Today’s post was adapted from an article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune: “Don't drop `don't ask, don't tell,' Pace says” By Aamer Madhani, Tribune national correspondent, March 13, 2007.
I’ve rewritten the article a little bit. The first few paragraphs of what I have written below are almost word for word out of the original article.
Almost word for word.
I made a few minor changes.
Gen. Alonzo Fyfe, fictional chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday that he supports the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" ban on bigots serving in the military because bigoted acts "are immoral," akin to a member of the armed forces accusing another of a crime for reasons of hate or vindictiveness.
Responding to a question about a policy that is coming under renewed scrutiny amid fears of future U.S. troop shortages, Fyfe said the Pentagon should not "condone" immoral behavior by allowing bigoted soldiers to serve openly. He said his views were based on his personal "upbringing," in which he was taught that certain types of conduct are immoral.
"I believe bigoted acts are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts," Fyfe said in a wide-ranging discussion with Tribune editors and reporters in Chicago. "I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.
"As an individual, I would not want [acceptance of bigoted behavior] to be our policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that a soldier claimed that so-and-so committed a crime when the accuser simply hated the accused and made things up about him. We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior," Fyfe said.
The "don't ask, don't tell" policy for bigots caused an uproar in the military when signed into law. At the time, supporters of the policy inside and outside the military argued that it was essential for the cohesion of combat units, not a question of morality.
Under the policy, bigots may serve only if they keep their orientation private and do not engage in bigoted acts. Their commanders may not ask about their orientation.
However, General Fyfe expressed reservations about immediate dismissing any soldier on the first offense. "I support discipline, but not immediate dismissal, for a first offense.
"We have to remember who are enemy is, here. Whenever we dismiss a soldier willing to serve his country, we make ourselves weaker and the enemy stronger. This does not mean looking the other way when soldiers engage in immoral acts. Theft and carelessness are also crimes, but we discipline those we find guilty and try to make them better soldiers."
Some argue that bigots cannot be reformed and that Fyfe’s proposal is simply a waste of time. Fyfe answered that the military has long been a useful tool in fighting bigotry. “The Tuskegee Airmen, African Americans and Japanese Americans proved their value during World War II. This was a major cause of the civil rights movement that followed.”
When asked about the objection that the military is too important to use in some sort of social experiment, Fyfe answered, “The military is constantly looking for ways to do its job better. We test everything from weapons systems to tactics to unit composition to training methods. If we did not test new options we would still be using clubs and rocks."
Phreadd Pseudoscholar has argued that these bigots are simply following their religion, and that the military policy against bigots amounts to religious intolerance. "The Constitution protects the free exercise of religion. The military is violating that right."
Fyfe answered that the freedom of religion has limits. "Our enemies in this war on terror are also arguing for a right to the free exercise of religion. Unfortunately, their religion tells them to kill and maim others.
"The military certainly respects the religious practices of its members, up to the point where those practices require them to violate the rights of others. Our policy of "Don't ask, don't tell," is consistent with those principles. People can believe whatever they want, but they can't use religion as a reason to harm others."
We asked Gen. Fyfe about military members who claim that they get their morality from their religion, and that they do not see their attitudes as immoral.
Fyfe said, "Again, you have people who claim to get their morality from their religion, who think that blowing up infidels is not immoral. You have a choice. You can believe that there is a morality that transcends religious differences that tells people of all religions how to live together in peace, you can have them live together as master and subject, or you can have sectarian war.
“The military operates on the principle that there is a morality that transcends scripture that allows different sects to live and work together,” Fyfe said.