SEPTEMBER 29TH, 2007 | Harkin for Senate
Harkin rightly called Pace on demoralizing comments.
In the final minutes of a Senate hearing Wednesday with Gen. Peter Pace, things got really interesting. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff caused a stir when “clarifying” remarks he made earlier this year. In March, Pace told the Chicago Tribune that homosexual acts were “immoral” and the military should continue its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which allows gays to serve as long as they keep quiet about being gay.
Pace revisited the issue in the Senate committee. Anti-war protestors in the audience booed and caused a bit of a ruckus. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd of West Virginia had to abruptly adjourn the hearing.
It was all started by Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin.
After a back and forth with Pace about the closing of Guantanamo, Harkin had just one more comment.
“I don’t want to end this on a discordant note,” he began. But after watching Ken Burns’ World War II epic on PBS, the senator said it occurred to him again how many gay men lost their lives fighting for this country.
“And your statement that homosexual acts are immoral and we shouldn’t condone that in the military, it was very hurtful. Millions of Americans are gay men and lesbian women, and they are some of our most upstanding, law-abiding, moral citizens that we have …. Very hurtful comments, very demoralizing comments, and if you have anything to add – to say to that, I would be open to listen,” Harkin said.
The audience was cheering throughout.
Pace stuck to his proverbial guns, again calling homosexual acts, as well as heterosexual sex outside marriage, “immoral.”
“That’s what I was taught. That’s what I believe,” he said.
Pace also said he supports “don’t ask, don’t tell” because it “allows those who are homosexual to serve this nation if they so choose. It makes no judgment about their morality. It gives them the opportunity to serve,” he said.
That’s one way of looking at it.
And then there is reality.
The reality is that this policy sends a message to troops that it’s OK to die for your country as long as you shut up about being gay. That not only judgmental, it’s a discriminatory policy that should not exist in the United States military.
It’s especially galling when the military is stretched thin by war.
According to a congressional report, more than 9,000 troops were discharged from the armed forces because of the policy from 1994 to 2003. In fiscal year 2006, more than 600 were discharged. Meanwhile, the military is working hard to recruit soldiers and offering re-enlistment bonuses to attract and retain troops. The Senate hearing this week was just one more reminder that Congress should finally repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.