Washington, D.C. – Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Hideki Tojo tried and failed. Mao Zedong, Nikita Khrushchev and Ho Chi Minh couldn't do it. But commander-in-chief Barack Obama may well succeed where others could not. If he has his way, he will demolish the finest force for good in the history of mankind – the U.S. Armed Forces. And he wants to make it all happen before the end of the year.
On November 30, Defense Secretary Robert Gates released the much-leaked "Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Only the Pentagon could come up with a title like that.
The "Report" — 266 pages long — purports to provide military and civilian leaders in Washington with "a comprehensive assessment" and "recommendations" on changes in Defense Department regulations if Section 654 of Title 10 of the U.S. Code is repealed. The 17-year-old law states: "The presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability." Importantly, the phrase "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," appears nowhere in the law.
Supposedly, the "conclusions" and "recommendations" proffered in the "report" are based on a "survey" of currently serving soldiers, sailors, Airmen, Guardsmen and Marines. Though nearly 400,000 questionnaires on changing the law were circulated, only 115,052 responded. Of those who did reply, 27 percent indicated that allowing openly homosexual men and lesbian women into the ranks would adversely affect unit cohesion. Thirty-five percent of service members in deployed combat units say such a change would have a negative impact on combat effectiveness. Sixty-seven percent of all Marines and more than 57 percent of soldiers in U.S. Army combat units believe changing the law will hurt combat efficiency, unit cohesion, readiness and retention. Notably, military chaplains — from all denominations — overwhelmingly oppose changing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
In a statement, Obama argued that for the first time, "both the secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have publicly endorsed ending this policy." Yet, the stunning numbers cited in the report substantiate the "military capability" clause in the current law and directly refute his claim that the law can be changed in the midst of a war "in a responsible manner that ensures our military strength and national security."
This week in pressing Congress for urgent action to change the law, both Defense Secretary Bob Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen, once again, raised the canard that Section 654 must be immediately repealed because it "forces young people to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens." In fact, current law does no such thing. The law simply says that those who commit certain acts should not be permitted to join the Armed Forces. It's not about "who they are." It's about what they do.
Apparently unmoved by the concern expressed by well over half of our soldiers, sailors and Marines deployed in a war zone, Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen now argue that Congress must repeal the law immediately or the courts will intervene. That too is a phony argument. Section 654 has withstood more than a dozen legal challenges since it has been on the books. The case now pending in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is but the most recent test. The O-Team's "legal eagles" need only dust off old files going back to the Clinton administration to see how the law has been effectively upheld in the past.
President Obama's push to have the law repealed by this lame-duck session of Congress has been seconded by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. But the full-court press may yet produce the political equivalent of an elbow in the face for the O-Team.
In his testimony on December 2, while urging the Senate Armed Services Committee to act immediately on changing the law, Admiral Mullen told the solons that service in the military is a "meritocracy" based on "what you do, not who you are." That of course, is the very argument many of us have been making against allowing active homosexuals into the ranks.
Concerns about repeal — on readiness, retention and recruitment in the brightest, best educated and now, the most combat-experienced military force in history — are not assuaged by the report. Nearly 25 percent of those now serving — and as many as 32 percent of Marines — say they are likely to leave the service rather than be assigned to live with and serve beside active homosexuals.
This potential attrition — while more than 150,000 troops are serving in harm's way — hasn't diminished the O-Team's zeal for repeal. When Senator John McCain confronted Admiral Mullen with this consequence of allowing homosexuals into the military, the Admiral replied, "We'll deal with that." Secretary Gates, ever sympathetic to the needs of our troops, observed, "They can't just up and leave."
No they can't. But when they come home they can vote with their feet. Is wrecking the world's finest military the price we have to pay for a campaign promise? Only this lame-duck Congress knows the answer.
— Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of "War Stories" on Fox News Channel and the author of "American Heroes."
Lt. Col. Oliver L. North (ret.) serves as host of the Fox News Channel documentary series "War Stories with Oliver North." From 1983 to 1986, he served as the U.S. government's counterterrorism coordinator on the National Security Council staff. "Counterfeit Lies," is his novel about how Iran is acquiring nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them. Click here for more information on Oliver North.