Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Is America’s War Policy

W.J. Astore

For a time, don’t ask, don’t tell, was the U.S. military’s policy about homosexuality within the ranks. In short, if you weren’t a heterosexual, you were supposed to keep quiet (don’t tell) about it. At the same time, the military wasn’t about to ask you whether you were “straight” or not. It was a compromise engineered by the Clinton administration that left more than a few people of all persuasions disgruntled.

There is another don’t ask, don’t tell, policy that I would argue is far worse than the Clinton compromise about sexual orientation. What do I mean?

U.S. military officials work very hard to discourage Americans from asking about America’s wars (don’t ask), and at the same time they work very hard not to tell us anything meaningful about those same wars (don’t tell).

It was my wife who quipped about this other “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as she read Daniel Hale’s letter posted at this site. You see, people like Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and Daniel Hale are trying to tell us about America’s wars, whether it’s illegal domestic surveillance and the war on terror or war crimes in Iraq or war crimes related to drone killings in Afghanistan. They are not supposed to tell. At the same time, we the people are not supposed to ask.

Other than serving as cheerleaders of “our” troops, Americans are expected to remain passive when it comes to war and the military. We can, if we wish, remain blissfully ignorant, which is exactly what the “experts” at the Pentagon want from us. Leave it to us, the experts say, and we won’t tell you anything that’ll disturb your peace. Whatever you do, don’t ask probing questions of us. Indeed, don’t ask anything at all, except perhaps “How do I sign up?” if you’re young and of military age.

Of course, this is the very opposite of how Democracy should work. We are supposed to ask our government what it’s doing in our name, and they are supposed to tell us even if we won’t like the answers.

But America is no longer a democracy.

As a retired military officer, I’m well aware that discipline is important, that secrecy can be vital, and that loyalty is everything. But loyalty to what?  The U.S. Constitution, I hope, and the idea that leaders and their actions should be accountable to the people since they (in theory) wage war and kill people in our name.  But when wars are no longer declared by Congress, and when the people are no longer rallied to a cause, we have the exercise of unlawful power, of less-than-legal war, which is why we need people to step forward with courage informed by their conscience.

Sadly, precisely because of their courage and their acts of conscience, they are always punished. They are punished because they are not supposed to tell us any uncomfortable truths, and we are not supposed to ask for any of the same.

Consider this the unofficial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that helps to drive America’s wars. It’s still very much in effect; it’s also yet another sign of the death of participatory democracy in America.

22 thoughts on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Is America’s War Policy

  1. Just a reminder why the Pentagon is prosecuting Julian Assange for making the Pentgon LIE Public, proving once again, Truth is the 1st casualty of War.

    The Pentagon denied this video even existed, until Chelsea Manning saw it did indeed exist and turned it over to Wikileaks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yep, with the wars, with so much of America’s social and political problems, “don’t ask, don’t tell” is the modus operandi.

    Anyone much from the worlds of news, politics, or academy commenting much about why we have Joe Biden, America’s answer to Constantin Chernenko, as our president? And just what is he doing in the White House on a daily basis, anyway? There should be all sorts of interesting stories from the folks abroad he’s been meeting, from them and their staffs, about what Joe said and did and what his staff had to backtrack and gag him on. They aren’t getting printed here, this side of the Atlantic, assuming they are seeing the light of day abroad, which may or may not be the case. This question ought to be mattering as hard there as it should be here and aint, near as I can tell. So is the don’t ask problem worldwide, at least in the west?

    Anyone want to disagree about Mr. Biden’s deteriorated mental faculties just look at this and tell me different afterwards. https://caityjohnstone.medium.com/stop-calling-it-a-stutter-here-are-dozens-of-examples-of-bidens-dementia-symptoms-b010c8e6b45c [https://miro.medium.com/max/1080/1*ERk-t5yFDqw_51YRS629iQ.png] Stop Calling It A “Stutter”: Here Are Dozens Of Examples Of Biden’s Dementia Symptoms | by Caitlin Johnstone | Medium Clearly, the symptoms of the speech impediment are very distinct from the symptoms of a degenerative neurological disorder. What follows are dozens of examples suggesting the latter, most of which were compiled by the Twitter user @KoenSwinkels.You may be absolutely certain that Trump will not hesitate to highlight this growing mountain of evidence should Democratic Party leadership … caityjohnstone.medium.com All well here, locally at any rate.

    Best–

    Dan

    ________________________________

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Shortly after the 2004 election, when GWB miraculously chalked up a win, I attended a meeting of the local ACLU chapter, which had tried and failed to prevent Ken Blackwell’s (Ohio Secretary of State) subversion of the results here. One of the chapter’s senior members said something that has stuck with me: “The goal of every government is to keep as much information from the citizens as possible. This has always been true, everywhere in the world.” I was a touch less cynical then, and I remember being somewhat surprised that anyone would make such an unequivocal, bald-faced declaration, especially in public. I didn’t doubt the accuracy of it, however.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I heard a new (to me) military jargon term the other day: “precision strikes.” I tried it out on my Taiwanese wife who immediately responded with: “You mean, as opposed to the imprecise ones?” My reaction, exactly, which led to:

    This time we meant to kill you

    “Precision” Strikes, unlike the other kind,
    Hit whom we aim at, not like when we miss
    As happens mostly. Oh, well. Never mind.
    To know is treason. Ignorance is bliss.
    So say the ones in charge, both deaf and blind,
    Whose jobs depend on which bare ass they kiss
    And also those they’ve willingly maligned:
    Who’ve witnessed ugly War. On these we piss.
    And so to vent our Empire’s vengeful ire,
    At foreigners who tell us where to go
    And choose to rule themselves as they desire,
    We drop some bombs upon them, just for show.
    Before we’re ready or we aim, we fire:
    The whole point of the exercise, you know.

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2021

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Along with military jargon terms like “precision strikes,” I also recall the popularity some years back of another metaphorical euphemism for “extremely accurate” killing, maiming, or poisoning of flora and fauna alike if careers and profits blossom thereby:

      Sacred Surgical Strikes

      Quietly one cannot go
      About an amputation.
      Neatly neither can blood flow,
      Nor sap and sawdust ever grow
      Where limbs fly off and butchers crow:
      In slaughter, their salvation.

      In abattoir and arbor, they
      Perform the surgeon’s mauling.
      The animals and plants they slay
      Efficiently, both night and day,
      Dismembering what doesn’t pay
      To live — a breed appalling.

      But doctors of divinity
      Have sworn in sacred theses
      That what man wishes, man can do:
      The rape of many by the few;
      The just deserts, the proper due
      Of GAWD’s own chosen species.

      Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2014

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      1. When I was a nubbin in East Chicago, Indiana I spent a lot of time looking through my Grandfather’s collection of Mechanics Illustrated and Popular Mechanics magazines from 1939-1945. At least half of each issue was devoted to “War News.” I distinctly remember one item which featured a photograph of two MPs stood on either side of a “bombardier” who was peering into the new Norden Bombsite, which allowed for “precision bombing” and greatly reduced civilian casualties. Then I saw “Twelve o’clock High” on NBC’s Saturday Night at the Movies … so much for precision bombing and “pinpoint accuracy.” Not even Gregory Peck could smooth over that one …

        Liked by 2 people

        1. On the issue of “civilian casualties or “collateral damage” it’s interesting to NOTE, the Father of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim Religions, before any of them even existed, Abram, God renamed Abraham, got his Biblical FAME for pleading with God, the righteous should not be killed with the guilty if Sodom was going to be destroyed for whatever reason.

          The record in Genesis describes the situation from God’s point of view,
          And the Lord said, “Since the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah has become great, and since their sin has become very grave,
          I will descend now and see, whether according to her cry, which has come to Me, they have done; [I will wreak] destruction [upon them]; and if not, I will know.”

          For Bible Literalists, reading that passage could be reasonably and reliably interpreted as God saying it’s not sure what’s really happening in Sodom, so it will be checked out?

          Obviously, Abraham mastered the Art of the Deal with God in negotiating a commitment.
          And Abraham approached and said, “Will You even destroy the righteous with the wicked?
          Perhaps there are fifty righteous men in the midst of the city; will You even destroy and not forgive the place for the sake of the fifty righteous men who are in its midst?
          Far be it from You to do a thing such as this, to put to death the righteous with the wicked so that the righteous should be like the wicked. Far be it from You! Will the Judge of the entire earth not perform justice?”

          And the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous men within the city, I will forgive the entire place for their sake.”

          And Abraham answered and said, “Behold now I have commenced to speak to the Lord, although I am dust and ashes.
          Perhaps the fifty righteous men will be missing five. Will You destroy the entire city because of five?”
          And He said, “I will not destroy if I find there forty-five.”

          And he continued further to speak to Him, and he said, “Perhaps forty will be found there.”
          And He said, “I will not do it for the sake of the forty.”

          Abraham continuing pleading for 30, 20, and finally said “Please, let the Lord’s wrath not be kindled, and I will speak yet this time, perhaps ten will be found there.”
          And He said, “I will not destroy for the sake of the ten.”

          The condition was the Angels were to spend the whole night in the streets of Sodom to find 10 righteous people.
          They didn’t do that because Lot, meeting them outside the City Walls, bugged them to abandon that Mission, and spend the night with him.
          Lot was the only one the Angels met, and his behaviour was far from Righteous, Genesis 18 records.

          It took 1300 more years after that Genesis Sodom record for the Prophet Ezekiel to spell out what the sins of Sodom were,
          As I live, says the Lord God, Sodom your sister has not done as you and your daughters have done.
          Behold this was the iniquity of Sodom your sister:
          pride, abundance of bread, and careless ease were hers and her daughters’, and she did not strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they became haughty and did abomination before Me, and I removed them when I saw.
          Ezekiel 16:49-50

          Nazi Propaganda Minister Goebbels said if a lie is repeated often enough, it will be accepted as the truth. Christianity has said for so long Sodom was destroyed because of gay sex, that interpretation is not questioned? I question it?
          That was 10 years ago.

          WHAT REALLY HAPPENED AT SODOM?

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  5. The American Empire is not in decline, as has been presupposed. Participatory democracy is as strong as ever. Voting rates, while declining, have stabilized at a reasonable level, and people are taking time out of their busy lives to go to the ballot boxes. There are more than 300 million Americans, and their presence is felt globally; this cultural shockwave will go on for quite a long time to come, as America grows and matures into a stable hyperpower of the Roman variety.

    — Catxman

    http://www.catxman.wordpress.com

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    1. From Caitlin Johnstone about that getting-to-vote-for-whom-we-can-have thing:

      “I have not one shred of respect for the position that one mustn’t criticize vaguely progressive politicians because “they’re the best we’ve got”. The fact that a few shitty imperialists are “the best you’ve got” is the problem. A system which filters out any politicians who aren’t shitty imperialists must be criticized.

      “Don’t say the shitty imperialist is a shitty imperialist! They’re the least shitty imperialist we’re allowed to have!”

      “That’s exactly why you do need to say they’re all shitty imperialists! Only being allowed to elect shitty imperialists is a huge problem; you can’t just not talk about that.”

      And as far as I understand history, the Roman Empire at its zenith — unlike the American one today — didn’t need the Chinese to make all its stuff or supply loans so that imperial subjects could buy it. Some “hyperpower.” Some “growth.” Some “stability.” And just wait till that rental eviction moratorium expires next month. Tent cities under freeway overpasses ought to really experience some growth then.

      Or, as my fellow curmudgeon expatriate, Fred Reed, puts it:

      Why can the Chinese do all of these things at once? Because they have money and many smart engineers. Why do they have money? Because they make stuff and sell it. America doesn’t have money because it spends it all on aircraft carriers, and doesn’t make stuff because it sent its factories to…China. Why doesn’t America have more and better engineers? Because it has a far smaller base of STEM-capable young and because it is dumbing down its schools and universities for the gratification of unproductive minorities. Whose fault is all of this? Why…China’s. Who could doubt it?

      Nostalgic American imperialists really ought to learn the difference between sunset and sunrise . . .

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Blaming “unproductive minorities” without specifying who they are and why they’re “unproductive” is at best lazy writing, and at worst bigoted.

        Consider all the “best and brightest” at Harvard and elsewhere who major in finance and who go directly to Wall Street. Consider all those who aspire to be lawyers and to serve the corporate state. The schools and universities are more coopted than dumbed down, and the “productive majority” (Is that a thing?) isn’t so productive when its goal is to cash in quickly by manipulating numbers and words instead of building things.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Alleged lazy writing and bigotry aside, the term “productive majority” refers to those citizens gainfully employed producing the goods and services that a complex society and economy requires. You find hard-working individuals from every ethnic group in this category. But in order to keep that productive demographic working the longest hours for the lowest possible wages, salaries, and benefits (generating the largest profits for their owners) a large and unproductive “reserve army of the unemployed” has also to be generated and maintained. This “unproductive” underclass keeps the productive working-class (who would not thank you for calling them “workers”) terrified of losing their incomes and social status, becoming just like the impoverished unproductive workers whose ranks they do not wish to join. As George Orwell explained in The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism: “In the long run, a hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance.”

          So, yes, the United States has both“productive” populations and “unproductive” populations, by design. And given the decades of outsourcing American jobs to China and other Asian nations, it becomes a matter of some disagreement which of these remaining U.S. populations constitutes the “majority.” The United States, in fact, does have a progressively less technically educated population as a whole, with “education” increasingly meaning, in effect, Celebrity Worship and Entertainment Consumption. Where America used to have earn/save/buy/own as the “American Dream” we now see, increasingly, a desperate ethos of “work-or-don’t but beg/borrow/rent-to-survive anyway.” If I understand correctly, over half the U.S. population has now slipped below the official poverty line. So, if you want a numerical “majority” of Americans, there you have it.

          I remember decades ago, when the initials M.I.T. stood for “Made in Taiwan” and U.C.I. meant “University of Chinese Immigrants.” As far back as 1977 when I had to take a course in Engineering Economics and Administration at California State University, Long Beach, I spoke with an engineering student of the “normal” “white” persuasion — to which I (theoretically) also belong — who told me that if he found himself in a class with more than four Asian students, then he would drop out because, and I quote: “They raise the curve up too high.” I can only imagine where the curve stands today.

          I don’t always agree with Fred Reed’s views, but as a fellow Vietnam veteran, well traveled expatriate (especially in Asia), and American married to a Mexican woman living happily among Mexicans in Mexico, he tends to live life as he speaks of it — bluntly, but not dishonestly. I don’t consider him either a lazy writer or a bigot just because he points out that half of America’s graduate students come from foreign countries, especially Asia, which seems to indicate not just a relative shortage of academically qualified U.S. “minorities” but a relative shortage of qualified “majority” “white” students as well (many of them in debt peonage for life from “student loans”).

          If one really wants to know what America does with the unproductive among its minorities — many of these unfortunate people black and Hispanic — look in the country’s vast prison system where the likes of Vice President Kamala Harris — a “woman of color” — kept them locked up as cheap convict labor past the expiration of their sentences during her time as Attorney General of California. So if one wishes to speak of “unproductive minorities,” I could offer Kamala Harris as a prime example. In the unproductive “white majority” category, I could offer President Joseph Biden, a lackluster student, unaccomplished legislator, and willing tool of money and power for his entire political career. The oligarchic owners of the United States seem absolutely determined to promote both “types” of persons — or the propaganda image of them — to the highest levels of our marketing territory’s “government,” with the American “voting electorate” invited at regular intervals to express their “democratic” approval of — or browbeaten consent to — this arrangement.

          At any rate, the United States produces 600,000 S.T.E.M. graduates each year (a good many of them from foreign countries) while China graduates over 4,000,000. Bottom line: The United States — a country that likes to style itself “majority white” — simply does not have a well-educated populace in terms of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — not to mention foreign languages and history. Of course, American primary and secondary public schools do produce some of these technically educated people for entrance into a few select universities, but nowhere near enough to qualify as a “majority.” And all this not by accident but by design of a transnational oligarchic class with a thug U.S. military as willing, if not eager, enforcer.

          I don’t think that Fred Reed would disagree with me about most of this. And as to his “bigotry,” if anything, his fact-based reporting of advances by China in many technical, economic, and educational fields would seem to make him bigoted in favor of Asians. As an ex-patriot expatriate living in Taiwan among peaceful Chinese, married to a caring and competent Taiwanese wife, I think I understand his point of view, at least when considering what one can see at the top of the greasy pole in Washington, D.C. and the Pentagram. Black, Brown, or White American puppets, whether viewed from Mexico or Asia, do not inspire confidence and a desire to flatter through imitation.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Let’s take another look at this statement: America “is dumbing down its schools and universities for the gratification of unproductive minorities.”

          I’m not familiar with Reed. But I’d ask these questions: Who in America is “dumbing down” the schools and universities? What is the evidence of this? Which “minorities” are being “gratified” by this alleged “dumbing down”?

          As a professor with 15 years’ teaching experience, I’ve never had “minorities” asking me to dumb anything down. And the conjunction of the words “unproductive” and “minority” is tenuous at best, since the “minorities” of my experience have had to work harder than the “majority” to make ends meet.

          Reed’s writing here is tendentious. And I’m being generous.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Question, sir, just to clarify: do you not think the country is being dumbed down? Do you not think the average high school graduate today is less knowledgeable and less competent in terms of critical thinking skills than, say, the graduate of 60 years ago?

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          2. Hi Denise: “Dumbed down”: Well, when I look at “leaders” like Trump and their use of language, I see a serious decline in sophistication and nuance, even when they’re attempting to tell something like the truth.

            But a “dumbing down” by schools and universities — well, which schools and which universities? And if we’re looking specifically at the performance of certain “minorities” in these schools, poor results are often due more to adverse family situations and other external factors than poor teachers and lower standards.

            When you link “dumbing down” to the idea of gratifying unproductive minorities, the writer is truly descending to stereotypes that are dangerous.

            Usually when people write this way, they assume they are the smartest, the most productive, and very much part of the esteemed majority. They never think — perish the thought — that others might see them as less than productive — and perhaps even, I daresay, dumb for making such a sweeping and unsubstantiated claim.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. I agree with your observations regarding minorities.

            As for dumbing down, I’d submit that our educational system/philosophy overall is at fault. When the teaching effort is geared toward passing tests; when history is reduced to a superficial survey course; when civics is no longer commonly taught; when composition is giving only passing mention, if any; when a large percentage of high school graduates is reading at a grade school level; when science is given short shrift; when there’s no emphasis on critical thinking (which, by defition, is the case if we’re teaching toward tests); when students are not taught how to learn; when, per several teachers I know, it’s all educators can do to keep minimal order in the classroom, let alone impart knowledge; dumbing down is the inevitable result. I attended an average public school, by no means out of the ordinary, not in a wealthy community, and I got an excellent education, because the system was geared toward learning, NOT passing specific tests. Now, when I interact with 20- and 30-somethings who’ve attended local public schools, I’m staggered by their general level of ignorance. Not to mention the abysmal STEM outcomes at our universities.

            For supporting evidence, see American TV. Asinine, most of it. How many adults today would comprehend even the references in the old Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, were it revamped for today with the same level of sophistication?

            Liked by 2 people

          4. There is so much more involved in educating a human being than classroom competence. Education, when properly administered is also not a competition. It should be a shared learning experience by families, societal commons, seasoned instructors, spiritual elders, and the job market. So much can be done to insure the success of every individual, by caring to mentor the best qualities within each creative soul; and placing the focus of our systems intentions on helping each individual reach for their potential; and honoring their commitment to becoming whatever part of the whole they strive to blossom toward; and in whatever function they choose to participate. Capitalistic competition has traumatized more folks than we will ever know; it intimidates and will kill the spirit at very young ages. We’re we really created to be a manufacturer of wealth. When I look at the whole of creation and how it unfolds moment to moment; I’m fairly convinced that humanity was designed for a much deeper purpose. I am quite certain that wealth creation is the shallowest of our human accomplishments; but in these modern times we measure ourselves with portfolios and deadlines met, diplomas and class rank, status and symbols, power and influence; instead of character and generosity, compassion and service, honesty and dignity, integrity and humbleness, compassion and concern. If we put the last 10 qualities at the beginning of the learning curve, just maybe each student would feel a bit like getting involved, excelling and becoming an honorable servant instead of a money maker taker. I’m sorry, but I am just not impressed with the “world” created by the upper class. Is your money and dense guidance really that good? It feels so artificial and absolutely fake. There’s no promise of the real in bogus.

            Liked by 2 people

          5. Yes, that’s a double dose of compassion because love and gratitude for being given a chance at this human experience wants to express that sentiment liberally.

            Liked by 1 person

  6. https://www.democracynow.org/2021/7/26/daniel_hale_whistleblower_case

    AMY GOODMAN: Before we end, I want to read more from Daniel Hale’s letter to the judge and get Jesselyn Radack’s final words. Daniel Hale wrote, in his own handwriting, “Your Honor, the truest truism that I’ve come to understand about the nature of war is that war is trauma. I believe that any person either called upon or coerced to participate in war against their fellow man is promised to be exposed to some form of trauma. In that way, no soldier blessed to have returned home from war does so uninjured. The crux of PTSD is that it is a moral conundrum that afflicts invisible wounds on the psyche of a person made to burden the weight of experience after surviving a traumatic event. How PTSD manifests depends on the circumstances of the event. So how is the drone operator to process this? The victorious rifleman, unquestioningly remorseful, at least keeps his honor intact by having faced off against his enemy on the battlefield. The determined fighter pilot has the luxury of not having to witness the gruesome aftermath. But what possibly could I have done to cope with the undeniable cruelties that I perpetuated? My conscience, once held at bay, came roaring back to life. At first, I tried to ignore it. Wishing instead that someone, better placed than I, should come along to take this cup from me. But this, too, was folly. Left to decide whether to act, I only could do that which I ought to do before God and my own conscience. The answer came to me, that to stop the cycle of violence, I ought to sacrifice my own life and not that of another person. So I contacted an investigative reporter with whom I had had an established prior relationship and told him that I had something the American people needed to know.” Those are the words of Daniel Hale in a handwritten letter to the judge last week. Jesselyn Radack, you have 30 seconds. This is just 24 hours before the judge will rule on Daniel’s sentencing.

    JESSELYN RADACK: Unfortunately, what you just read in that moving letter is not allowed in, had this case gone to trial. Dan has expressed sentiments similar to other drone clients, but under the Espionage Act, your intent, your pure motive, is irrelevant. And that is the cruelty that the government tried him under such a strenuous, draconian law, that he can’t raise any of what you just read as a defense to why he blew the whistle.

    It’s the lawyer’s summation that paints the picture…..
    Judge O’Grady’s ruling is due tomorrow..

    Like

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