments, saying “I respectfully, but strongly, disagree with the chairman’s view that homosexuality is immoral.”

Staff Seargent Eric Fidelis Alva, who is America’s first serious Marine casualty in the Iraq War, responded this way:

“Judging gay men and women in the military for factors unrelated to their fitness to serve undermines our military’s effectiveness. Certain leaders’ bigotry should not be a rational basis for discrimination. This kind of prejudice is going to continue to have a direct impact on our national security as we allow qualified gay men and women to lose their jobs for no good reason. This policy — and General Pace’s bigotry — is outdated, unnecessary and counter to the same American values our soldiers are giving their lives for each and every day.”

So here’s a question that Gen. Pace ought to answer: is Staff Seargent Alva immoral? Alva, you may remember, lost his right leg to a land mine during the early days of the war, and was awarded a Purple Heart from President Bush himself. He also publicly came out as gay three weeks ago and is now the Human Rights Campaign’s spokesman against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Gay men and women are serving this nation with distinction in Iraq, Afganistan and elsewhere. Thousands more want to, but can’t. The Williams Project at UCLA (PDF: 246KB/22 pages) estimated that there are about 65,000 gay and lesbian troops in the US military, and another one million gay American military veterans. The Government Accountability Office found in 2005 (PDF: 1,007KB/50 pages) that of the 9,488 service members who had been discharged since 1993 under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” about 757 “held critical occupations,” including 322 with “skills in an important language such as Arabic, Farsi or Korean.”

If there is an “immorality” problem, it’s not with those who have served our country. That immorality rests with those who would prefer that we accept convicted felons over proud, brave, and loyal men and women exemplified by Staff Sgt. Alva.



March 13th, 2007 | LINK

“if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else’s wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior…”

Um, we prosecute adultery? I think the General is confusing the United States with Saudi Arabia or another country where he spent a tour of duty. He’s certainly entitled to believe that being gay is immoral. The question is whether it impacts ability to serve. And it does not, as other militaries have demonstrated.

March 13th, 2007 | LINK

If you are a member of the US armed forces you can be prosecuted for adultery. It’s kind of complicated though, according to this website:

Adultery is still a (civilian) crime in some states as well, although (as ck notes) it’s not really prosecuted these days. I’d be curious whether adultery laws would stand up under Lawrence (Scalia thought they wouldn’t–his dissent is a fascinating read, weirdly inspiring).

Pace is surely an idiot, but I’m glad to see the issue being discussed. From what I’ve been reading, a lot of people are pretty tired of DADT and I’m a little hopeful that it actually may finally be done away with.

p.s. the link for “responded this way” just seems to lead back to

Jim Burroway
March 13th, 2007 | LINK

Oops! Sorry about the faulty link. And errant cut-and-paste is the culprit. Yeah. That’s it.

Holly Holly Holly
March 13th, 2007 | LINK

General Pace should use his authority to prosecute unmarried virgins, since the Bible forbids fornication. The military believes that torture can secure confessions. Perhaps Pace could authorize torturing single soldiers to determine whether they’re virgins. And married soldiers could be tortured to determine whether they’ve remained true to their vows.

Of course, I don’t believe this, but I do believe that the majority will forgive its Biblically-based sins while casting out the minority for their alleged Biblically-based sins. I write “alleged” because many Biblical scholars note that the sections of text that the fundies all cite to justify their hatred of homosexual citizens has been recently modified.

March 13th, 2007 | LINK

Thanks for the link, werdna. I had forgotten about that, and was thinking civil law.

However, even in the case of adultery, it looks like more must be proved than mere lust after a married person. In addition to intercourse (not just kissing, flirtation or other sexual activity) to someone married, the military must also demonstrate that the act brings “discredit onto the armed forces.”

It’s not just that the act is immoral.

Further breaking down the parallel is that homosexual *activity* is not the focus, but even orientation.

General Pace needs a course in ethics, I’d say. The two situations simply aren’t the same.

March 13th, 2007 | LINK

“I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral”
“just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else’s wife, that we would just look the other way”

He thinks that the mutual consent of two persons is “just like” two people conspiring to cheat on a third – and also the ignoring of it by those who know about it?

Zero victims is equal to one victim? Honest consent is equal to dishonest conspiracy? And this is the “morality” of a top US General?

Nothing inspires confidence in the person in charge of your safety like knowing they don’t know the difference between nothing and something.

I might agree that he needs a course in ethics, but the morally relative don’t “learn” morality, they design it.

Lynn David
March 14th, 2007 | LINK

Am I the only one who thinks what Gen. Pace said was all that bad? By definition, homosexuality, the homosexual act is immoral under the military code. Being homosexual, having homosexuality, is unfortunately also considered immoral under the code if someone finds out. Pace’s opinion is simply that idea which created the code in the first place. That he should have such an opinion is certainly understandable. And since the code backs him up why shouldn’t he be able to pronounce it?

Yeah, on the other hand, he’s a dinosaur, and things need dto change in the military. But until then he’s basically only saying what the code supports. Eh….

March 14th, 2007 | LINK

Thank you Lynn David,

I always did have a soft spot for him. He’s so graceful with the media. He always seemed like someone I could trust.

So there’s the projection part of me that’s lashing out against a hurtful stereotype, complicated with the seeming betrayal of trust.

Poor guy, he’s so nice, I actually kind of feel for him now that you mention it. I mean, who elso would put there foot in their mouth like that but someone who was open and honest.

Well, at best I’ll keep a prejudiced open mind. But I’ll do my best. :-)

March 14th, 2007 | LINK

Even worse were the comments of an idiot US representative whose name I have mercifully forgotten–saw him on Countdown–who said that the majority of the army and marines proudly share Pace’s opinion, and that people should really really remember that and the fact that these guys are fighting for “our right to have those kinds of morals and standards.”

Yesssss…. fighting religious extremists for the right to be religious extremists. Gotta love America.

Michael Reinelt
March 15th, 2007 | LINK

It does strike me as totally weird, that gayness or sleeping with a buddy’s wife is considered “immoral”, while Gen. Pace doesn’t even dream of the murder of civilians in an occupied land as immoral.

If the US military can’t keep combattants apart from civilians, they shouldn’t invade a country on a whim and without any need. The Iraqi resistance has a right to fight back, but to eliminate civilians because the resistance is too smart for the US military is the wrong response — which applies to Afghanistan as well. That’s what qualifies as immoral in my book.

I am writing this from Germany, and many here meanwhile view the US with utmost suspicion, because the US resembles more and more each year what the Americans of a long-forgotten generation liberated us from. The fascistic leadership now is just much more incompetent by comparison … but that’s another blog, altogether.

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