I am writing to discuss the nature of the sham that was the "Comprehensive Review Working Group," whose glowing report on repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was just released. As a member of the armed forces, I took part in the survey sponsored by this assemblage, and I found the experience highly disheartening to say the least.
For starters, nobody from my unit, command or service advertised it at all. I only knew about it because I stumbled onto the link leading to it while perusing my military portal website. Based on this fact and conversations I have had with others, I can readily say that vast numbers of personnel did not know about it, since most troops only visit their respective portals when training and other administrative needs beckon. Second, the format of the survey hardly lent itself to clarity or objectivity. Indeed, from the moment I entered the survey and until I reached its conclusion, I kept saying to myself, "Something smells about this." In light of the survey's results, I now know exactly what took place, and why.
We were in essence given a field in which to state – in a limited number of words – our views on repealing the policy, which would be "interpreted and reviewed" by Working Group staff. In other words, we were not asked direct questions relating to homosexuals serving openly in the military, or indeed, whether DADT should be repealed. This is important, because without such direct questioning, the answers we gave could mean anything the reviewers wanted them to mean. Moreover, and given the underlying motivation behind the review (i.e., Obama keeping his campaign promise to an important voting bloc), it is obvious that reviewers simply sought to produce the "data" the president needed to push repeal through Congress, or, at worst, provide cover for the judges who would step into the breach if the political process failed. Either way, the result would be the same.
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Consider the response I gave in my review "essay" (that really was the format). In it, I stated unequivocally that allowing gays to serve openly would be a mistake beyond reckoning. I went on to say that while years of service would probably prevent me from separating following the elimination of DADT, I and many others would no longer view the military as the same honorable venue it formerly was, and that service would be motivated more by the promise of a retirement pension than by other, more traditional considerations. Now, while most sane people would certainly interpret these statements as a decidedly negative response to the main problem at issue, a reviewer with an agenda could merely highlight the fact that I would "probably not separate" and then place the entire response in the "positive" column! This "poll" was therefore not a poll at all, but merely a vehicle for the advancement of a controversial (and potentially damaging) political agenda. Knowing this fact, I am infuriated to know that I participated in it at all. They used me and a great many others in what amounted to little more than a slick propaganda campaign.
All of this of course begs the question: Why are the nation's political and military establishments so hell-bent on allowing open homosexuality within our military ranks? Our "leaders" really appear obsessed, and heaven knows why. Sadly, the two men most responsible for this debacle are also the people that, in a better era, would have stood at the vanguard of the military's defense: Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen. Here, men with sterling backgrounds within the military and intelligence communities have morphed into the nation's most high-profile gay-rights advocates, giving up a great deal of credibility in the process. The question that most tends to baffle is ...why?
While it requires great creativity (and naïveté) to imagine any benefits deriving from this move, it takes no effort at all to fathom the negatives, for they are legion. Worst of all, this entire process has done nothing but foster a feeling of sad inevitability among those who might otherwise have fought hardest against repealing the law, both within and outside the military. To say that this process has left them (myself included) feeling empty and defeated would be a great understatement. That must have been one of the main goals all along.
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Nicholas Mack is an American citizen, historian and current member of the armed forces who has served during three wars. He is using a pseudonym.