February 23, 2009 in Opinion

Outside voices: Fit for service

It’s time to abandon military’s ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy
 

About this column

Outside Voices is a weekly roundup of excerpts from recent editorials published in newspapers around the nation. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board of The Spokesman-Review.

Kansas City Star, Feb. 16: Amy Brian served courageously in Iraq as a member of the Kansas Army National Guard. Back in the States, she was honored for her work reorganizing the Kansas National Guard’s government purchase card program.

Her record and numerous commendations reveal her to be smart, dedicated and ambitious – just the sort of person the nation needs in the armed forces.

Yet Brian has been deemed unfit to do so because of another revelation. A civilian co-worker in Topeka told military superiors that she saw Brian kissing another woman in a department store.

Brian, who is open about being a lesbian, recently became the first person to be discharged from the Kansas Army National Guard under the federal policy that bars gays and lesbians from military service if their sexual identity is known.

Her discharge is a compelling reason for President Barack Obama to do away with the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that Bill Clinton initiated in 1993.

Justification for the policy was dubious in 1993. Today, it is all but nonexistent.

Fewer than half of Americans were in favor of gays serving openly in the military when Clinton took up the issue. Today, eight of 10 Americans have no problem with it.

It’s nonsensical to bar highly qualified soldiers for no other reason than sexual identities.

Chicago Tribune, Feb. 13: Abdul Qadeer Khan, the most infamous nuclear outlaw in the last 50 years, is a free man.

Last week, a Pakistani court freed Khan from house arrest, lifting the restrictions imposed on him since 2004, when he publicly confessed to running a black market nuclear network.

Because of Khan, Iran is on the brink of going nuclear. Because of Khan, Libya almost followed suit. Because of Khan, advanced nuclear weapons designs may have long ago been sold off to some of the most treacherous regimes in the world, putting them – or terrorist groups – years closer to developing a usable nuclear weapon.

So what to do, now that Khan has skated? U.S. authorities have never been allowed to directly question him. Pakistan has protected his secrets, insisting that they’ve fully interrogated him and passed along relevant answers. But revelations last summer cast serious doubts on that assertion.

The release of Khan looks to be a blatant political move to shore up support for the government of President Asif Ali Zardari. It’s also a dangerous move, because Khan and what’s left of his network are still a serious proliferation threat.

It’s not clear how much the Pakistani government is still monitoring Khan’s movements. Or whether officials there have extracted any assurances that Khan won’t return to his former line of work.

Here’s a thought. Khan has been cooped up at home since 2004, when he confessed to his crimes and then was pardoned by Pakistan’s former president, Pervez Musharraf.

We imagine Khan would like to see more of the world. So here’s our suggestion: Invite him to the United States for an all-expenses-paid vacation.

And while he’s here, maybe he’d be so kind as to visit the International Atomic Energy Agency office and clear up some questions that have festered for years now.

If Iran gets the bomb, if an American city ever suffers a nuclear attack by terrorists, the chances are good that A.Q. Khan will bear a large share of the responsibility.

It’s time for international and American authorities to meet him face to face. Think of it as an extraordinarily gentle rendition.

Dallas Morning News, Feb. 19: Maybe it’s because we’re not from Illinois and don’t have to suffer the indignity of this hack being our U.S. senator, but we sure are getting a kick out of the rolling Roland Burris circus.

Burris is now on at least his fourth story about his contacts with ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich prior to the corrupt former official appointing him to fill Barack Obama’s senate seat. The hapless Democrat is a one-man stimulus package for late-night comedians.

The thing is, it’s not really funny. Burris now appears to have made false statements under oath when testifying about his relationship to Blagojevich, who was impeached after being caught on a federal wiretap allegedly talking about selling the seat Obama vacated. Burris told Illinois lawmakers there was no quid pro quo for his getting the Senate nod from Blago.

He has since amended that tale a couple of times and, earlier this week, he admitted that – what do you know! – he’d done some Blago fundraising while the governor was thinking about Burris’ request to take Obama’s place.

Burris now faces a perjury probe in Illinois and a Senate ethics investigation in Washington. He should do the decent thing and resign, but if he won’t, he should be removed from office. This farce has been good for a few laughs, but it’s gone on long enough.

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