Opinion | Columns

DADT was a blessing in disguise

Last semester, students tabled on College Walk, encouraging their peers to lobby for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT). On Dec. 22, when President Obama signed the repeal into law, these students got their wish. In so-called ‘liberal’ circles, this measure was touted as a victory for equality, one that would benefit people of color in particular. For instance, a piece by Jamilah King, published in the online magazine Color Lines, titled “Black Women Win in Repeal of DADT,” cited a report by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force that found that DADT had disproportionately affected black women. According to this report, black women were discharged under the policy “at three times the rate that they serve in the military.”

In selling the repeal as a victory for black lesbians, King overlooked the nature of what these soldiers would actually be engaged in. The American Army is first and foremost an aggressive imperial force. It is true that, in theory, it is necessary that a nation has a defense force and that this force be comprised of any willing individual fit to serve. But we do not live in a vacuum populated with such theories. The reality is that the American military is not merely a “defense force” whose sole purpose is to shield the domestic realm from incursion. Its battles beyond the home front are not the valiant liberating ventures that colonial fairy tales are made of.

Its better-publicized imperial projects set aside, the American Army has been directly involved in over 50 interventions in Latin America since the Spanish-American War. Currently stationed in over 130 countries, the American military is actively engaged both in its latest acquisitions, Iraq and Afghanistan, and in an old (though scarcely acknowledged) favorite, the Philippines. By its own estimates (which are presumably conservative), it has directly killed 98,170 to 107,152 Iraqi civilians since 2003. Forget closets—throughout its imperial domain, the American army puts queers of color in coffins.

To extol the repeal on any terms is necessarily to disregard or otherwise dehumanize victims of these imperial ventures. If any of us smiled to ourselves when we caught wind of the repeal, it is only because we forgot that, when all is said and done, guns for equal opportunity hire are still hit men. It is only because King forgot that these guns for hire would have real victims that she could present the repeal as a “win” for people of color. This “forgetting,” in turn, was allowed for by two phenomena that her blog is designed to highlight and combat: first, by the ethnocentrism that prompted her to look to the suffering of black American lesbians rather than to that of their Iraqi counterparts and second, by the pervasive racism that devalues Arab lives in the public sphere to the extent that they can be disregarded with such ease.

Because DADT hurt the military, it was a blessing for subjects of the American empire. Most obviously, the repeal has the potential to facilitate American imperialism because it is apt to increase military retention rates, given that those who “tell” will no longer be discharged. If the next 16 years will resemble the past 16, the army just gained over 13,000 troops into 2026 (the number of troops discharged due to DADT since 1994).

There is also reason to suspect that the repeal will aid the military in addressing its dwindling enrollment rates. The repeal stands to further recruitment in portraying the military as an inclusive, non-discriminatory body. The effects of this “good PR” on recruitment initiatives can already be seen on college campuses that had previously banned ROTC because of DADT. As a result of the DADT repeal, Yale and Harvard are reinstating ROTC and, as students are likely aware, similar moves are being made at Columbia pending community consensus.

The fact that repealing DADT has long been a priority for the American gay movement reflects the movement’s leadership. Overwhelmingly white and male, those dominating this cause are far more caught up in their marriage status than in the fact that up to 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT (though they comprise only 5 to 7 percent of the overall youth population).

Moving forward, then, Columbia students ought to take two lessons from this experience. The first is that the poor direction of the mainstream American queer movement need not be reflected on our campus. For instance, alleviating homelessness is a cause worth fighting for—allowing for greater participation in imperial wars is not. The second is that we ought to spend less time celebrating the repeal and more time combating the repeal’s fallout. Now is the time for our community to consider how shallow our rejection of ROTC was. As anti-racist youth, we ought to focus, not on fighting inequality within the military, but on fighting a military whose very purpose it is to perpetuate inequality the world over.

Yasmeen Ar-Rayani is a Columbia College junior majoring in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies. Color in Colonial College runs alternate Mondays.

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Anonymous posted on

"The American Army is first and foremost an aggressive imperial force."

"As anti-racist youth, we ought to focus, not on fighting inequality within the military, but on fighting a military whose very purpose it is to perpetuate inequality the world over."

HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

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Anonymous posted on

read first paragraph, saw "the American Army is first and foremost an aggressive imperial force," decided author = moron, shook head disapprovingly.

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Anonymous posted on

is author US citizen?

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Anonymous posted on

who cares?

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Anonymous posted on

spec: this comment is racist and inciteful, please remove

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Anonymous posted on

It's not racist. CC 98 didn't say "is author white?" CC 98 said "is author US citizen".

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Anonymous posted on

We don't live in a vacuum. But we also don't live in your postmodern world of critiques of grammatology and crap like that.

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Anonymous posted on

This is incredibly offensive to the LGBTQ community - you insinuate that they are so idiotic that they don't realize that they risk their lives when enlisting in the military. Do you think that LGBTQ individuals need regulations like DADT to keep them from enlisting, since they don't possess the self control to resist the siren call of equality in the armed forces?

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Anonymous posted on

on point

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Anonymous posted on

this article is so terribly misguided that it reads as self-parody. by ar-rayani's logic, shouldn't we also discriminate against african americans in the military?

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Anonymous posted on

[Hands on hips, shaking head] Bob Feldman - AKA columbiasds68 - is that you?

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PolishBear posted on

Everyone in the military knows that Gay soldiers have always been there. Everyone in the military knows that Gay and Straight soldiers have always showered together and bunked together. None of that was ever going to change whether “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was kept or repealed. I don’t know why people are getting all bent out of shape about it now.

For what it’s worth, I really don’t care if any soldier, Gay OR Straight, is disciplined or booted out of the military because of inappropriate conduct when on-duty. That’s not what’s at issue here. A qualified soldier should not be at risk for losing his career simply because of who he’s dating on his own time.

Hold all soldiers to the same standards of professional behavior, regardless of their sexual orientation, and the military will be able to do its job just fine. We don’t need DADT to accomplish that goal.

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Anonymous posted on

Is this really the non-sense Columbia is churning out these days??? What a horrible waste of tuition money and an embarrassment for the school.

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Anonymous posted on

That's not fair, Denver. See last week's "Reevaluating ROTC" (By banning ROTC, we're alienating ourselves from the realities of war.) by Spectator columnist Nick Bloom: http://www.columbiaspectator.c...

Yasmeen represents herself and perhaps a fringe of like-minded students in a large diverse university; she doesn't represent the majority of Columbia students. Nor alumni.

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Anonymous posted on

But I haven't heard any convincing engagement with the author's assertions, and, as a current Columbia student, it would be nice if we could engage in an open discussion about the ideas presented before we result to character assassinations. The U.S. military has frequently been placed beyond examination or question by political and civil leaders of most ideologies, and it's refreshing to hear a relatively measured criticism from a less-often heard perspective. The points that the author makes (the U.S. has appallingly high rates of civilian casualties, casualties caused by the U.S. military seem to disproportionately be people of color, part of the reason this is not questioned more often in public discourse is that Arabs and to a lesser extent all Muslims have been targets of ignorance and hatred, and that the U.S. is currently occupying two countries, one of which did not actually make any belligerent actions before such occupation) are thought-provoking and seriously call into question something many Americans refuse to question, the legitimacy of U.S. military power being deployed, often unilaterally, around the world to achieve foreign policy goals. Most nations actually do keep their militaries at home as defensive forces, and limit their deployments to their own regions of the world to protect their national security. As we enter a period of power transition with China on the ascendence and the U.S. on the decline, we'll likely be forced to face hard decisions about the role of the military in our foreign policy and whether or not we can afford a globally-deployed offensive military. This perspective is valuable to that discussion, and the others (LGBT rights, racial equality) that the author mentions.

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Anonymous posted on

I think it's irresponsible of you to encourage terrorists by blaming the deaths and destruction they cause on the US military. When terrorists are rewarded for their actions with your kind of rhetoric, they increase their killing.

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Anonymous posted on

"refreshing to hear a relatively measured criticism from a less-often heard perspective."

Riiiight. Because calling something/someone imperialist aggressors and perpetuating inequality is measured criticism. And let me guess: you'd be the first person to shout Islamophobia if someone where to call Muslims terrorist fanatics.

"As we enter a period of power transition with China on the ascendence and the U.S. on the decline"

The fact that China is on the rise doesn't mean US is automatically on the decline although I'm sure you would like for this to happen. (And why the focus of power transition with just China and not the other 3 countries in BRIC is beyond me) As it happens, the US economy is recovering from a combination of the economic crisis on all indicators of economic growth and growing awareness among the US public that the trade imbalance the US has with China is unsustainable.

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Anonymous posted on

DADT did not 'hurt the military." It hurt courageous, patriotic Americans and it purveyed a spirit of intolerance and incivility that is unacceptable in today's society. What a ridiculous premise. Perpetuating human rights violations in our own country certainly wont alleviate our involvement in human rights violations abroad.

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HumorMe81 posted on

The premise of the argument in this article is very weak. DADT needed to be repealed and yes, it is a step forward into civility. Whether it leads to more deaths abroad in war zones is a separate issue, and fear that more deaths will ensue in repealing DADT shouldn't keep us from becoming more civil.

On the other hand, i do agree with the author that the American Army is engaging in imperialism at the behest of those that give them orders. And this point has nothing to do with the author being a citizen or not. Being an American Citizen doesn't mean that you blindly support eveyrthing the gov't pursues. I'm sorry, but we are not machines.

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Anonymous posted on

"fear that more deaths will ensue in repealing DADT shouldn't keep us from becoming more civil"

really? i think the lives of iraqis should be privileged over 'civility', whatever that means.

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Anonymous posted on

I don't agree with you that the repeal of DADT will reduce the effectiveness of our military. While our forces have been drawing down in Iraq and handing off their security responsibilities to Iraqi forces, those US forces remaining in Iraq after DADT repeal will be just as effective aiding the Iraq people as they were before DADT repeal, albeit in an increasingly limited scope. American soldiers haven't yet stopped risking their lives to protect the lives of Iraqis.

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HumorMe81 posted on

For the author to say that repealing DADT will giv us access to more troops n lead to more deaths sounds ridiculous. Couldn't we tackle the problem of innocents dying in war zones using other methods such as protesting against baseless wars, especially those founded on falsehood, and disseminating proper information to the youths looking to enlist, etc., and protecting minorities that are targeted by the recruitment officers?

Human life is valuable, whether it's Iraqi or afghani or American. My point was not that we shud take a step forward into civility while compromising lives of the Iraqis, but rather that the connection the author is trying to make is crazy. Both problems need to be addressed and DADT needed to be repealed.

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Anonymous posted on

You are going to "tackle the problem of innocents dying in war zones" by "protesting"?

Seriously?

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HumorMe81 posted on

No effort is trivial.

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HumorMe81 posted on

And sometimes that's all a person CAN do.

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Anonymous posted on

A person could join the Army. I imagine the average US soldier who's deployed to Iraq and/or Afghanistan has done far more than the average protestor to actively safeguard innocents and fight those whose strategy it is to kill innocents.

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HumorMe81 posted on

Well, ppl that are against the two wars (bec they've caused so much loss) are not going to express their disgust by joining the military. That would be counterproductive. They'd probably take to the streets.

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Anonymous posted on

Tragically, the Westerners who "take to the streets" in the West to protest the wars have directly contributed to greater loss of life by rewarding and encouraging the terrorists whose strategy is to kill innocents in order to shock you into protest against your Western government in order to pressure your Western government to withdraw its military in order for the terrorists and their allies to take control and replace whatever "liberal" or "democratic" government our military is defending. It's a neat trick by the terrorists that the more innocents that terrorists kill, the more that you protest the US soldiers trying to protect innocents and their countries from the terrorists.

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HumorMe81 posted on

Huh?

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Anonymous posted on

Very simple: he's saying your protests are a key part of the terrorist strategy to defeat the West. Your protests are rewarding the terrorist strategy, thus causing terrorists to kill more people. It's like how paying the Somali pirates' ransom demands just leads to more Somali pirate hijackings and kidnappings. More protests = more terrorist killings.

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HumorMe81 posted on

The idea that more protests lead to more terrorists killing Innocent ppl sounds really ridiculous! Hence the 'huh?' genius!

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Anonymous posted on

I suppose that denial helps you sleep at night. I hope you're prepared for the feeling of guilt when you realize that your self-indulgent protests against the West have placed the blood of many thousands of terrorists' victims on your hands. Terrorists paid for your protests with their mass murders, and you gave them what they wanted.

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HumorMe81 posted on

And you carry on believing whatever helps YOU sleep at night. Nice day...

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Anonymous posted on

To be honest, there are some days when I have nothing to do but sit in my dorm room and masturbate.

That doesn't make it "productive", or "non-trivial".

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Anonymous posted on

Sounds like an anti American terrorist sympathizer who never-the-less is HERE sucking up a superior American education and presumably enjoying the 'imperial' comforts of civilization. If you hate America so much, you are FREE to leave. That's probably more freedom than you'll find elsewhere.

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Anonymous posted on

absolutely pathetic. leave this country

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Anonymous posted on

To quote President Obama tonight:
“Our troops come from every corner of this country – they are black, white, Latino, Asian and Native American. They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim. And, yes, we know that some of them are gay. Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love. And with that change, I call on all of our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and the ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as one nation.”

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Anonymous posted on

MLK:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

this column is very misguided and the author has a very distorted sense of reality and justice...

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Anonymous posted on

AGREED. she is completely racist herself, not to mention anti-Semitic, and makes no attempt to hide it.

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