Friday, September 23, 2011


Morning talk radio can be such white noise most of the time. But one recent morning as I drove to work, my ears perked up while I listened to an interview with Elaine Donnelly, founder and President of the Center for Military Readiness (CMR). CMR presents itself as an “organization formed to take a leadership role in promoting sound military personnel policies in the armed forces.” Sounds very patriotic and progressive, right? It’s not. CMR exists primarily for one purpose – to keep gay Americans out of the armed forces. The day I heard Donnelly pontificating on the radio was the first day that the old Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy no longer existed. Gay Americans could openly and proudly serve their country. Donnelly wasn’t having it.

When asked if she saw possibilities for positive contributions from gay service members, Donnelly (below, left) said she could not think of any. When asked what her main objection to gays in the military was, (other than the fact that they were gay), she said all it accomplishes is adding stress to all of the other military personnel. Donnelly calls the new military structure, post DADT, a “San Francisco military,” and “the president owns it from this day forward.” About the new laws supporting gays in the military, Donnelly says, “This is a political payoff on the part of the president to LGBT activist groups.” Donnelly’s take on the new military world? “There is nothing beneficial for the military here.”

Donnelly, who in the recent past has also suggested that gay men and women should not be allowed to teach in public schools, peppers her statements with terms like “gay agenda,” and “gay separatists.” To his credit, the interviewer speaking with Donnelly this week asked her repeatedly how military readiness would be affected by the inclusion of openly gay service members in the U.S. military. To Donnelly’s discredit, she never answered the question. Donnelly’s limited thinking is not confined to gays in the military. She has also suggested that the horrors of Abu Ghraib had much to do with allowing women in the military. Donnelly, whether she knows it or not, has fashioned herself into the 21st century Anita Bryant.

How odd that Donnelly, a woman of reasonable intelligence, does not realize that extremists with exclusionary causes like hers, do nothing more than galvanize the majority of fair, forward-thinking Americans to defeat discrimination. One has to wonder how Donnelly can establish an organization called “Center for Military Readiness” and not truly address the real issues threatening military readiness:

• In March, Congressman John Olver (D-MASS) expressed his own military readiness concerns. He pointed out that in 2010, in Afghanistan “one-third of deaths and casualties could have been avoided if proper body armor and vehicle armor had been provided from the start of the war.” Troops are still in danger and the current armor solutions are not adequately protecting them, Olver said. (Note to Elaine: Perhaps CMR needs to focus some of its attention and funding on properly outfitting our service members in war zones – including those who are gay).

• Sexual assault runs rampant in the U.S. military, overseas, according to the Pentagon’s own statistics. The numbers show there were more than 3,000 women sexually assaulted in fiscal year 2009, up 11 percent from the year before; among women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number rose 25%. When you look at the entire universe of female veterans, close to a third say they were victims of rape or assault while they were serving — twice the rate in the civilian population.” (Note to Elaine: These are heterosexual assaults mostly by male military personnel against female military personnel. Perhaps the CMR needs to work toward protecting victims of these assaults and look into the reasons the Code of Military Justice is not being routinely enforced). In its March 10, 2010 issue, TIME Magazine reports anecdotally, that many women overseas stop drinking water after 7PM, so they will not have to go to the bathroom after dark and run the risk of being raped.

• A 2010 U.S. Army report reveals 160 suicides by active-duty soldiers in 2009 and an additional 146 deaths resulted from risky behavior such as drug or prescription medication abuse. Seventy-four of those deaths were overdoses. There were 1,713 attempted suicides last year. Even more recent numbers: In July of this year, the U.S. Army reported a record 32 suspected suicides, the highest number in one month since the Army started keeping suicide records two years ago. (Note to Elaine: What are the deficiencies in the U.S. military that would create a higher suicide rate among military personnel than in the general population? Don’t depression, drug abuse, medication abuse and alcohol abuse threaten our military readiness? CMR might want to focus some efforts here).

• At Fort Hood, TX, the nation’s largest military post, in 2010 one in four service members sought mental health counseling for combat stress, substance abuse, broken marriages or other emotional problems, according to Army's vice chief of staff, Gen. Peter Chiarelli. If we’re really going to concentrate on military readiness, shouldn’t our efforts be put here, rather than on who’s sexually attracted to whom? Elaine? Are you listening?

• By now, it is common knowledge that the U.S. Army has employed questionable, if not downright unauthorized tactics in recruiting new service members. Improprieties include recruiting high school students under the age of 17, promising potential recruits job training that does not exist, promising educational benefits that far exceed what the military covers, recruiting in commercial areas or high school campuses where recruitment is not allowed and more. Elaine, I’m wondering: If the military is recruiting individuals who are not qualified to serve, and if recruiters’ superiors are turning a blind eye to fraudulent recruiting techniques, wouldn’t that somehow knock our military readiness down a notch or two? I’m just sayin.’

Military readiness is not about sex or sexuality. Let’s call this what it is – a non-issue. Gay service members have quietly been sharing quarters with straight service members forever. Everyone has co-existed relatively peacefully. Military readiness has more to do with how recruiters are persuading people to sign up, how military personnel are being treated once they’re in, what types of protection (or lack of such) is being afforded combat personnel, and how the military justice system is or is not dealing with clear violations of military law. Fringe group extremists like Donnelly accomplish nothing more than taking the necessary focus off of real issues that affect national security. Elaine, we’ve heard your rhetoric over and over again. It is meaningless, and to most of us it sounds like the rantings of a bitter person who has a personal anti-gay agenda. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is history and your attempts to spread paranoia were ineffective. If you truly want to serve your country as a private citizen, start using your resources and your energy to strengthen the existing military and to improve its reputation among other world powers (especially the 25 countries that already allow gays to serve openly in their military) who have come to view the current “gays in the military” debate as nothing more than tired, old American provincialism. Elaine, we Americans are bigger and better than that. If you are not, then you need to step out of the public spotlight, permanently.


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Igor Kopmar said...

Sexual assault runs rampant in the U.S. military, This is a big issue for U.S. military, They have to solve this as soon as possible.

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