Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell… Don’t Do Anything
By Raven Usher
Subchapter X: punitive articles
Article 125: sodomy
Every couple of years some politician launches a campaign condemning the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. I agree whole heartedly that men and women should be able to serve in the military regardless of their sexual preferences. I also agree that court martialing and discharging soldiers with valuable skills hamstrings the effectiveness of the military.
But I also know the history of the US military (being a veteran myself). It makes me giggle to see people who rejoiced in “don’t ask don’t tell” when it was enacted who are now crying for its repeal. Let’s take a trip through history, shall we?
There was a time when military officials would actively hunt down men they believed to be gay. They were given dishonorable discharges and their civilian lives were destroyed right along with their military careers. Even worse, men who were drafted and inducted into the military involuntarily were still dishonorably discharged. These were men who knew they were not welcome in the military, got pressed into service and then were summarily destroyed.
So someone came up with an idea. “Let’s just pretend we don’t know. They won’t say anything. We won’t say anything. And we’ll all be happy in our ignorance.”
It was a simplistic solution. Maybe it was overly simplistic. But you know what? Most of the time it worked. It was shaky at first. There was a surge in enlistments right after it was enacted which made the old timers uncomfortable in the new change knowing there could be one of THEM in the ranks. But eventually things smoothed out and the military was all the better with the new batch of recruits. It was the birth of “don’t ask don’t tell.”
It was never a perfect solution. No one ever expected it to be perfect. It was a lot of high ranking people agreeing to ignore article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Basically the pentagon decided not to enforce a specific law unless they had no choice. UCMJ article 125 reads as such: (a) Any person subject to this chapter who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy. Penetration , however slight, is sufficient to complete the offense.
(b) Any person found guilty of sodomy shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
Technically, every person who ignores the fact that another soldier is gay can be court martialed under articles 81 (conspiracy), 98 (noncompliance with procedural rules) and 134 (general). That is why there are still homosexuals who get discharged. Because someone broke the bargain. They either asked or told. That left the military brass with no choice but to follow through with a court martial.
So what will abolishing “don’t ask don’t tell” accomplish? Not a damn thing!
There is one, and only one, action that will allow gays to serve openly in the military without fear of court martial procedures. The UCMJ must be amended to revoke article 125. As long as article 125 stays on the books gays in the military will continue to be court martialed when they expose themselves to the open recognition of being gay. It is the law. Worse yet, it is military law!
Repealing “don’t ask don’t tell” will only put gays who are serving honorably in the military right now in danger of being court martialed. “Don’t ask don’t tell” is not a lot of protection but it IS some protection. More than that, it is the ONLY protection gays in the military have. Getting rid of it before getting rid of UCMJ article 125 is counter productive and potentially harmful. Not having everyone fit under the umbrella in the rain storm is not a reason to throw out the umbrella.
“Don’t ask don’t tell” is only a band aide on a wound that requires stitches. But it is keeping that wound from gaping open, bleeding profusely and getting infected. Am I in favor of gays serving openly in the US military? Yes. Am I in favor of repealing “don’t ask don’t tell”? HELL NO! Let us not cut off the whole hand trying to save a single finger.