The U.S. military's stance on homosexuality, often referred to as “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” has gotten a good bit of attention from the mainstream media. And though the likes of MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, who has never actually served in the Armed Forces, has made ending the policy it one of her pet causes, there are some well-established voices that disagree with Defense Secretary Robert Gates decision to repeal the policy.
Denton, perhaps best known for a North Vietnamese TV interview in 1966, which he was forced to give as a prisoner of war, but used the opportunity to communicate by blinking his eyes in Morse code to spell out the word “t-o-r-t-u-r-e” to convey what his captors were doing to him and his fellow POWs, told the Culture & Media Institute on May 25 he thought ending the policy was a mistake, but still had high admirations for Gates.
“I disagree with it,” Denton said. “I believe that the Secretary of Defense is a pretty good guy. He was president of Texas A&M. He was head of the CIA. I believe he wants to do things right and I believe that he is appearing to succumb to the operational – the professional disease that occurs to government officials when they hesitate to disagree with any promulgations of policy from above because they know they'll get kicked out. They just nod and let it go.”
In Gates defense however, Denton said the Defense Secretary may be going along with the administration because if he had come out publicly against the repeal, President Barack Obama may appoint someone even more radical than he and take the measure even further. However, that didn't excuse Gates for compromising his principles, Denton said.
“But he also might have the redeeming feature of thinking that if he's kicked out, if he opposes something directly on this issue or any other, that he will, Obama will appoint a worse guy, who will be even worse than what will happen if he goes ahead with this 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' abolition. And so, I'm not sure I can condemn him overall for that. I had to answer some people on that and I said, 'I'm not sure that he's correct.' And I wouldn't have done it his way. I think it's better for a man to say what he knows is right, even if he's going to lose his damn job.”
The former Naval admiral explained that the last time the U.S. military attempted this sort of social experiment with armed forces personnel, it didn't exactly work out as planned – specifically when women were allowed to serve on U.S. Navy combat ships, starting with the U.S.S. Eisenhower in 1994, which resulted in a rash of pregnancies.
“The government decided they would pay for the raising of those children,” Denton said. What do you think the Navy wives thought about them putting them in with their husbands on a ship? And now they're putting them on submarines – and I disagree with that, too.”
Denton isn't a stranger to the political game. From 1980 until 1987, he served as a Republican in the U.S. Senate for the state of Alabama. He later founded the Admiral Jeremiah Denton Foundation, which was inspired by Denton's “passion to promote fundamental American values and provide global humanitarian aid, the foundation is dedicated to issues regarding national security, the concept of One Nation Under God, and international peacekeeping and humanitarian affairs,” according to the organization's website.