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Elaine Donnelly's Radical Cultural Change

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Right-wing "military" activist Elaine Donnelly, fresh off of her critically disastrous appearance before the House Armed Services Committee, is again maligning the professionalism of our troops, the capabilites of military commanders and the common-sense of the American public.

In an August 14 op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, Donnelly makes her same old argument, wrapped up in new-sounding rhetoric, that straight troops simply won't tolerate gay colleagues and that asking them to do so would unravel the very seams which hold one of the world's most revered fighting forces together.

It is a "radical cultural change," she asserts, to ask professional people to simply get along and do the jobs they were hired to do.

Donnelly's missive, which dismisses any rational ideas about what a service member's priorities are inside a war zone, tries to make her argument, which is the equivalent of "gay foxhole panic," sound reasonable. It is not, and Donnelly is flat-out wrong in almost every way.

First and foremost, Ms. Donnelly's arguments seem to be made with no knowledge of, or expertise in, the Uniform Code of Military Justice or other rules of conduct within the armed forces. If a straight colleague is harassed by a gay service member, she proclaims, they "would have no recourse, short of leaving or avoiding the military altogether."

In fact, the truth is that the UCMJ prohibits such behavior, period, regardless of whether it is same-sex or opposite-sex conduct. Advocates of allowing gay Americans to serve openly have consistently, and always, advocated applying conduct rules and regulations to every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine equally. Repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" doesn't give anyone a pass for unacceptable conduct. It simply means everyone gets treated - and punished - the same.

"Following historic precedent, officials will issue orders giving special, unprecedented rights to professed homosexuals," Donnelly writes, with no justifcation or evidence for a patently inaccurate claim. The truth, of course, is that the campaign to repeal the law is, again, about equal treatment and not special rights. There is nothing unprecedented in military history, of course, with allowing service members to talk about their families and loved ones at home, or allowing them to be honest about who their loved ones are. In actuality, there is a long, long history in our country of supporting military families and recognizing them for the sacrifice they make, too.

In a repeat of her now-infamous "passive-aggressive" remarks before Congress, implying that simply walking within the line-of-sight of a known gay service member would make one privy to a valid claim of harassment, Donnelly also writes in the Tribune that, "Complaints about inappropriate, passive or aggressive actions conveying a homosexual message or approach, short of physical touching and assault, could be met with career-killing presumptions and counter-accusations questioning the motives of the complainant."

Would female service members - whom Donnelly has also furiously fought to keep from the armed services - testify today that their commands are so hyper-sensitive to even a smile or 'hello,' that they feel pressured to throw out heterosexual men who seemingly "passive-aggressively approach" women in the ranks, even without any hard evidence of misconduct? Surely not, as the media has highlighted, again and again, that the services have had trouble disciplining even the worst offenders, let alone everyone who has ever offended - "short of physical touching and assault" - a female service member.

Donnelly's arguments, which have not changed despite mounting evidence that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is nothing but counter-productive policy maintained for the comfort of a prejudiced few, are most offensive, however, because of the implied disrespect they show for our men and women in uniform, their professionalism and their commands.

The brave, proud troops who wear our uniform, her argument implies, are too unprofessional to work with gays. Their commands, the same line of thinking goes, are unwilling to enforce military conduct rules. And as a result, her theory ultimate lands at the ultimate conclusion that the United States armed forces - which carry out unimaginably tough missions in exceptionally harsh conditions - cannot withstand hearing about Major Smith's long-time partner back home.

After bombs in Baghdad and the Taliban in Kabul, enduring stories about how your buddy's partner has had to manage the mortgage alone are surely enough to push straight troops past their breaking point. Or so Donnelly believes.

The truth, of course, is that any such assertion is pure non-sense, found only in the mind-set of homophobes desperate to have a legal justification for their outdated views.

It is not welcoming gay troops that is the "radical cultural change," but the idea that doing so is simply the one job - after military campaigns from Berlin to Baghdad - that they just cannot get done.

That argument, in a world where the American military is still considered among the best, would be the truly radical change in culture and belief.