During today’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on repealing the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) criticized Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen for supporting the repeal of DADT without first conducting an exhaustive review of the policy or consulting with Congress.
“And so your statement is one that is clearly biased, without the view of Congress being taken into consideration,” McCain said. “I’m happy to say we still have a Congress of the United States that would have to pass a law to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, despite your efforts to repeal it in many respects by fiat”:
I’m deeply disappointed in your statement…Your statement is ‘question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change, but how we best prepare for it.’ It would be far more appropriate, I say with great respect, to determine whether repealing this law is appropriate and what effects it would have on the readiness and effectiveness of the military before deciding on whether we should repeal the law or not and fortunately it is an act of Congress and it requires the agreement of Congress in order to repeal it.
McCain’s harsh dismissal of Gates and Mullen contradicts his previous commitment to consider repealing the policy at their request. In October of 2006, for instance, McCain explained that he understood the arguments against repealing DADT, but promised that “the day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, Senator, we ought to change the policy, then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to.”
But today, McCain refused to “consider seriously” repealing the law, arguing that the Pentagon should not change policies in the middle of two wars. The logic of course, makes little sense, and something McCain himself may have rejected in October of 2006. It’s particularly during times of war, when the military is stretched thin and is asking its members to fight for freedoms in distant lands that it should grant all of its soldiers the right to be who they are. As Mullen put it, “No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”
Mullen admitted that the military had not conduced a review of the policy but also said that he hasn’t been any research showing that openly gay members undercut military moral. Instead, Mullen pointed to studies that concluded that ending the policy would not hurt military preparedness and cited personal conversations with nations that have fully integrated their forces. “I have talk talked to several of my counterparts in countries whose militaries allow gays and lesbians to serve openly, and there has been as they have told me, no impact on military effectiveness,” Mullen said. “I have served with homosexuals since 1968,” he added. “Everyone in the military has.”
At the hearing, Gates called for a review of DADT and suggested that it may take up to two years to implement a full repeal. Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) also suggested that this year, “what’s more likely than repeal…is a moratorium” on discharges. “I think [it's] a more likely prospect because of the study,” Levin said.
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