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Posts for December, 2010

DADT round-up

Timothy Kincaid

December 3rd, 2010

Yesterday the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense testified before Congress in favor of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Today the Service Chiefs testified with mixed messages.

Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos said that he didn’t want repeal “at this time.” I think it’s pretty clear is that Gen. Amos doesn’t want repeal at any time under any circumstances due to his own personal prejudices.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. believes that DADT should be repealed eventually but not right now.

Air Force Gen. Norton A. Schwartz thinks that the repeal should occur, but that the report is too optimistic. He recommended repeal, but that the change not take effect before 2012.

Only Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead supported the immediate repeal of the policy (LA Times)

Navy sailors routinely train and work in close quarters alongside the service members of allied navies that allow homosexuals to serve openly, said Roughead. After studying the integration of gay sailors into other navies over the past decade, Roughead described the impact on the effectiveness of the force as a “non-event.”

John McCain, of course, will not be listening to the Navy Chief. Rather, he has been obsessing over the subset of the Marines who oppose repeal. Do you get the impression that if the typists in the stenopool were the only servicepeople who opposed repealing the policy, that McCain would declare them to be the most essential part of the Military operation?

Meanwhile, everything is being held up by the Republican Senators’ cohesive effort to force a vote to extend current tax rates. (And no, this is not a tactic that was created to block DADT.) It is difficult to know whether this block will hold together should a compromise plan be proposed (one that does not define a couple making $250,000 in Los Angeles as “millionaires and billionaires” but draws a higher threshold.)

Eventually, the Defense Appropriations bill will go before the Senate. And even in the new Senate, there may not be enough Republican votes to uphold a filibuster.

To date, at least two Republican Senators have pledged support (and more are likely): Susan Collins of Maine and Scott Brown of Massachusetts:

“I have been in the military for 31 years and counting, and have served as a subordinate and as an officer,” said Mr. Brown, who is in the Massachusetts National Guard. “As a legislator, I have spent a significant amount of time on military issues. During my time of service, I have visited our injured troops at Walter Reed and have attended funerals of our fallen heroes. When a soldier answers the call to serve, and risks life or limb, it has never mattered to me whether they are gay or straight. My only concern has been whether their service and sacrifice is with pride and honor.”

Mr. Brown added, “I pledged to keep an open mind about the present policy on ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ Having reviewed the Pentagon report, having spoken to active and retired military service members, and having discussed the matter privately with Defense Secretary Gates and others, I accept the findings of the report and support repeal based on the secretary’s recommendations that repeal will be implemented only when the battle effectiveness of the forces is assured and proper preparations have been completed.”

Meanwhile a very influential voice on the right has joined in calling for an end to the ban.

It is time to recognize the desires of all people competent to serve in our Military and afford them the opportunity to contribute to this noble, often thankless, but very necessary profession.

Dr. Laura was immensely proud of her son’s service in the Marines Army and would often reference it on her show. This endorsement carries a great deal of weight with her listeners.

Although there are various sound-bites that supporters and opponents can latch onto from the past two days of testimony, there is one thing on which all of the Chiefs agree: that legislative repeal will be far less disruptive than a judicial decision ending the policy. And they have good reason to fear just such a decision.

The ONLY defense provided by the Department of Defense in Log Cabin v. the US was that Congress was going to repeal the policy and that they should be allowed to do so. Should Congress fail to take such action, then there is no argument whatsoever that the government has left to make in the appeal to Log Cabin’s victory.

And Log Cabin will not play nice with the administration. They will undoubtedly file with the appeals court that the appeal be tossed out and that, at the very least, the current hold on the injunction be lifted. The Department of Defense can hardly claim a likelihood of success in the courts if they have nothing at all on which to base their defense.

There is a very real possibility that if Congress declines to enact a plan to roll out a gradual repeal, the courts could end the policy immediately. And while McCain would rather play Curmudgeon in Chief, those who care about defense policy should carefully consider the consequences of inaction.

DADT update: McCain looking more extreme

Timothy Kincaid

November 23rd, 2010

Most of the recent news about the potential repeal of the Military’s anti-gay Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy surrounds the report on the Military’s survey of troops and families. And it is not looking good for DADT’s chief defender, Sen. John McCain.

McCain continues to trumpet his latest objection to repeal, his assertion that the report didn’t ask the right questions. In fact, it now appears that McCain has been in correspondence with the Pentagon over this issue for some time. In April he objected that the survey was studying whether the repeal would have impact on the troops and how best to go about it rather than whether the ban should be lifted. In September, he tried again, this time writing to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, on Armed Services Committee stationery, making suggestions as to the extent and content of the survey:

I urge you and Admiral Mullen to modify the review and survey instrument, or to conduct supplemental surveys, aimed at ensuring that the question of whether the DADT policy should be changed is answered.

It is essential – and I think it’s clear that the Service Chiefs strongly agree with this point – that the survey provide the input needed to inform the Department and Congress on the views and recommendations of those most effected by this change, the men and women in uniform.

Gates’ response rejected McCain’s suggestion and politely reminded him that the Military is not structured as a democracy:

It is not part of the working group’s mandate to ask Servicemembers the broad question of whether they think DADT should be repealed, which, in effect, would amount to a referendum. I do not believe that military policy decisions — on this or any other subject — should be made through a referendum of Servicemembers.

As his letter suggests, the Curmudgeon in Chief is relying on the “strong agreement” of the Service Chiefs to provide a basis for his public opposition of open service. Last week he told reporters, “I respect and admire these four service chiefs who have expressed either outright opposition or deep reservation about the repeal.”

McCain seems to be relying on letters he solicited and received in May from the individual Chiefs and which he interpreted to be an endorsement of the anti-gay policy. But he really should have read them more closely before waving them on the floor of the Senate and touting them as agreeing with him.

Because, as it turns out, the Service Chiefs had reviewed the questions and, according to Gates, “fully support the approach and efforts of the working group.” As some of them have expressed in the past few days.

Over the weekend, Navy Chief Adm. Gary Roughead, who had written that “the best approach would be to complete the DOD review before there is any legislation to change the law” now seems pleased with the review. (National Journal)

“I think the survey, without question, was the most expansive survey of the American military that’s ever been undertaken,” Roughead said during an interview Saturday aboard his plane. “I think the work that has been done is extraordinary.”

This morning Air Force Chief Gen. Norton Schwartz echoed the praise (The Hill)

“The study was a good process; it was healthy; it is informative,” Schwartz told reporters at a breakfast meeting. The Air Force chief declined to offer any specifics, stressing his commitment to keep his recommendations to the Pentagon leadership confidential for now.

The sole negative comment appears to be that of Marine Chief Gen. James Amos, who said earlier in the month that now was not the right time to lift the ban. While this comment was made before the draft or the report was leaked and the Service Chiefs’ comments were incorporated, Amos may be McCain’s only ally in his quest to keep institutionalized discrimination in the Military.

Or, should Amos support the conclusions of the report, McCain may be standing alone, supported only by religious zealots and obvious bigots.

Secretary Gates has also taken the step of making at least a token effort to respond to Senators Lieberman and Collins’ request to expedite the release of the report. (WaPo)

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has ordered the report to be released Nov. 30, one day earlier than planned, “to support Congress’s wish to consider repeal before they adjourn,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Sunday.

However, we should be cautious not to be overly optimistic about the report. The recommendations, while based on survey responses which are leaked to be positive, may well be far less than we hope for. I very much doubt that this report will call for an immediate repeal of the ban.

Rather, I suspect that it will suggest a phase-in of repeal, perhaps emphasizing certain branches of service enacting open service earlier than others. I also suspect that it will involve the transfer of openly gay servicemembers from certain forms of service to other forms, rather than discharge.

Whatever the recommendations, they are likely to be disappointing. Which, ironically, may make them more palatable to legislators on the fence.

Meanwhile, Log Cabin Republicans continues its court-based assault on the policy. (Merc)

On Friday, Log Cabin Republicans filed a motion with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for an expedited schedule. It would put the case on track for oral arguments in April.

In response to LCR’s court win declaring DADT to be unconstitutional, the Military implemented new rules requiring that no person could be discharged under DADT without ”personal approval of the secretary of the military department concerned, and only in coordination with [Secretary Gates] and the General Counsel of the Department of Defense.”

Unsurprisingly, this has proved to be a virtual moratorium on the application of the policy (WaPo)

No U.S. service members have been discharged for being openly gay in the month since the Defense Department adopted new rules surrounding the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, a Pentagon spokeswoman said Monday.

Increasingly, it looks evident that this policy will soon be gone. And increasingly it looks as though Senator John McCain, after a long contribution to his country, will be most remembered as a man who, in the waning years of his service, frittered away his influence by cantankerously clinging to prejudices and fighting against the coming of a world that was already there.

Gates calls for lame duck DADT repeal

Timothy Kincaid

November 7th, 2010

The AP

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Congress should act quickly, before new members take their seats, to repeal the military’s ban on gays serving openly in the military.

He, however, did not sound optimistic that the current Congress would use a brief postelection session to get rid of the law known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“I would like to see the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” but I’m not sure what the prospects for that are,” Gates said Saturday, as he traveled to defense and diplomatic meetings in Australia.

I appreciate the support of the Secretary of Defense on this issue. His voice is important to the debate.

But I can’t help but get the sense that he is not really clued into the President’s pledged campaign to repeal DADT during the lame duck session. It feels as though they aren’t on the same page. And that makes me concerned about the level of commitment that the Administration has for making this happen.

Gates and Mullen to DADT-supporting 3-Star General: “Vote with your feet”

Timothy Kincaid

March 25th, 2010

MixonMeet Lieutenant General Benjamin R Mixon, the Commanding General of United States Army Pacific. But be careful around General Mixon, he just might find your “conduct” to not be “acceptable”.

On May March 8 he wrote a letter to the editor of Stars and Stripes:

The recent commentaries on the adverse effects of repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy were insightful.

It is often stated that most servicemembers are in favor of repealing the policy. I do not believe that is accurate. I suspect many servicemembers, their families, veterans and citizens are wondering what to do to stop this ill-advised repeal of a policy that has achieved a balance between a citizen’s desire to serve and acceptable conduct.

Now is the time to write your elected officials and chain of command and express your views. If those of us who are in favor of retaining the current policy do not speak up, there is no chance to retain the current policy.

But Mixon may wish to consider whether his superiors consider him to have acceptable conduct. Trying to do an end run around the Commander in Chief and the Joint Chiefs of Staff may not be the wisest of actions.

The Secretary of Defense was not amused. And he let Mixon know what he can do if he isn’t pleased with the process set up to review the policy (ABC).

Everybody participating in the review will have the chance to voice their approval concerns, ideas, their suggestions within this process, but there is an appropriate way to do that. Publicly voicing or politically advocating political positions and actions through the news media is just not appropriate for the men and women in uniform, particularly officers in command positions. Especially when it’s in direct opposition to the policy objectives of the President of the United States, their Commander in Chief. “

Mullen reiterated today that disagreements should also be expressed within the chain of command. But ultimately, “In the end, if there is either policy direction that someone in uniform disagrees with — and I’ve said this before — the answer — and you feel so strongly about it — you know, the answer is not advocacy; it is in fact to vote with your feet. And that’s what all of us in a position of leadership, I think, have to conform to.”

It appears that much of the anger towards Mixon was not based on his opinion, but rather was due to his efforts to subvert the process that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were establishing. Mixon may also have been contradicting a direct order (Stars and Stripes)

But Gates and Mullen suggested Thursday that Mixon’s offense had been speaking out about the policy after commanders were specifically ordered not to do so.

Mullen said the Army had given officers “very specific direction” in written form following Gates’ announcement of his intent to seek the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law.

And the Army was quick to distance itself from Mixon and his political activism.

The bottom line is that Lt. Gen. Mixon’s comments do not reflect the Army’s thinking on this issue. He was expressing his personal opinion. The Army clearly supports what the Secretary of Defense is trying to do with his assessment of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. So it is inappropriate for a commander to advocate in such a public way on something that is clearly a policy issue. We have a forum, and that is the Secretary’s ongoing comprehensive review.

Most observers are viewing the Admiral’s words as an invitation for Mixon to submit his resignation. Personally, I would not be surprised to see him decide to pursue a career in political advocacy. He will be considered a martyr and hero by those who believe that “fighting the homosexual agenda” is more important than military cohesion or following the chain of command.

What do past Military leaders say about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?

Timothy Kincaid

February 16th, 2010

gates mullenThose who are desperately looking for an excuse to continue supporting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the anti-gay military policy, are trying to downplay the efforts of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense as being an anomaly. They remind the public that the call for the repeal of a ban on open gay service men and women is their “individual opinion” and act as though it is non-representative.

But Admiral Mullen is not the only person to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Robert Gates is not our first Secretary of Defense. Nor are they the first to weigh in on this issue.

Not all such military leaders have public statements. And some have positions that can only be deduced from indirect statements. But here is what I’ve found:

Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Secretaries of Defense

It would appear that Mullen and Gates are closer to the rule than to the exception.

Gates and Mullen ask for another year before dismantling DADT

Timothy Kincaid

February 2nd, 2010

gates mullenChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates spoke about “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” before the Senate Armed Services Committee today. Both recommended reversing the law but asked for another year to figure out how to implement the change in policy. (NY Times)

To lead a review of the policy, Mr. Gates appointed a civilian and a military officer: Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon’s top legal counsel, and Gen. Carter F. Ham, the commander of the United States Army in Europe. Pentagon officials said the review could take up to a year.

In the interim, Mr. Gates announced that the military was moving toward enforcing the existing policy “in a more humane and fair manner” — a reference to the possibility that the Pentagon would no longer take action to discharge service members whose sexual orientation is revealed by third parties or jilted partners, one of the most onerous aspects of the law. Mr. Gates said he had asked the Pentagon to make a recommendation on the matter within 45 days, but “we believe that we have a degree of latitude within the existing law to change our internal procedures in a manner that is more appropriate and fair to our men and women in uniform.”

I have a better idea, gentlemen. Rather than wait for your report, Congress should pass the law that entirely eliminates the ban on open service in the Military and give the Pentagon a year in which to put a new policy in place. That way we don’t find ourselves a year down the road with a different Congress and insufficient votes.

In a signal that this policy change will face Republican opposition – regardless of the wishes of the Pentagon – Sen. McCain spoke strongly in opposition. He relied on Elaine Donnelly’s petition which found 1,000 former officers who were willing to put their name down in opposition to equality. McCain presented the petition as though it was a representative study.

Mr. McCain said that a thousand retired admirals and generals had signed a petition against change, and that their views reflected the honest beliefs of military leaders as a whole, whatever Admiral Mullen’s personal view.

However, such bogus sampling may not hold up to the findings of studies. In addition to the review by Johnson and Ham,

For further information, Mr. Gates said he would ask the Rand Corporation to update a 1993 study on the effect of allowing gay men and women to serve openly. That study concluded that gay service members could serve openly if the policy was given strong support from the military’s senior leaders.

However, timing is crucial. Any shifting in the Congress towards more Republicans (almost a certainty in this mid-term election) can become an excuse to yet again delay equality for gay Americans.

DADT repeal process started

Timothy Kincaid

January 28th, 2010

The Hill is reporting:

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen will testify next week on the repeal of a controversial law preventing openly gay people from serving in the military.

“The Joint Chiefs and the Chairman understand perfectly the president’s intent to see this law repealed,” Kirby said. “They take very seriously their obligation to provide him and Secretary Gates the best military advice about both the impact of repeal and its implementation across the force. They look forward to developing their advice and providing their advice in the near future.”

This testimony will reveal the Pentagon’s strategy for lifting the ban on open service. (Fox News)

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen will unveil next week a plan to lift the ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Thursday.

The military officials will lay out their plan when they testify in front of the Senate Armed Services next Tuesday.

Morrell said the Pentagon is not bringing a legislative proposal to Capitol Hill, but rather an assessment of steps that need to be taken internally to get to the point to change the law.

This testimony may not yield complete agreement. However, the much noted response of the military leaders to Obama’s appeal to lift the ban may not be an indication of disapproval.

When Obama asked Congress to repeal the law in the speech, Gates stood and applauded, while Mullen and the Joint Chiefs remained stoic.

A source close to Mullen said the rest of the chiefs follow Mullen’s lead and will clap only when he does. On Wednesday night, Mullen did not feel it was appropriate to show either support or contempt for such a politically charged issue, the source said.

Next week’s testimony may provide insight to whether the issue will be contentious. The public overwhelmingly supports lifting the ban, but many legislators have used the Military’s opposition as a cover.

While many legislators may oppose lifting the ban out of anti-gay animus, if the Pentagon endorsed the proposal it will make it difficult to find an objection that can be portrayed to the constituents as both principled and supportive of the military.

Administration Backtracking on Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell

Timothy Kincaid

April 16th, 2009

From the New York Times

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates made clear on Thursday that any repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law would have to be undertaken slowly, and suggested that it might not happen at all.

“If we do it,’’ Mr. Gates told reporters on his plane enroute to Rhode Island, “it’s important that we do it right, and very carefully.’’

I think it would be prudent for the President to clarify that there is no “if” and that he’s not bailing on one of his campaign promises or “pushing it down the road a bit”. But I really don’t expect him to.

So I think that Congress needs to stop waiting for this President to lead on issues of basic freedom and equality and take the matter into their own hands. Overturn the military’s institutionalized discrimination already. The voters are behind you if the administration is not.