Saturday 10 July 2010

Bias in Reuters? :Pentagon says troop survey not biased against gays | Reuters

(Social Justice South Africa)

Analytical Article by Marc Aupiais

Article summary: looks into either an error or a misrepresentation by a Reuters article, as well as into the arguments surrounding a US policy and the law that policy stifles.

Pentagon says troop survey not biased against gays | Reuters

So goes a headline in a Reuters (British; Independent; Secular) piece on the controversial repeal of the policy of don't ask don't tell, or so they inaccurately claim to start. Don't ask don't tell won't be repealed: all it entailed was taking questions on a trooper's sexuality from questionnaires, without lifting the ban on homosexuals in the military: creating the de facto position, that homosexuals who wanted to serve would keep quiet and other troops would not ask if they were that. Pretty much the same as if our army were to get rid of the question of how old a trooper was.

The more concerning issue lies here, to quote their article:

"The Palm Center, a research institute of the University of California, Santa Barbara, was one of the groups critical of the overall polling approach by the Pentagon.

"Why would you ask those questions unless you thought there was something potentially wrong with (that group)?" asked Palm Center Director Aaron Belkin. "You would never have a survey asking: Would you share a shower with a Catholic soldier?""
09 / 07 | July / 2010

It makes it seem as though the man and centre quoted have no specific agenda, not so if one researches his history and the centre's history (interestingly they call it the Palm Center, and not the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military [CSSMM] by which it was often referred to as in the past, before it decided on a name change it seems),

"WASHINGTON, D.C., June 20, 2006 ( – A pro-homosexual group known as Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military (CSSMM), a think tank at the University of California, Santa Barbara, claims to have unearthed a current Pentagon document that lists homosexuality as a psychological disorder."
LifesiteNews (Catholic; Independent; Canadian; Read in and trusted in the Vatican) 20 / 06 | June / 2006

The Palm Center is more than simply an activist group, even liberal media such as CNN see it as much more:

"The Palm Center, which circulated the statement calling for the repeal of the "don't ask-don't tell" policy, is looking to President-elect Barack Obama to address the controversial issue of gays in the"
CNN (Activist; Left leaning; American; Independent; Secular) 17 / 12 | November / 2008

In other words, the very group with instituted the call for a change of policy is being quoted like an independent objective source which disagrees.

NRO National Review Online's conservative think tank further notes how the Palm Center has been an active proponent of doing away with the law, without military input why they would possibly oppose any survey:

"Someone needs to break this news to the Michael D. Palm Center, an activist group based at the University of California–Santa Barbara that used to call itself the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military. On Monday the Palm Center issued a pretentious and legally absurd report claiming that President Obama can indeed snap his fingers with an executive order suspending enforcement of the 1993 law stating that homosexuals are not eligible to serve in the military. That law, Section 654, Title 10, differs from Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” administrative policy because it states that homosexuals are not eligible to serve in uniform.

Even Pennsylvania Democrat Joe Sestak, co-sponsor of a House bill (H.R. 1283) to repeal the 1993 law, recently told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that President Obama should not try to get around Congress on a matter such as this. “We are a nation of laws,” said Sestak, “and in the last administration we saw executive actions that seemed to bend if not break those laws.”

The Palm Center’s desperation strategy seemed to be reflected during last Sunday’s ABC News program “This Week.” Host George Stephanopoulos aggressively questioned Pres. Barack Obama’s national security adviser, James Jones, on the issue of homosexuals in the military. Acknowledging congressional and military resistance to Obama’s position on the issue, Stephanopoulos suggested that the president should try to circumvent the law by suspending enforcement.

The question reflected the Palm Center’s latest polemic, which encourages the president to stop enforcing the law, rendering it essentially meaningless. Using contrived arguments, the Palm Center gay-studies scholars unconvincingly tried to justify unilateral non-enforcement of the law. The document advocates an interpretation based on the rarely used authority that underlies presidential “stop-loss” orders that sometimes are issued to keep troops in the field during a military or national emergency."
National Review Online (American; Independent; Secular; Conservative)analytical editorial on 14 / 05 | May / 2009

The current poll seems to be addressing concerning results in the past which say that there may be a mass exodus of American troops if homosexual troops are allowed to serve de jure in the US military:

"The 2008 Military Times Poll asked a new question that produced jaw-dropping results: “If the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy is overturned and gays are allowed to serve openly, how would you respond?” The article emphasized that 71% of respondents said they would continue to serve. But almost 10% said “I would not re-enlist or extend my service,” and 14% said “I would consider not re-enlisting or extending my service.” Only 6% expressed “No Opinion.” Before voting to repeal the law, Section 654, Title 10, members of Congress, and President-elect Barack Obama, ought to do the math.


The December 2006 news release announcing the often-quoted Zogby Poll on this subject, which was paid for by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military (now called the Michael D. Palm Center), blatantly spun the story by omitting mention of responses to the key question asked — Should homosexuals serve openly in the military? The 26% of Zogby respondents who favored repeal of the law could not compete with the combined 69% of people who said that they were opposed or neutral on that question. This was hardly a mandate for radical cultural change in the military."
National Review Online (American; Independent; Secular; Conservative)analytical editorial on 02 / 01 | January / 2009

Christian Science Monitor, an American secular service which supports lifting of the ban says:

"“Is that where we as a country want to be? I think not,” says Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which is lobbying for a repeal to the "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) ban.

More than 25 countries specifically allow gays and lesbians to serve in the military, including all original NATO signatories except the US and Turkey.

Some 16 countries – including Pakistan, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen – bar open homosexuals from serving in the military. Across Africa, 37 countries declare homosexuality outright illegal – inside the military or out. Last week, two civilian men in Malawi were convicted and sentenced to serve 14 years in prison for homosexuality.


Already, US service members serve alongside gays and lesbians. The Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, has estimated that some 66,000 gay and lesbian troops serve (pdf download) in the US forces today. And Britain, a key ally in Iraq and Afghanistan, has allowed homosexuals to openly serve in its military for a decade.

Canada and Australia lifted their bans in 1992, followed by Israel in 1993, and South Africa in 1998. The lift on bans did not result in a mass “coming out,” the Palm Center found, nor were there instances of increased harassment of or by gay people.

When Britain looked to repeal its ban, its military initially considered DADT. But they found it was a “disaster,” which “hadn’t worked,” was “unworkable” and was “hypocritical,” according to the Palm Center’s report, "Gays in Foreign Militaries 2010: A Global Primer."

Instead, the British military based its regulations on the Australian model, which simply ban public displays of affection, harassment and inappropriate relationships – regardless of whether the couple was gay or straight. In 2002, the British Ministry of Defense reconfirmed that “there has been no discernible impact on operational effectiveness” as a result of ending the gay ban and that “no further review of the Armed Forces policy on homosexuality” was necessary.


Concern that the repeal of DADT will reduce the number of volunteers is unfounded, according to Dr. Nathaniel Frank, primary author of the Palm Center Report. In Britain and Canada, roughly two-thirds of the military said it would refuse to serve with open gays, but in reality no more than three people in each country actually resigned, according to the report. [Although it is not resignations which are referred to in American polls but people who refuse to re-enlist]"
28 / 05 | May / 2010

Of course in the cases noted, the countries involved are ones where homosexuals enjoy special political or legal protections, as compared to the vastly polarised United States, and what seemed to be cited as working was a more general ban on relationships in the military, and troops it seems were still too scared to "come out" the Palm Center, once again cited as pushing for the reform, claims. If there is real tolerance in the military structures of these countries, and homosexuals are not intimidated into silence, why would they not "come out", many of the inside concerns related more to unit cohesion in combat than to people resigning. The concern is over lives possibly lost, due to the position homosexuals in a military face. I might note, South Africa is not, and since Apartheid, has not been an ally of America, South Africa is a member of the non-aligned movement and is much more closely linked to China and Cuba, than it is to America. In fact, it is one of the few countries which periodically stands up to America, and 4 of 5 South Africans oppose all homosexual acts, meaning that even if gays were to serve in an organization as dangerous as the underpaid under resourced SANDF, they would be very unlikely to "come out", for fear of reprisals. Once again a fact checking error. Though yes, homosexuals, and HIV/AIDS sufferers are both allowed in the SANDF.

As the US's Catholic Bishop of the Armed Forces opposes the repeal of the ban, our service has determined to research into this issue. I personally am unsure of my own position on this issue, as is our service. However, what I personally do best, and what our service is known for is our fact checking ability, and I thought it important to note this bias, the quoting of a particular source as though a differing opinion, as yet not noting that it is in fact an activist organization, this is done both by Reuters, and by the Christian Science monitor, which take the views of the Palm center as though they were fact on face value. The British Army also has a policy of not shooting to kill where possible, simply because an organization says it has been successful with a strategy does not mean it has been. The questions the US military are asking are exactly the applicable ones. The note of "would you shower with a Catholic" equates sexual preference to religion. Interestingly the biggest opponents to homosexuals openly in the US military are in the Catholic church and hierarchy.

As I noted before, our service has no viewpoint on this matter. We do however affirm the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the norms of marriage set out in Canon law vis-a-vis the theological delict of the recognition of homosexual unions, and the theological delict of homosexual acts, and of endorsing these. I do however think it highly possible, that those who choose to discriminate against homosexuals on duty whether for fear of harassment by them, or due to a general dislike or other reasons, may well choose other methods of discouraging their service in the US military, or of practising their dislike, due to the very different nature of American society. If this law is repealed, it is also almost certain to be used to further the means of Islamist organizations which already have had great success in recruiting militia in their war against America and other western powers, notably due to the sexual mistreatment of prisoners. As this is happening, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which I noted oppose the lifting of the law prior Don't Ask Don't Tell's policy, has banned all people who currently experience strong homosexual urges, from US seminaries, in accordance with Vatican norms on the matter. I think the reason Republicans and the US Catholic hierarchy so opposes the lifting of the ban, lies in the polarisation of America, a tug of war which is beyond reason, whether or not it would be reasonable in the specific US situation for homosexuals to serve in the military.

This move, as with the Obama administration's choice to change "Freedom of Religion" for less tolerant "Freedom of Worship", since an unstable man of what in America is the minority Islamic faith, shot up Fort Hood, as with many other moves the US has made while ignoring conscientious objectors and religious voices in recent times: will certainly be noted by America's enemies, allies and neutrals throughout the world. If bible verses on rifles and bullets were feared to cost American lives, then there may be a very real concern that these moves may even further fuel the fire of America's enemies.

It is however vital that the US military does not ask its questions vaguely. It also is a matter of concern that Reuters did not note exactly who they were quoting. Further, religion is very different than sexual preference, and even more different than acts of a sexual nature. While I strongly oppose America's wars in the Middle East and elsewhere, if it were my country, I would be asking about the mortality statistics and injury statistics in countries which lifted their bans, especially among those suspected by other soldiers of homosexuality, as well as whether Islamist extremists gained more recruits. The first right of any human being gay or straight is the right to life.

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