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Risky moves in the military

Dumping ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ could create schism

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I am a retired soldier. My service began in 1942 and ended in 1983. I am one of the several hundred generals and admirals who signed a letter to the president asking that he not change the law concerning the military service of homosexual persons or the policy that spawned the "don't ask, don't tell" expression associated with the law. I believe the number of signers of the letter could be doubled or trebled quite easily. Those who organized the effort solicited only the three- and four-star retirees whose current addresses were known. The few one- and two-stars who signed on learned of the project by other means and volunteered their support. Seeking an increase in their numbers easily would add significantly to the list. Additionally, a number of former sergeants major of the Army, the top enlisted soldiers of recent decades, have expressed a willingness to add their names.

The purpose of this column is to ask all serving members of Congress to vote against a change, but if a policy change is ordered by executive decree, please do not change the law.

The real issue involved is not the identity of homosexuals, it is the behavior of individuals who violate the law and are therefore liable for action prescribed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Fellatio, sodomy and other practices generally associated with homosexuals are illegal, improper or "conduct unbecoming" and cause for command attention. The same is true of rape, incest and prostitution, generally thought of as heterosexual transgressions. All are punishable activities that can be cause for judicial attention and possible punitive reaction.

The conduct of persons who choose to engage in such activities, particularly when they accost or force themselves on uninterested, uncooperative or unwilling victims, is almost always detrimental, impacting on morale and esprit de corps. Unit cohesion suffers, and the dissolution of a "band of brothers" cohort normally ensues. Either outcome affects readiness and the combat effectiveness of units whose mission is manpower-dominant.

Most soldiers are aware that homosexuals have served in the Army throughout our history. Many have served long years and retired with honors. They have been capable, effective, sometimes heroic and on a par with all others as long as their conduct was not offensive to fellow soldiers. They, in fact, enjoyed "don't ask, don't tell" before it was a policy. The claim today that they had to remain "in the closet" is true, but that is no different from the soldier who pursued another's wife or the prostitute who also had to remain undetected.

"Don't ask, don't tell" did not change the law or the responsibility of unit commanders to preserve the good order and discipline prescribed by the UCMJ. A policy change might allow homosexuals to serve openly if they so desire, but changes in the law are being sought by those who seek to make legal the practices that are banned now. It is those changes that I and most experienced commanders do not want. Then the only impact of a policy change will be to deny those who now "out" themselves an easy way to obtain an early honorable discharge, a current practice that I believe accounts for a large percentage of service people who are released for homosexuality.

In making this request, I am asking only that Congress apply its own rules by which both the Senate and House have disciplined members, sometimes evicting them after judging these same activities unacceptable.

I cannot predict the consequences of the changes being pursued by the homosexual community, but I can observe that edicts issued top-down by the ruling hierarchies of some of our long-established churches regarding tolerance and acceptance of homosexuality seem to be tearing them asunder. We must not chance the same kind of reaction in our armed forces.

Gen. Frederick J. Kroesen is retired from the U.S. Army.

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