The moral universe of Peter Pace

Update: The Washington Post says that someone of General Pace’s stature is obligated “to consider facts and evidence” when evaluating public policy, not his personal beliefs (and by the way, that experiment with recruiting felons like the guy who raped a 14 year old Iraqi girl and murdered her family isn’t working out that well, either); former Republican Senator Alan Simpson provides a very credible reality check and wonders if General Pace would call Alan Turing “immoral” and unfit to serve as well; and, finally – will wonders never cease? – it turns out that there has been a sharp decline in the number of discharges under DADT since the inception of the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts. Hmm. How very small General Pace and his apologists look right now. Just…small.

General Peter Pace thinks that “homosexual acts” are “immoral.”

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday that he supports the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gays serving in the military because homosexual acts “are immoral,” akin to a member of the armed forces conducting an adulterous affair with the spouse of another service member.

The military career of Eric Alva, 36, a former Marine Staff Sargeant, was cut short at 13 years duty when a landmine took his leg in Iraq. He was awarded the Purple Heart for his combat service.

“I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way,” says he.

So noted. General Pace must then logically find it moral to throw away this Marine, son and grandson of veterans, who lost his leg while serving his country on the first day of “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

Since General Pace supports DADT, he must also believe that lying is a moral behavior.

Since, according to a 2005 Government Accountability Office report cited by the Chicago Tribune, our armed forces have discharged about 10,000 troops under the policy, General Pace must think that filling in the gaps by improperly altering the profiles of medically unfit soldiers and sending them back to Iraq is a moral behavior.

From Salon:

“This is not right,” said Master Sgt. Ronald Jenkins, who has been ordered to Iraq even though he has a spine problem that doctors say would be damaged further by heavy Army protective gear. “This whole thing is about taking care of soldiers,” he said angrily. “If you are fit to fight you are fit to fight. If you are not fit to fight, then you are not fit to fight.”

As the military scrambles to pour more soldiers into Iraq, a unit of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Ga., is deploying troops with serious injuries and other medical problems, including GIs who doctors have said are medically unfit for battle. Some are too injured to wear their body armor, according to medical records.

The Fort Benning soldiers interviewed by Salon “expressed considerable worry about going to Iraq with physical deficits because it could endanger them or their fellow soldiers.” The brigade leaders making these decisions are “going to get somebody killed over there,” said one (anonymously, because of fear of retribution). Hey, but at least nobody’s endorsing any “immoral behavior,” right?

Since that same GAO report counts among those discharged for their “immorality” at least 322 linguists, including 54 Arabic specialists, General Pace must think that putting our troops in enhanced danger due to a compromised ability to communicate and interpret intelligence is moral behavior. Maybe he thinks that such communication is superfluous, since (as David Corn astutely points out) General Pace and Islamic fundamentalism are in apparent agreement that “God is Straight.”

Finally, DADT is usually defended by citing the issue of morale, not to be confused with morality. Or is it?

One would hope that General Pace sees the moral problem with recreational rape, whether of Iraqi women or of fellow soldiers. Unfortunately, this pervasive problem (reported here in 2004 and here in 2007) is linked over and over again to the issue of morale – of the straight, male troops.

One of the soldiers interviewed for the 2007 article reports that she was told this by a superior:

“..the military sends women over to give the guys eye candy to keep them sane. He said in Vietnam they had prostitutes to keep them from going crazy, but they don’t have those in Iraq. So they have women soldiers instead.”

This kind of talk is anything but atypical. Says the author:

I have talked to more than 20 female veterans of the Iraq war in the past few months, interviewing them for up to 10 hours each for a book I am writing on the topic, and every one of them said the danger of rape by other soldiers is so widely recognized in Iraq that their officers routinely told them not to go to the latrines or showers without another woman for protection.

In 2005, an officer reported that three female soldiers had died of dehydration because they were avoiding having to visit the latrine after dark; it was known to be common practice for male soldiers to jump them in this isolated, unlit area and rape them.

Unhelpfully, in light of the above, the website set up by the Army to address this problem treats sexual assault as a given, paying “more attention to telling women how to avoid an assault than telling men not to commit one.” For female soldiers, avoiding rape is part of the terrain, like sand or heat.*

This message obviously does nothing for the morale of the survivors, but one has to ask: Do they matter any more or less than the gay and lesbian servicemembers who are also expected to keep their mouths shut? The damage done to the morale of soldiers like Eric Alva by the requirement to lie about themselves year after year is treated as immaterial, and so is the damage done to a soldier who carries a knife to defend herself from her own “battle buddies.” We are expected to accept that serving alongside gay soldiers would harm the morale of straight, male soldiers, and that such harm is too high a price to pay. Would it also harm the morale of straight, male soldiers to be required not to rape their comrades? That sure is what it looks like.

Boys will be boys, after all, and it’s only “natural” that they would expect sexual access to any woman within striking distance. Complaints from said women would harm morale, so it’s the responsibility of the women to avoid making themselves vulnerable (how?!?). And to uphold the idea that this is Just The Way It Is, we must pretend that everyone in the military is heterosexual. It’s hard to imagine a more peculiar, morally vacuous universe than this, but I’m open to suggestions.

*Notice that there seems to be no problem with gay soldiers assaulting anyone, as we would certainly be hearing about that in the most lurid terms imaginable.

Others blogging:

Pen and Sword
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Terry Carter
The Shad Plank
Raising Kaine
Dogwood Pundit
Bored Young Professionals
Below the Beltway

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2 Responses to The moral universe of Peter Pace

  1. Martha Baine says:

    You know what this means–it means that Gen. Pace is currently having an affair with someone (probably a woman, but we can always hope). It’s when folks are doing these sorts of things that they start tut-tutting in public and legislating other’s people’s lives so they don’t have to control their own.

    Also see former Sen Alan Simpson’s good op-ed piece in today’s Post (Wed. 14 Mar) on the subject as well as the graph that accompanies the article on Pace’s remarks showing that as the need for soldiers goes up, the number of gay discharges goes down. It seems that when the going gets tough it’s ok for gays to stay in uniform. Please die for your country, just don’t try living in it.

    Finally, I don’t know how the new movie depicts them, but didn’t Pace learn in general school (Is he West Point?) that western civilization was saved by 300 gay soldiers who held off, yes, the Iranians at Thermopylae? Shouldn’t somebody let Bush know this? Good thing King Leonidas didn’t have Pace’s delicate moral sensibilities.

  2. David says:

    Pace is so far outside the mainstream that it’s comical. Alan Simpson points out (I just linked to the op-ed in the update) that “the percentage of Americans in favor [of open service] has grown from 57 percent in 1993 to a whopping 91 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds surveyed in a Gallup poll in 2003.” There’s not a whole lot of room for improvement from 91%. Anyone defending Pace’s remarks at this point comes across as wild-eyed and drooling.

    I’m planning to see 300 this weekend. I’m really curious because what I’m hearing about it is extremely mixed.