Did You Really Have To Say That?: An Open Letter To General Peter Pace

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Dear General Pace,

I was disappointed to read your comments in the newspaper regarding your personal attitude towards homosexuals.  Here is what you said if you need to be reminded:

I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral and that we
should not condone immoral acts…. I do not believe that the armed
forces of the United States are well served by a saying through our policies
that it’s 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.

First, let me state that you have every right to your personal moral views, but was it really appropriate to state them at this time?  You could have expressed those views in private or waited until after you retired to share such thoughts.  Do you really need to be reminded that thousands of gay men and women are currently risking their lives in Afghanistan and the streets of Baghdad?  Every night we see images on the evening news of gay military personnel that have been killed in battle or seriously wounded.  How dare you dishonor their service and sacrifice by reducing them to one characteristic while at the same time you lower the military’s standards by admitting recruits with criminal backgrounds.  Even more absurd is your comparison between homosexual couples and the act of adultery.  I’m not even sure what you are attempting to point out in your comparison.

The military’s policy of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" has been in place since the Clinton administration.  If I understand it correctly it means that as long as a gay man or woman does not openly declare their sexuality their place in the military is secure.  If it is the case that gay men and women are not to talk openly than why is it permissible for you to speak out about the morality of homosexuality?  Why the double-standard?  I have a former student who happens to be a lesbian who is currently serving in the military.  She is extremely bright and a graduate of one of this nation’s top universities and who is interested in one day working overseas for the State Department.  Her area of expertise is Russia and she is a fluent speaker of the language – just the kind of individual that we need in the service of our country.  From the beginning she was aware of the challenges involved in serving in the military as a young lesbian woman.  Even with a clear understanding of all of this her sense of service and patriotism held sway.  I assume that most gay and lesbians in the military thought seriously about these same issues, but in the end remained committed to serving their country. 

Your comments only served to add to their concerns.  Is the military really in a position where it can afford to alienate committed Americans who want nothing more than to serve their country?  Now, I have never served in the military which means that I’ve never experienced combat.  That said, I wonder whether in the case of fighting in the streets of Baghdad that any individual’s sexual preference becomes a factor in saving lives and completing missions.  Perhaps I am mistaken, but if so I would like to be shown the evidence.

I’m sorry that you felt a need to reduce the service of thousands of gay men and women along lines that have nothing to do with their day-to-day commitment and multiple tours of duty in some of the most dangerous places on the planet.  But if you can’t say it I will:

Thanks to all of you who have served, are currently serving, or who will serve in this nation’s armed forces.  Thank you for being able to look beyond the irrational and hateful comments of General Pace while maintaining your focus on what is truly of value to you. 

8 comments… add one

  • Mannie Mar 13, 2007

    Kevin,

    Thanks for that fine post.

    Like all members of the military, General Peter Pace’s job is: to follow lawful orders, obey the wishes of his civilian commanders, stay out of politics, and S.T.F.U. , and I’m sure that the good general knows what that means.

    His comments on gays in the military are unwarrented, uninteresting, and irrelevant. He needs to focus less on his fear and loathing of love and focus more on finding a way out of a totally screwed-up situation in Iraq.

    What the good general needs to realize is that citizenship is not a passive experience. Regardless of the manner in which one obtains sexual gratification, everyone, gay or straight, must serve this country. There are no free rides.

    This is my private opinion, though as an enlisted Navyman during the Vietnam conflict, I may be prejudiced against the opinions of officers like Pace. My bad.

    Mannie

  • Kevin Levin Mar 13, 2007

    Hi Mannie, — You said: “What the good general needs to realize is that citizenship is not a passive experience. Regardless of the manner in which one obtains sexual gratification, everyone, gay or straight, must serve this country. There are no free rides.”

    You are making my point in slightly different terms. Pace’s comments bring out the way in which the fears of the homophobe cloud what truly matters. In this case it is the fact that the desire to serve (“citizenship”) does not come wrapped in a certain sexual preference. In what way exactly do his comments help fight the war in Iraq or help in any aspect of his job? As if the military doesn’t have enough public relations problems with Walter Reed now we have something that will only fuel the political fires.

  • Brooks Simpson Mar 14, 2007

    Pace’s comments carry within them their own internal contradiction between what he believes to be immoral and a flat assertion of what is immoral. The two may not be the same thing. If he believes that his service condones immoral acts, then perhaps he ought to resign. After all, some people would say that’s the only moral thing to do.

    Watch out for those slippery slopes.

  • Kevin Levin Mar 14, 2007

    Great point Brooks and one that flew just below my radar screen.

  • Ellie Giles Mar 14, 2007

    To reiterate what Mr. Levin said, voicing an opinion is one thing, but openly opposing so many who risk their lives serving in the military is offensive. General Pace is entitled to personal beliefs, but by describing homosexuality as immoral, he is judging many soldiers not as men and women, but is instead “reducing them to one characteristic”.

    This statement has exposed General Pace’s ignorance, and I only hope the backlash causes him to realize the support that gay soldiers do have. Forcing soldiers to remain quiet about their sexual orientation and then publicly labeling them as immoral is ridiculous and unacceptable.

  • Peter Mar 14, 2007

    Slate magazine recently took this topic up, and had some interesting things to add:
    http://www.slate.com/id/2161764/pagenum/all/#page_start

  • Kevin Levin Mar 14, 2007

    Ellie, — Thanks so much for taking the time to read and voice your concerns. I tend to think that this policy is on its way out. Perhaps the fact that gay men and women have made the ultimate sacrifice will clearly demonstrate how silly any comment that reduces an individual down to sexuality in fact is.

    Peter, — Thanks for the link.

  • Ken Noe Mar 15, 2007

    Kevin:

    I see that GOP presidential candidate Sam Brownback now has jumped into the debate in defense of General Pace, asking fellow congressmen to sign on to a letter of support. Given Rudy’s much-mentioned tolerance and McCain’s support for the current policy, I’m guessing that Brownback sees this as a campaign wedge issue. Oh boy, another uplifting campaign beckons.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070315/ap_on_el_pr/brownback_gays

    Ken

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