Gen. Peter Pace has found himself on the receiving end of a lot of deserved criticism for an interview with the Chicago Tribune. In that interview, Pace explained that he thought homosexuality was 'immoral' and comparable to adultery. Pace misses one important fact -- it's heterosexual behavior that harming troop morale and unit cohesion, in the form of rape and sexual harassment.
First, Pace on gays:
"I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts," Pace 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 gay behavior] to be our policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else's wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior," Pace said.
A ban on adultery may strike some people as a little 19th century. But consider that military personnel have access to guns -- and RPGs and tanks and jets, etc. You kind of want to avoid situations that would make one person angry at another. However, a ban on homosexual activity lacks that sort of actual, real world reason. It exists only because some people find the idea distasteful. It's hard to think of a situation where it would cause a problem. At least, not a problem caused by gays.
Any problem serving with gays would be caused by bigots. Homophobia is the problem, not gays. It's like blaming minorities for racism -- it's bass ackward thinking. Pace is only reinforcing that backwards, blame-the-victim reasoning.
Helen Benedict, Salon:
As thousands of burned-out soldiers prepare to return to Iraq to fill President Bush's unwelcome call for at least 20,000 more troops, I can't help wondering what the women among those troops will have to face. And I don't mean only the hardships of war, the killing of civilians, the bombs and mortars, the heat and sleeplessness and fear.
I mean from their own comrades -- the men.
I have talked to more than 20 female veterans of the Iraq war in the past few months, interviewing them for up to 10 hours each for a book I am writing on the topic, and every one of them said the danger of rape by other soldiers is so widely recognized in Iraq that their officers routinely told them not to go to the latrines or showers without another woman for protection.
Women are warned not to go out alone at night at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. "They call Camp Arifjan 'generator city' because it's so loud with generators that even if a woman screams she can't be heard," said Abbie Pickett, 24, a specialist with the 229th Combat Support Engineering Company. A National Guard member tells of carrying a knife with her everywhere. The fear of rape is so constant that it's literally killing troops. Benedict again:
Last year, Col. Janis Karpinski caused a stir by publicly reporting that in 2003, three female soldiers had died of dehydration in Iraq, which can get up to 126 degrees in the summer, because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. They were afraid of being raped by male soldiers if they walked to the latrines after dark...
Looking at Benedict's piece, it's hard to figure why gays are supposed to be the big problem here. Yet you look through the Trib piece and you don't find Pace mentioning rape and sexual harassment at all. In fact, recent changes in military recruitment standards suggest that morality is no longer a big deal for the military.
The Ledger, FL:
Enlistment into the armed services can be barred for two categories of crime: felonies and serious misdemeanors such as burglary and vehicular homicide. But those with such convictions can serve if they are granted a moral waiver.
The numbers of such waivers granted by the Army increased about 65 percent in the past three years - from just more than 4,900 in 2003 to 8,129 last year. That was happening while the Army used other methods to increase the recruiting pool. Those included cash bonuses and less-stringent weight and age restrictions.
So Pace is arguing that morality's a big deal in the military, while the armed services (the Army's not the only one) is handing out something called 'moral waivers' left and right. It really kind of blows his argument out of the water.
Pace would better serve his nation and the people under him if he were more concerned with the realities and less concerned with right wing theories. Someone needs to tell him there's a war on.