- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 15, 1999

Last July an Army private named Calvin Glover walked into the barracks where fellow soldier Pfc. Barry Winchell lay sleeping and killed him, bludgeoning him to death with a baseball bat. An Army court-martial found him guilty in the death last week and sentenced him to life in prison. But in a surreal turn of events, the media and politicians have turned the proceedings into a trial not of the killer but of President Clinton’s policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

The victim, it seems, was a homosexual who dated a nightclub drag queen. Prosecutors charged that Winchell’s hatred of homosexuals, as demonstrated by his routine use of sexually charged epithets, was the motivation for the crime. And that proves that, well, “don’t ask, don’t tell” doesn’t work. So says the first lady. Stumping for a New York Senate seat in New York City (where homosexuals reportedly make up 8 percent of the population), she told a homosexual audience at a Soho fund-raiser that her husband’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was a failure, and that homosexuals should serve openly in the armed forces. This position, once a lonely spot beyond the leftward banks of the political mainstream, is getting pretty crowded, what with Mrs. Clinton, Bill Bradley and, as of this week, Vice President Al Gore all vying for the same political foothold.

Meanwhile, the president, “sympathetic” to his wife’s point of view (after all, he promised to lift the ban on homosexuals as a presidential candidate in 1992), is now calling the “don’t ask” compromise he worked out in 1993 with Congress and the Pentagon “out of whack” and in need of an overhaul. To that end, Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen on Monday ordered intensive spot investigations of major military bases over the next 90 days to assess, as a Pentagon spokesman euphemistically put it, the “human relations climate.”

What these spot checks are really for, as the New York Times bluntly wrote, is to gauge “whether gay service members are being harassed.” Of course, “gay service members” remain prohibited under Pentagon policy. That is, the bifurcated contradictions of the “don’t ask” policy may protect servicemen and servicewomen from questions about their sexuality, but they allow for their discharge should they admit to or engage in homosexual behavior. It seems inevitable that homosexuality will out. As the murder of Pfc. Winchell vividly illustrates, there are no closets in a barracks.

It is true, as both Clintons, Mr. Gore and Mr. Bradley now believe, that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is a disaster. But six years into a failed liberal experiment, the remedy is not still-greater liberalization. The “don’t ask, don’t care” policy such Democrats are advocating would further undermine the morale and efficacy of the U.S. military, as though “sensitivity training” were a component of national defense and military bases were re-education camps.

“Gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve their country without discrimination,” said Mr. Gore, twisting the debate over homosexuals in the military into a righteous stand on civil rights. This is a fallacy on at least two counts. Homosexuality is a behavior that is detrimental to both military cohesion and effectiveness; race is not a behavior, and has no effect on cohesion or effectiveness. Second, it is nobody’s right to serve in the military in the first place. That is, while all U.S. citizens have, for example, the right to equal treatment before the law, and all U.S. citizens (excepting felons) have the right to vote, they do not all have the right to join the military, and may be disqualified for a host of physical and behavioral reasons.

To repeat, the late Pfc. Winchell should never have been harmed because of his sexual inclinations. And his death should not serve as a mere springboard for political opportunism.

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