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John McCain: Stay the Course With "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" by Michael A. Jones

President Barack Obama made history in speaking about a repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" during his annual State of the Union address. Sen. John McCain? He made history, too, by becoming the first politician out of the gate after Obama's remarks to say that discharging soldiers from the military due to their sexual orientation is a perfectly reasonable policy.

McCain's statement on keeping "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" alive and well appears on his U.S. Senate campaign Web site. For Sen. McCain, even though our soldiers can handle bullets, terrorism, and the threat of al Qaeda, serving beside gay, lesbian and bisexual soldiers would be a bit too much.

 

"I believe it would be a mistake to repeal the policy," Sen. McCain said. "This successful policy has been in effect for over fifteen years, and it is well understood and predominantly supported by our military at all levels. ... At a time when our Armed Forces are fighting and sacrificing on the battlefield, now is not the time to abandon the policy."

The problem with Sen. McCain's statement? Just about everything.

For starters, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is not supported by a good many members of the military. Look at Former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Shalikashvili, or any of the hundreds of military brass that have called for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to be repealed.

Beyond that, there's nothing "successful" about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The policy has removed almost 14,000 soldiers from service, including well-qualified soldiers who specialized in skills like Arabic translation, and has cost the Department of Defense close to $300 million over the past fifteen years. If that's Sen. McCain's definition of success, I'd hate to see his definition of failure.

The truth is, now is the time to abandon "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." More people support repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" than ever before, and more soldiers than ever before admit that not only do they know closeted gay, lesbian, and bisexual soldiers, but that they're ready to serve side-by-side with them.

Close to two dozen militaries around the world allow openly gay, lesbian and bisexual soldiers to serve in their ranks. There's no reason the U.S. can't follow suit. We should, after all, be leaders when it comes to standing up for principles of equality and integrity ... and not be standing twenty-five places behind the pack.

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