Ed Koch: 'Short Bites'

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I support allowing gay men and lesbians who are public about their sexual orientation to serve without restriction in our armed forces. Currently enacted as a compromise under President Bill Clinton is the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” rule that permits the discharge of any gay man or lesbian in the armed forces—sometimes honorably and sometimes dishonorably—who makes by statement or action their sexual orientation known. Since the current rule became effective in 1994, more than 8,000 gay men and lesbians have been discharged from the armed forces. I think that this is effectively a larger number proportionately than before the adoption of the new rule.

I support gay rights, same-sex marriage and believe sexual orientation should not bar unrestricted service in the armed forces. All of our NATO allies, including Great Britain, France, Germany, etc., as well as Israel, permit such unrestricted service. Aside from the fact that our military forces are made up of volunteers, and it is becoming more difficult to meet the military’s need for volunteers because of the ongoing war in Iraq and more employment opportunities outside the military, it violates common sense to discriminate.

This became even more obvious when former Marine Staff Sergeant Eric Alva, the first injured American serviceman in Iraq, recently announced that he was gay and believed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule had violated his rights as an American citizen, and he had performed heroic service for his country.

The issue became even more the subject of discussion when General Peter Pace recently announced that in his opinion, homosexual acts are immoral and that he supported the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule. There was a storm of denunciation directed at the general for voicing his opinion, with demands that he apologize or be removed from his position.

I believe he is wrong in both opinions, but I defend his right to have such opinions. You can be sure that the same people who denounce him and demand that he apologize would be applauding him if he voiced a contrary opinion and supported the position taken by our allies in NATO. He, like every one of us, did not lose his first amendment rights when he donned a uniform voluntarily to defend the rights of the rest of us. Yes, there are restrictions with respect to the command structure that he is undoubtedly under—I don’t know what they are, so I won’t get into them.

But surely discussing broad questions of interest, such as homosexuality in the military, is not one of them. In my opinion, the rule of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” should be rescinded immediately and the rule of proper conduct always in existence, should be all that is needed. The rule of conduct on this subject applying to heterosexuals and homosexuals is that while on duty you may not act out and engage in sexual advances, conduct or harassment. Come to think of it, a rule similar to that already applies to the civilian workplace. Conduct, not orientation, is what common sense mandates should be regulated. General Pace and former Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, who urged on President Clinton the rule of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” are not bigots because of their beliefs on this subject; they are, in my opinion, simply wrong, and they have a right to be wrong. Persuade them to change their views by discussing and debating the subject in the media forums.
Recently, 27 Roman Catholic bishops from Germany visited Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. When they came home, some of them compared the existence of Palestinians on the West Bank as “ghetto-like” and “almost racism” when describing the West Bank city of Ramallah. One said, “In the morning, we see the photos of the inhuman Warsaw Ghetto and this evening we travel to the ghetto in Ramallah; that makes you angry.”

It is factually and historically dishonest to compare Israel’s building a wall to keep out suicide bombers with the wall that enclosed the Warsaw Ghetto. Suicide bombers are a continuing threat to Israeli citizens in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Israel built the security fence to protect innocent lives by keeping murderous terrorists out. Doesn’t Israel have the right to protect its citizens in this way? Or does the German cardinal think the right of suicide bombers to enter Israel more easily is more important than the lives of Israeli civilians?

The government in which Hamas has a substantial majority led by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh formed by the Palestinians now in existence since the repudiation of Fatah, takes the official position it will not recognize the legal existence of the State of Israel. It will not repudiate violence against Israel by its followers and will not accept the prior agreements made by earlier Palestinian governments. It demands that all of historic Palestine be a Muslim state.
If the Muslims still seek to expel the Jews and prevent a viable Jewish state with defensible borders to exist, then there is no possibility of a peaceful settlement. The Jews who survived the Nazi Warsaw Ghetto and others like it and even more miraculously the concentration and death camps will not permit that to happen; nor will Christians of good will who support the continued existence of the Jewish state.

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch can be heard every Friday at 6pm on Bloomberg Radio.

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