A renewed debate on "don't ask, don't tell" is just what al Qaeda ordered.
Somewhere in north Waziristan, there's a tall guy on dialysis laughing his turban off at our preoccupation with fighting ourselves instead of hunting him.
And yet that is what Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, ignited when he told the Chicago Tribune that homosexual acts "are immoral," like a member of the armed forces conducting an adulterous affair with the spouse of another service member. "We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior," he said.
Put aside for a moment that he's wrong. (I support "don't ask, don't tell," but how can monogamous homosexuality be the moral equivalent of adulterous heterosexuality?) The bigger point is one of timing. With a quagmire in Iraq, and bin Laden at large in Pakistan, this is not the moment for an attention diversion. After all, there are only so many 20-second time slots for Americans to get their news.
The Tribune story was 1,378 words. I had to get through 1,191 of them before I read about something far more dangerous than gays, and explains why we can't kill bin Laden: "Regarding Pakistan, Pace said that a controversial treaty that Musharraf signed with tribal chiefs in north Waziristan province has not produced the results that the Pakistani leader hoped it would in reducing cross-border attacks by Taliban and al Qaeda insurgents."
If bin Laden is hiding in Pakistan, we've totally outsourced the hunt to President Pervez Musharraf, and instead of debating the propriety of that, we're now going to waste our time on a non-issue. Ridiculous.
And I blame Gen. Pace, not so much for offering his honest view, but for not recognizing that it would cause a firestorm.
The renewed interest in military policy on gays caused by Pace's comments doesn't bode well for Matt Sanchez, the Marine corporal who used to work as a porn star under the name Rod Majors. That became news last week after Sanchez was feted at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he received an award for having battled the forces of political correctness and anti-military sentiment at Columbia University.
Some of Sanchez's fellow students had "humiliated" him at an Activities Day in 2005, calling him minority "cannon fodder" (he's Hispanic) and a "baby-killer." When he appealed to the administration, it defended the students' right to free speech.
"They really messed with the wrong Marine," Sanchez told me. He said he stood up to the hostility on behalf of the Marine Corps and other service members. "This wasn't just about Iraq, it wasn't just about Columbia. It was about the country."
Sanchez's advocacy for soldiers earned him the on-campus sight of his picture next to a dead Iraqi baby and a homeless vet with the headline: "Victim?"
The New York Post, "Hannity and Colmes" and "The O'Reilly Factor" came calling. That association is making liberals froth at the mouth that he's a hypocrite. Take Huffington Post blogger Max Blumenthal, a research fellow at Media Matters for America, who said on MSNBC:
"I don't really care what Cpl. Matt Sanchez, aka Rod Majors, says. This is a guy who was supported by two networks at the same time. The first network was a gay sex network, and he sold his services for $200 a pop and $250 if he had to leave his house.
"The other network was an ideologically homophobic right-wing network that consisted of people like Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity and David Horowitz, who used Cpl. Matt Sanchez, aka Rod Majors, to advance their campaign to demonize the campus anti-war movement and academics in general. So he joined up with this right wing culture war, and he's been unmasked by progressive bloggers as a hypocrite."
Hypocrite? I don't see it, and I think the willingness to call Sanchez one says more about his critics than about him. Aren't they the ones who've been telling us that sexuality has nothing to do with the ability to be a good soldier?
As long as his hard-on is for al Qaeda, I say, let him serve.
As Sanchez told me, "There's no such thing as a gay Marine, or a Latino Marine, or a black Marine. It's just Marines. I think that's really important to say. I'm a Marine, first and foremost."
We'll have plenty of time later to fight among ourselves. For now, let's get back to battling Arab extremists.
Follow Michael Smerconish on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@smerconish