Saturday, February 19, 2011

Can we trust the military to police sexual harassment of any kind, let alone the anti-LGB kind?


The U.S. military's historically pervasive straight-horny-boys-will-be-horny-boys attitude doesn't bode well for its commitment to protecting non-straight servicefolk from discrimination and harassment.

by Ken

JD Smith, co-director of OutServeUS, "the underground network of LGBT actively serving military personnel," has been keeping tabs on orders issued by our various armed forces for implementation of training for the post-DADT era in the military. You can keep track of his tweets here, most recently from Friday:
Received confirmation that the AF has started to distribute at least tier 1 #DADT training. We have @outserveus members that have taken.
Since nobody understands less about tweeting than I do, or gleans less information from them, here are some links I extracted from JD's tweets:

* Marine Commander PowerPoint on "Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT)" [2/16]

* "Navy Timeline on Training" [2/8], TwitPics of "marine/navy commander training" [2/10], and a TwitPic of "More training" from the Navy [2/11]

This is all highly encouraging. We're often assured by military types that the military is punctilious about following the law, and can be trusted to adapt to enforce changes in law pertaining to it.

I'm not the only one who has limits to my trust, however. We're still not seeing how the military plans to cope with resistance through the ranks to the elimination of discrimination based on sexual orientation, a mindset that after all is ingrained in the minds of an awful lot of military personnel -- including, for example, many of the chaplains on whose behalf loud and persistent objections to DADT repeal were raised, claiming that these folks were going to be coerced to violate their religious beliefs, as indeed I guess they will be if their religious beliefs are homophobic, as apparently many of theirs are. (We hear a lot of horror stories about the extremely right-wing impact on military personnel of the heavily right-wing evangelical contingent among the chaplains.)

Part of my inherent distrust of the military's will to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation is the military's generally dismal record on dealing with matters of sexual conduct altogether.

Society at large, we know, deals very, very badly with sex. Given the basic authoritarian impulse of people who crave power to control, it may be that nothing, not even the lust for money (which after all is usually built into that craving for power), is so disruptive to that control as the lust for flesh. We know that it's part of the most basic human organism, but that only makes it more dangerous to the authoritarian mind set, since after all it means that every human under its nominal control is a potential sexual renegade.

Society at large, as I say, has never gotten a grip on this problem of sexuality, especially since the onset of the famous Sexual Revolution, which aimed precisely at loosening that grip. Military society has it even worse, because it has a long history of exploiting sexual aggressiveness. In the standard military mindset, after all, the qualities that make good soldiers often come hand in glove with -- heck, are thought to be the very same qualities as -- those that produce abusive sexual behavior. As long as it could, the military got by with the old "boys will be boys" attitude.

But then, the straight white male arbiters of social orthodoxy have always had a soft spot for straight white male sexual predation. In the orthodox view, after all, why did God create women except to serve as (a) men's household servants and (b) outlets for men's sexual urges? Isn't it in the Bible? (Well, not exactly, but the straight white male social autocrats manage to find biblical authority for every bit of repressive behavior they like.)

We have a general idea of how hard it has been for the military "good old boys" to deal with the increasing presence of women in their midst, and my guess is that even now an awful lot of U.S. military women would argue that the military still hasn't dealt with their presence, in terms of imagining women as something other than sexual playthings for their horny "boys." I can't think of any reason to imagine that the conduct of openly LGB servicemen would be in any way objectionable or deleterious to military discipline, any more than it is now among the many serving LBG military people -- in contrast to the wildly objectionable sexual conduct of all those boys-being-straight-boys.

In this context I'm more than a little alarmed by this latest development in a story I've been following only vaguely. I suppose I should couch this in terms of "claimed"s and "alleged"s, and from a proper legal standpoint those would be totally appropriate. But we're dealing with military justice here, and military justice rarely recognizes the niceties of the regular kind. And in this instance, does anyone really have any doubt as to who's telling the truth and who's trying to cover its dirty military butt?

From the San Diego LGBT Weekly:
EXCLUSIVE: Joseph Rocha refutes news report that “flawed, unsubstantiated” claims led to his DADT discharge

Posted by LGBT Weekly, Saturday, February 19th, 2011


The Associated Press has reported, “the Navy says it wrongly accused Navy dog handler Michael Toussaint of singling out a gay sailor for hazing at kennels he ran in Bahrain.” However, that gay sailor, San Diegan Joseph Rocha, says the AP has their facts totally wrong.

Former Petty Officer Third Class Rocha, who was discharged in 2007 under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, says Toussaint singled him out for being gay, causing him mental trauma and his exit from the Navy. The AP released a story on Thursday, citing two anonymous sources, saying, “Two Naval officers now say that Navy officials have found the investigation into Rocha’s charges was flawed, and the claims unsubstantiated.”

In an interview exclusive to the San Diego LGBT Weekly, Rocha says the AP version is not the Navy’s official view, and even though he has high-ranking Naval officials backing him, the AP will not retract nor correct their story.

“The official story is the United States Navy has come to a conclusion as to how to proceed with the discharge of Senior Chief Toussaint, and what type of discharge he would receive, what rank and what pay he would be entitled to after that discharge,” Rocha said. “First thing yesterday (Thursday) morning, the Under Secretary (Juan Garcia, Assistant Navy Secretary for Manpower and Reserve Affairs) contacted me to let me know the decision.”

Garcia’s decision, obtained by the San Diego LGBT Weekly through Rocha, reads:

“I approved the recommendation of the Retirement Grade Determination Board that MACS Toussaint transfer to the Fleet Reserve in paygrade E-8 with an honorable discharge. In making my determination, I thoroughly reviewed the matter, and weighed heavily material provided in the statements recorded during the initial command investigation and the record of proceedings from the Retirement Grade Determination Board.

“Ultimately, MACS Toussaint’s conduct as the Leading Chief Petty Officer assigned to the Military Working Dog Division, Naval Security Forces, Bahrain, did not meet the standards expected of senior enlisted leadership in our Navy. The Secretary of the Navy concurred with the CNO’s decision that Toussaint not be permitted to re-enlist in the United States Navy. However, when looking at his career in its entirety, I have determined that his conduct did not rise to a level sufficient to warrant retirement in a paygrade less than E-8.”

“The official decision is quite simply that the judgments and actions of Senior Chief Toussaint, while in charge of the canine unit in Bahrain, were not what was expected of senior leadership, and did not fit in with the Navy’s core values,” Rocha summarized, adding, “Which is not anything different than what we were expecting.”

The AP reported an entirely different story.

“They (the AP) went on to write 136 words based on two anonymous sources that were not official and made it read like it was coming from the institution of the Navy,” Rocha said. The two sources were never named, and the story read, “The officers spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a private personnel matter.”

The AP contacted Rocha after the first story was released, seeking to get his reaction for a second expanded story.

“They didn’t bother to tell me that the original story and the following story were going to accuse me of being a fraud,” Rocha said. “So I offered a reasonable and respectful quote that reflected the conversation that I had with the Under Secretary. That quote was then used in the longer piece that was used to attack me.”

The second version of the story spread across the country on Friday, with major publications reprinting the report, including versions in The Washington Post newspaper and Advocate magazine.

After reading the AP stories, Rocha immediately called Garcia to confirm the position of the Navy, “which would have been an underhanded insult, considering the conversation we had earlier,” Rocha said. “He insisted that the AP stories were not the position of the Navy.”

Also during the second conversation, Rocha said Garcia already had attempted to contact the AP to correct the story with the accurate report. Garcia also said he was “unclear” to who the anonymous sources were, according to Rocha.

“Essentially he was telling me over the phone that everything the Navy has produced supports what I am saying,” Rocha continued. “Nowhere will it say they made any wrongful accusations, and nowhere will it say they are retracting or going back on what they said a year ago when they first pulled Chief Toussaint out of active duty. And his memos and official writings were consistent with finding of Toussaint leadership and actions that did not fall in line with core values of the United States Navy.”

Repeated emails from Rocha to the AP writer have gone unanswered. Inquiries to the AP from Garcia’s staff have also been answered, according to Rocha. . . .

Now the Navy actually doesn't come off too bad here. Secretary Garcia's version of the decision, while it still sounds to me like a whitewash relative to the Navy's own reckoning of the facts, at least the Navy seems to have made some reckoning of those facts, but this is in a situation that had already become embarrassingly public, and the overall judgement doesn't seem to me to bode well for the kinds of situations that are bound to arise after DADT passes from the military code.

Which still leaves the whole question of where the AP's wildly divergent story came from, and how it became, effectively, the version of public record.

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At 3:37 PM, Anonymous me said...

Don't expect the truth or anything resembling even-handedness from the Assimilated Press. The AP may not be as brazen as Fox News, but it is every bit as corrupt.

At 5:40 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Point taken, me.



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