Skip to content

Words That No Longer Mean Anything: Maverick Edition

At the end of November, the Defense Department’s Comprehensive Review Working Group released its Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The Working Group was tasked with predicting the effect open service would have on “military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting, retention and family readiness.” Soldiers and their families were sent surveys, participated in face-to-face, on-base “information exchange forums,” given an on-line inbox to give their opinions, and were included in focus groups. Additionally, the Defense Department hired a private company to solicit the views of queer service members to allow those soldiers to keep their anonymity. After 9 months, the Working Group concluded:

Based on all we saw and heard, our assessment is that, when coupled with the prompt implementation of the recommendations we offer below, the risk of repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to overall military effectiveness is low.  We conclude that, while a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will likely, in the short term, bring about some limited and isolated disruption to unit cohesion and retention, we do not believe this disruption will be widespread or long-lasting, and can be adequately addressed by the recommendations we offer below.

TADA! A smoking gun! The military has spoken: Combat readiness will not disintegrate! Unit cohesion will remain intact! Incidents of stigmata will be minimal! It is as close to a coup de grâce as we’ve seen – not to the policy itself, but to the idea that repeal might be deterred. While this review was being conducted, the Department of Justice argued that the court should uphold the policy while the military collected information and created a plan for implementation. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pointed out, if the repeal doesn’t happen in this session of Congress, it is likely a judicial challenge would be successful. In that case, the timeline for implementation the court demands could be much shorter than the one the Defense Department has outlined. To summarize: this repeal is happening. If the Republicans want a gradual approach, then Legislative Repeal is the strategic choice.

You know who’s not having any of this repeal business? The Robot They Replaced John McCain With After The 2000 Election (hereafter referred to as “John McCain.”) In yet another display of recalcitrant ignorance, McCain looked at this report which polled service members on their experience working alongside queer soldiers and rejected the findings because the Working Group hadn’t asked them what they thought. Secretary Gates countered that the military has never held a referendum on a policy decision, ever. McCain complained that the study didn’t gather responses from all service members, and ignored Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen’s explanation that the response rate was typical for the military and that the results were statistically significant in all categories.

What struck me about the congressional debate over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is what a shitty job queers are having to beg to work. A soldier signs up for years of indentured servitude, subject to extension without warning. They surrender their autonomy completely to a mission whose objective is rarely clear, are constantly having assholes in suits use them as rhetorical battering rams, and if they aren’t killed in battle or don’t take their own life there is always the possibility that they will be murdered and their death will be ruled a suicide. It is fucking revolting to consider the amount of nuclear-grade pearl clutching we have seen over the thought that straight service members might share shower facilities with queer service members, with that horrible Elaine Donnelly repeating over and over that such an arrangement would lead to a rise in sexual harassment. Even if all that bullshit wasn’t false and fucking insulting besides, it ignores the fact that the military HAS a rape and sexual harassment epidemic that it is actively ignoring. An epidemic that is so well concealed that Kathleen Parker could write an apology of it and still be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. Sexual predators in uniform? TOO. FUCKING. LATE.

But still, people enlist. For those raised in poverty, the military represents a tangible opportunity to move out of the caste they were born into. Several members of my family have served; my father used the G.I. Bill to finance his education. In a “cumulative family history” way, my ability to go to college was the result of people close to me enlisting in military service. But also in a more immediate “his enlistment bonus paid for my last semester of University” way, my brother is responsible for my degree. So when John McCain sits at the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee and plays these disingenuous games demanding reports and then ignoring them, acting personally affronted that the top military brass disagrees with him, insulting Admiral Mullen by claiming his opinion doesn’t matter since he isn’t directly commanding any soldiers, and periodically throwing temper tantrums, he is actively blocking social mobility for queers and their families and championing a policy that demeans and degrades queer soldiers. He is relying on bigotry and ignorance to carry the day, ignoring the overwhelming popular support of repeal and the findings of the Working Group, and doing what is easiest for him. He is not being a steward, a leader, or a maverick.

He’s just a mean-spirited old program loaded on a poorly-made machine wrapped in unconvincing skin. Comparing him to dog shit would be an insult to comparisons.


  1. GGeek wrote:

    Way to respect your fellow comrades-in-arms, there, McCainBot.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 10:03 am | Permalink
  2. JAT wrote:

    Not to mention how incredibly insulting this is to those allied countries’ armies who have queer soldiers all over the place. McCainBot doesn’t believe their soldiers are really truly real fighters, I guess.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 10:48 am | Permalink
  3. Kiri wrote:

    I love you, Garland.

    I really despise how homophobes only care about sexual predation when it’s gay/trans people (being accused of) doing it.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Permalink
  4. Val wrote:

    Yep, Canadians find this whole thing…weird See, also that American navy rule that says it is impossible to have ladies on submarines.

    It’s like an alternate universe, right there on my internet. And it’s magical!I can see in but apparently, some important people on the other side just see their reflection.

    Waves very hard at John McCain

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Permalink
  5. johnny wrote:

    holy fuck, that kathleen parker article. just… holy fuck. men in the military rape women as punishment because the poor fucking babies are forced to ‘pretend’ that women are their equals? and they ‘know’ otherwise?

    guh. i’d make a more comprehensive comment but my mind is just reeling.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Permalink
  6. Alyssa wrote:

    Everyone knows it’s only rape if it’s happening to a hypothetical straight white male. (If you actually are a straight white male who’s been raped, well, we don’t believe you either!)

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Permalink
  7. MesaATLien wrote:

    Wooot! My first comment on Tiger Beatdown!

    I am SO glad that McCain is the only bigoted fool I’ve heard whose all for making people going to work everyday and lying about who they are.

    My uncle served in the Army and my grandfather was in the Air Force, so when I see someone like him giving service men and women a bad name, it pisses me off to the nth degree.

    It’s ironic that some decades ago, people thought that women serving on the front lines would disrupt military function.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink
  8. johnny wrote:

    and it only happens to hypothetical straight white males if the rapist is a dude! because women cannot be rapists, and even if they are that’s totally hot and he must have enjoyed it or else he isn’t a real man.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink
  9. Garland Grey wrote:

    It’s like we’re always having to discuss the worst possible shit they can come up with. Jesus Christ, they’re supposed to crawl under barbed wire and diffuse bombs but apparently showering with gay dudes is the breaking point. My brother serves with openly gay people, their command told them no one would be kicked out unless there was photographic evidence in flagrante delicto. It’s fucked up, but this is a Marine Base. The soldiers don’t care. It’s just that McCain doesn’t personally benefit from repeal so he’ll just keep being fuckwad until it temporarily goes away.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink
  10. raddad wrote:

    As someone who is in favor of disbanding the military, I appreciate the class-nuanced view in the penultimate paragraph. It made me think. Clearly this is the historical moment to make the military available to all; hopefully the next historical moment will see us turn away from militarism.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Permalink
  11. Aaron wrote:

    Contrary to popular belief, McCain has actually been replaced by a robot TWICE – once after the 2000 election, when he was replaced with a MaverickBot Beta, whose primary motivation was rage and resentment at a Republican primary opponent, and once after the 2008 elections, when an elite RedState Strike Force kidnapped him and installed a ConservaDrone Plus, motivated by rage and resentment at a Democratic general election opponent.

    The more you know!

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Permalink
  12. Victoria wrote:

    “Comparing him to dog shit would be an insult to comparisons” just took the top spot on the list of things I wish I’d thought of first. Bravo to that, and everything above it.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 6:49 pm | Permalink
  13. scrumby wrote:


    I don’t know much about Canadian subs but in the US it’s primarily a space issue. Sexes are required to have separate facilities and there really isn’t room for that. The navy has been talking about lifting the restriction (in a large part do to the increase in females with engineering degrees) but with the current regulations they’d have to have an all female crew and right now they don’t have enough seawomen willing to fit the bill.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Permalink
  14. Scarlettb wrote:

    I think my favorite part is where McCainBot claims that *he* would have been uncomfortable serving with gay men. I mean…we know, Hoss. You’re a douchebag. Also, it was 1967. It’s been forty three freakin’ years, though, and the people that are currently serving as enlisted men? All grew up in the post-Stonewall age. Most of them were born during the AIDS crisis. Gay people being around is not NEWS to them.

    Additionally, McCainBot, I have to ask you: which is worse – those five years of torture you sustained as a POW in Vietnam, or taking a shower next to a dude who likes other dudes (bearing in mind that he, in all likelihood, doesn’t like YOU)? Because you’ve got no problem sending thousands of men and women out to risk having the torture happen.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Permalink
  15. Absotively wrote:


    I believe we happened to be replacing all our submarines* when we made the change, and the used subs we’d bought needed renovating anyways, so they had a good opportunity to put in separate facilities.

    The need for separate facilities is why women couldn’t serve on Canadian subs before 2000. Women have been allowed in every other job in the Canadian Forces since 1998**.

    However, you folks are currently building subs. It doesn’t seem like it should be that difficult to put in the needed facilities while they’re being built. It also seems odd to claim that they’d need significantly more space, since our subs weren’t originally designed to have separate facilities and they squeezed them in somehow.

    We’ve also had gay people serving openly since 1992**.

    *Possibly just submarine. I’m not sure.

    **Dates I can’t remember helpfully supplied by Wikipedia and/or the CBC.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Permalink
  16. Val wrote:


    Space may be an issue, but it’s not THE REASON. I know very little about subs of any nationality, but google says Australia, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Canada all have women in their submarine crews. I find it interesting that a number of the countries who have dealt with issues around having women serve on submarines are also countries where women’s status is high, in general. It’s nice of the navy to talk about lifting these restrictions, for sure. I’m a government bureaucrat, so talk, for me, includes a wide variety of activities, many of which include NO ACTION WHATSOEVER, also NO INTENTION OF ACTION IN THE FUTURE. Is the navy actively training female submariners? Is the navy writing separate potty space spec.’s into new sub purchase plans? Or, are they planning to scrap those reg.s? Are they currently educating male submariners on the inevitability of females serving with them? Soon? There’s talk and there’s talk.

    If you are aware that these things are actually happening, that’s great and I’m really, really happy to hear it. If not, then the American Navy may not deserve your apology/defense.

    In not unrelated news, the Canadian military has announced uniform regulations for trans-service people in transition.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Permalink
  17. Val wrote:

    Trans-people in service, in transition? Argh…something is wrong with this phrase. I blame my teachers for not covering it back when we did mothers-in-law, lieutenant governors, etc.

    Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 1:58 am | Permalink
  18. Mejoff wrote:

    Slightly old news, but it’s heartening to know that there is snother way…

    Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 4:34 am | Permalink
  19. kristinc wrote:

    the increase in females with engineering degrees

    “Female” is an adjective and female humans are called women.

    Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Permalink
  20. Jenny North wrote:

    @ Scrumby: an all-women submarine would be AWESOME. Only, can we use it for non-military purposes? Can we use it to travel underground seas and rescue Garland from rural Texas? WE DON’T KNOW. THE WORLD HAS NOT YET HAD AN ALL-LADY SUBMARINE ADVENTURE. TIGERBEATDOWN READERS, WHO AMONG YOU WILL YOU VOLUNTEER?

    Friday, December 10, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Permalink
  21. Crass wrote:

    I don’t understand the hoo-ha around sharing facilities. I share a toilet facility with my husband and my adult son, and I have shared houses where there was only one toilet and several people of both sexes using it. Does the US Navy think women demand a bidet and a pink dunny cover?

    Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at 8:46 am | Permalink