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“Lancing” the Boil: The Ethical Conundrum Presented by Lance Armstrong

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“Listen, I’ve said it for seven years. I’ve said it for longer than seven years. I have never doped. I can say it again. But I’ve said it for seven years. It doesn’t help. But the fact of the matter is I haven’t. And if you consider my situation: A guy who comes back from arguably, you know, a death sentence, why would I then enter into a sport and dope myself up and risk my life again? That’s crazy. I would never do that. No. No way.” Lance Armstrong to Larry King and Bob Costas on Larry King Live August 25th 2005 

It appears that Lance Armstrong has confessed to cheating to win his historic 7 Tour de France cycling championships. Using a sophisticated means of blood doping he sometimes with the cooperation of his teams he, like the majority of the high level competition cyclists of his era used an illegal but often hard to detect means to bolster his ability to win.

Armstrong, like so many at the top level of his sport appears to have been a habitual cheater, liar and bully. The fact that he was a cancer survivor and had returned to the top of his sport made him a legend and gave him an almost mythic aura. Who could criticize such a heroic individual? Certainly his struggle to defeat cancer and return to the top of his sport was worth something and indeed it was. Armstrong became a legend and established a foundation that did and still is doing wonderful things for cancer victims.

If it was simply cheating and then getting caught the situation would be different. Armstrong was not different than many of his competitors and if it was like the cases of people in other sports who cheated and later either were caught or admitted their misdeeds it would be just another case of a sports cheater.

However in the Armstrong case the story is one that is not so simple. His also involves an aggressive cover up and willful destruction of the reputations of anyone who dared challenge him or accuse him of cheating. It involved attacks on the character of critics as well as threats made against them, even veiled physical threats. It involved legal actions to attempt to prevent the publication of articles or books that could damage him in multiple countries. It involved a campaign of lies that lasted over a decade. It also ensnared cancer victims as his charity foundation Livestrong was devoted to helping those battling the dread disease.

It is a case that will not simply interest sport writers, but one which will engage philosophers, ethicists and theologians for years to come. The reason is that it is so multifaceted and brings to the fore questions that most people care not to even think about, even though they fascinate us.

The questions are hard. Who would want to think that the cancer victims helped by Livestrong were not positive beneficiaries of Armstrong’s benevolence? It is certain that Armstrong’s foundation has done remarkable work. At the same time can Armstrong’s actions be justified simply because many people were benefited by them? What about the his victims? Those men and women who suffered professional, legal and financial reverses as well as had their reputations damaged for attempting to stand up to someone that looks by the actions committed against his critics and accusers to be a bully.

It is the classic question of whether the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few combined with the actions of one person to advance himself at the expense of others. Some would like to be able to fame Armstrong’s cheating and subsequent support of Livestrong and its tremendous work in helping people in a positive manner.

That can be done, but at what cost? We wrestle with such ethical questions all the time but seldom do we see the drama play out out in such a personal manner. Usually we are able to keep it theoretical and distant. But Armstrong, he had become a legend, a hero to many and

I think that most of us, me included were enamored with the myth of Armstrong the cancer survivor rising to unheard of heights in his sport. I think that this was especially the case in the United States where the thought of an American winning at the top levels of a sport that has few American long dominated by Europeans was particularly pleasurable, especially since most Americans couldn’t care less about competitive cycling. However, Armstrong got us to care about it, even if it was only when we saw Tour de France highlights on ESPN Sports Center.

Caught up in the myth we surrendered to it. It was attractive and it appeals to the underdog in all of us. However, it was a myth and the creation and sustainment of the myth created victims just as it helped others in need of live saving treatment as well as cancer research.

As for Armstrong, his confession and apology that will be aired on Oprah Winfrey’s show the next two nights I am of mixed feelings. Some like Mike Lupica have stated that it is another attempt of Armstrong to control the situation and the narrative. He could well be right and there is part of me, the cynical and realistic part that believes this. At the same time I would hope that Armstrong has had a real epiphany as to the consequences of his actions in the lives of the people who were his fans, his beneficiaries as well as his victims.

As for the very harsh remarks of Pat McQuaid the President of the International Cycling Union that “Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling and he deserves to be forgotten in cycling….” I have a negative opinion. He and his championships, though tainted and no stripped from him are a part of the history of cycling. He helped popularize the sport in the United States. He and his tainted accomplishments cannot be erased as if he did not exist. No cycling bodies took any substantive actions against Armstrong during his competitive career. No sport was as inundated by a culture of cheating as professional cycling. Armstrong cannot be forgotten as McQuaid says he deserves to be. It is okay to say “never again” and work to build an authentic and honest competitive sport. But to erase and forget is to ensure that another Armstrong will come along. It is a cautionary tale.

As long as Armstrong brought attention and income to the sport his actions were tolerated and despite numerous accusations he was celebrated and because of his story as a cancer survivor many looked the other way. I have to say that I am part of that latter group that saw a cancer survivor winning as inspirational. I did not want to believe the accusations and I did not look to see or even pay attention to the things that he and his associates were doing to those attempting to bring the story to the light of public scrutiny.

As for Livestrong I do hope that it will survive and continue to help cancer victims. As for Armstrong I hope that his confession and admission of wrong doing are genuine and that he will make restitution to those that he bullied or ruined in maintaining the cover up. I am less concerned about his competitors in the Tour de France as so many of them were doping that it makes the steroids scandals in other sports pale in comparison.

I encountered Armstrong once in Iraq when he was on a tour with a number of celebrities. I had come back to my base of operations the day that he and his tour led by the now retired Chairman of the Joint Chief’s of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen came through. Since the number of people who could attend the show was limited and I wanted to make sure that junior personnel had a chance to see Armstrong, Robin Williams, Kid Rock and Lewis Black I did not attempt to go. The next morning I was walking to the dinning facility and passed Armstrong as he was walking back to is quarters. I said “good morning” and he returned the greeting and we both continued on our way. I figured that he didn’t need another person coming up to him to get an autograph and though he was a public figure on a USO morale tour I still attempt to honor some modicum of privacy. The tour left later that morning and my friend, Father Jose Bautista-Rojas a Catholic Chaplain who had escorted Mrs Mullen during the visit brought me a ball cap signed by both Armstrong and Robin Williams. I will keep it and remember the fact that Armstrong and those with him came to Iraq at the height of an unpopular war, but also to remind me that all of us have feet of clay.

I do hope that he is able to make his peace and reconcile with those that he has hurt or disappointed and that some good will come out of this for him, his family, those that benefit from Livestrong and the sport.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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I Don’t Like Bullies: The Troubling Trend in Conservative Politics

I don’t like bullies. I didn’t like them as a child and I certainly don’t like them any better now.  Unfortunately the bullying that I address is not the simple schoolyard type, but a kind that has infected our politics and religion to such an extent that I fear the worst for our country.

Last night there was a most troubling moment during the Republican debate.  Fox news anchor Megan Kelly aired a video from a soldier inIraqasking what candidates would do regarding the recent repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy.   What followed was shocking. First a number of people in the audience booed the soldier. Second, former Senator Rick Santorum answered Kelly’s question about DADT saying that he would reinstate the policy which he called “social experimentation” which was “detrimental” to gays and lesbians.

Sanorum also mischaracterized the repeal saying that that “I would say any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military. The fact they are making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege to, and removing don’t ask don’t tell. I think tries to inject social policy into the military. And the military’s job is to do one thing: to defend our country….”  The repeal didn’t give gays a special privilege but merely allows them to serve as others in the military do without fear of being thrown out if someone discovered that they were gay.

Santorum also showed his ignorance by ending his comments with this “sex is not an issue. It should not be an issue. Leave it alone. Keep it to yourself whether you are heterosexual or homosexual.” Well that is the policy that was enacted, except we don’t throw people out because they are homosexual.  The military is built on discipline and professionalism, if heterosexual military personnel cannot do something the same applies to homosexuals. The policy actually makes the case that sexuality is not an issue. It was under DADT and it put honorable men and women that wanted to serve their country under a rule that no-one else in the military had to live with. That policy emphasized that they were different and made their sexual orientation the issue so that they could be prosecuted at any time should a person turn them in or they make any statement that they were gay.

The repeal was voted by congress and DADT has been found unconstitutional by a number of Federal Courts.  It was going to go away one way or another and the way it was done the military had a chance to get ready for it.  Because of this nothing changed on September 20th. The military still continues to do its job without any disruption, Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen are being professional and perhaps the one shock will have is when they find out that men and women that they admire and that they have served in close quarters or in combat with are gay. They will adjust and realize that all the hyperbole put out by people like Santorum was politically and sometimes religiously motivated bigotry.  The same happened in 1948 when President Truman integrated the military. Military personnel adjusted over time and now compared to most of society the military stands as a beacon to the rest of the nation.

When Santorum finished his answer he was greeted with thunderous applause and not one candidate stopped during the debate to call out the people that launched the chorus of boos.  A few notably John Huntsman and a spokesman for Rick Perry commented after the debate about how “unfortunate” the incident was, later on Friday candidate Gary Johnson condemned the action. Unfortunately most of the other candidates by their silence showed that they either agreed with the hecklers or that they are too afraid of political retribution to speak out against such behavior.

I was told by a Christian friend whose opinion I value that he thought that I was over-reacting to the actions of a few people.  God how I wish it was just a few knuckleheads doing this.  However I have seen many bloggers and quite a few allegedly “conservative alternative media” sites and “Christian” ministries blasting the same message ever since Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen announced that the military was moving toward the repeal.

The fact that others in the crowd did not challenge the boo-birds and Santorum didn’t censure them was scary. Later Santorum said that he didn’t hear the people that booed but they were loud and I have a hard time believing him. In light of his many other statements on this subject.

Part of the problem is that I am a historian and my focus was on Weimar Germany and the Nazi era. I have studied that period since I was an undergraduate as well as in seminary and for my second Masters in Military History. I talk about this with my German friends and they see parallels to their history. It unnerves them to see it happening here.

The tactics being employed by these “few” are eerily reminiscent of what the Brownshirts did to their opponents. If I “over react” as my friend said it was because acts like this do breed discrimination and violence.  Those that take power after having used or tolerated such behavior from their followers tend to become tyrants and oppressors in their own right, especially religious people.  Simply look at history to see how badly these events turn out.

But this is bigger than the repeal of DADT and gays.  Last week in another debate, the same type of crowd people shouted “let them die” in relation to a debate question about an uninsured man.  The week at another Republican debate people cheered the use of the death penalty even in cases where reasonable doubt was obvious. And then Pat Robertson told a caller that divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer’s disease was justified. It is about the lack of outcry from Christians or even the willing participation of Christians in brutal behavior. These are scary things and it is the totally of them that brings my reaction.  This has happened in other countries and I fear that we are going down the same path.

We have a great number of very angry people including many Evangelical Christians that feel that the left has marginalized and persecuted them.  To some extent there has been some of that.  But the answer cannot be found in vengeance.  From what I read on many “conservative” or “Christian” websites the issue is revenge.   The revenge is in that they intend to take over by the ballot and if need be by the bullet to “take dominion” over every arena of public life and rid us of those that do not agree with them or strip them of any influence in society.

The people in the “Dominionist” movement and those that preach the “7 Mountains Theology”  have said that they are intent on establishing a theocracy in this country and others. In their new society people that disagree with them are the enemy, not only of them but of God, even other Christians. Rick Joyner, one of the leaders of this movement and one of the players in Rick Perry’s “The Response” said: “On February 23rd of this year I was shown for the third time that the church was headed for a spiritual civil war … the definition of a complete victory in this war would be the complete overthrow of the accuser of the brethens’ strongholds in the church … this will in fact be one of the most cruel battles the church has ever faced. Like every civil war brother will turn against brother like we have never witnessed in the church before … this battle must be fought. It is an opportunity to drive the accuser out of the church and for the church then to come into unity that would otherwise be impossible … what is coming will be dark. At times Christians almost universally will be loath to even call themselves Christians. Believers and unbelievers alike will think it is the end of Christianity as we know it and it will be through this the very definition of Christianity will be changed for the better.”

Others of this theological bent advocate chilling police state type methods in dealing with opponents and those that dissent and justify themselves by say that they are “doing God’s work” or “ushering in the Kingdom.

So this is not just about the gays, it is about protecting the weak and those that dare to dissent from a party line. It is about the use of  Brownshirt type tactics to intimidate and silence opposition.  The combination of radial politics and radical religion never produces anything good.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from a Nazi Prison:

“Radicalism always springs from a conscious or unconscious hatred of what is established. Christian radicalism, no matter whether it consists in withdrawing from the world or in improving the world, arises from the hatred of creation. The radical cannot forgive God his creation. He has fallen out with the created world, the Ivan Karamazov, who at the same time makes the figure of the radical Jesus in the image of the Grand Inquisitor. When evil becomes powerful in the world, it infects the Christian, too, with the poison of radicalism. It is Christ’s gift to the Christian that he should be reconciled with the world as it is, but now this reconciliation is accounted to be a betrayal and denial of Christ. It is replaced by bitterness, suspicion and contempt for men and the world. In place of the love that believes all and hopes all, in the place of the love which loves the world in its very wickedness with the love of God (John 3:16), there is now the pharisaical denial of love to evil, and the restriction of love to the closed circle of the devout. Instead of the open Church of Jesus Christ which serves the world till the end, there is now some allegedly primitive Christian ideal of a Church, which in its turn confuses the ideal of the living Jesus Christ with the realization of a Christian ideal. Thus a world which is evil succeeds in making the Christians become evil too. It is the same germ that disintegrates the world and that makes the Christians become radical. In both cases it is hatred towards the world, no matter whether the haters are the ungodly or the godly. On both sides it is a refusal of faith in the creation. But devils are not cast out through Beelzebub.” (Letters and Papers from Prison p.386)

It is time that we recognize this before it is too late because the train has left the station.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under faith, History, laws and legislation, leadership, Military, Political Commentary, Religion

Thoughts on Ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell…a Moderate View

No, we’re not homosexual, but we are willing to learn…Yeah, would they send us someplace special?

Note:  I’m not feeling well tonight with my Kidney stone keeping up a steady mid grade pain in my Kidney.  Thus I am modifying something that I wrote nearly a year ago concerning the subject of gays serving in the military. This is not a political or social screed, I have tried to remain dispassionate in this essay realizing that people of goodwill but with differing moral, ethical or religious values can have differing opinions.  Since ultimately the decision to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t “ will be recommended by the military and will have to be passed into law by Congress. As an officer it will be my duty whatever decision is reached to support that decision.

I have written an essay agreeing with Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates when they announced the decision to begin the process of repealing the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law on homosexuals serving in the military. I followed that with piece which attacked the lies and distortions being marketed by former Chaplain, defrocked priest and convicted criminal Gordon “Chaps” Klingenschmitt in an unsolicited bulk e-mail sent through the Washington Times Media Group. In neither article did I advocate an immediate change in the law and stated that I believed that the Military should make the recommendations on how the change should be made, and not politicians or special interest groups of any variety.

This post is simply how I have seen military culture evolving over the 27 plus years of my career. These patently are simply my observations and have both a bit of seriousness as well as humor.  I am most definitely a dyed in the wool heterosexual, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I think that someone without a political axe to grind on either the gay rights or anti-gay rights movement who is in the military have to have a say.  I know that I could be wading into Vietnam here but here I go….

When I enlisted in August of 1981, gays were not allowed to serve in the military.  It was even on the recruiting form. Applicants were asked under the penalty of making a false official statement “Are you a homosexual?”  Who can forget the scene in Stripes where Bill Murray and Harold Ramis are asked by the Army recruiter “Are either of you homosexual?” Their reply was a hoot.  They looked at each other and Bill Murray replied “you mean like flaming or…” The recruiter then said “It’s a standard question we have to ask.” Harold Ramis then quipped “We’re not homosexual, but we’re willing to learn” and Bill Murray adding “Would they send us to someplace special?”  The recruiter then ends the exchange “I guess that’s a no on both.”  It was a hilarious scene as we all had to answer the question back in those days.

Plain and simple if a person lied about being homosexual and was later discovered he was in deep dung, even an accusation of being gay could result in being charged under the UCMJ or at the very least investigated.  Soldiers could be taken to Article 15 proceedings (Captain’s Mast in the Navy, Office Hours in the Marines) or possibly even a court-martial. Depending on the charges one could receive a punitive discharge, such a Bad Conduct Discharge, or administrative discharge under a General, General under Other than Honorable, or Other than Honorable conditions.

Back in my days as a company XO and company commander in the 1980s I had a number of soldiers; male and female who I knew that were gay.  I had grown up in California, had gay friends and even when someone was hiding it I pretty much knew.  If I was homophobic I could have made accusations, began investigations and made these soldiers lives hell.  At that point in time there were a good amount of people in the military who would have done just that.  These soldiers were exemplary in the way that they conducted themselves at work.  They were professional, knowledgeable and I never once had to take any of them to article 15 proceedings for any reason. They never refused missions, they were exceptionally responsible, and good leaders.  As far as their personal lives they were discreet. I am sure that if they stayed in the military that they probably maintained that balance.  I don’t know what happened to them later on, but they were great.   I took over company command as a very junior 1st Lieutenant. The unit had the highest drug abuse rate in Europe with more disciplinary problems than you could shake a stick at. I wasn’t about to go after soldiers who were not giving me problems, I had far more pressing matters on my plate.  I guess you could say that I was exercising the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy 7-8 years before it became policy.  My philosophy then as is is now, is that if someone is willing to serve honorably and endure the hardships and dangers of the lives of military professionals then they should be able to regardless of the way that they are wired.  My issue then and now applies to both homosexuals and heterosexuals who are predatory or push themselves sexually on other soldiers causing problems with good order and discipline and unit cohesion. I have to say had far more problems with my heterosexual soldiers in this regard than my homosexual soldiers. My homosexual soldiers were discreet in their personal lives and very professional, some of my heterosexuals were neither discreet nor professional in thier sexual lives and relationships.

When I served as a personnel officer at the Academy of Health Sciences I became “CINC AIDS.”  I was the most junior of the Medical Personnel Officers, serving as the Training Brigade Adjutant.  It was at this time that we began having soldiers test positive for HIV and develop AIDS.  I worked with representatives of the Army Surgeon General’s Office to develop personnel procedures for HIV positive soldiers.  These policies gave them the opportunity to serve honorably and at the same time ensured that they did  not endanger others through their sexual conduct.  Since I was the junior guy I got to deal with all the cases of officers who had been diagnosed with HIV.  No one else wanted anything to do with them. While the world around me raged with apocalyptic screeds of those convinced that this was God’s judgment on homosexual; those who prophesied how this virus would become a pandemic infecting people willy-nilly through casual contact, I dealt with real people.  These officers wore the same uniform as me and had been pronounced with a death sentence.  Some I knew were gay, but some were straight.  When an officer came to my office that was not on our brigade staff and the door closed, there was a good chance that the visitor had just received the news that they had an infection that would cause a process that would kill them.  They had received a death sentence.  I was a Christian and knew that I was going to be going to seminary after this assignment.  I could not see how Jesus could reject these folks.  While assigned there we had the first trial of a soldier who was intentionally attempting to spread the HIV virus among his coworkers.  He was a heterosexual and was a sexual predator.  He was taken to courts-martial and convicted.  As he was now in the latter stages of the disease process and battling the opportunistic infections which actually kill you he was sentenced to 6 months in Leavenworth.  I doubt that he lived that long. The experience of dealing with these officers taught me the torment that many homosexuals go through.  Following my time in the Army while in seminary and after it I worked in a variety of social service organizations and hospitals and I knew worked alongside many gays without a problem.

When President Clinton enacted the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy I was in the Army National Guard.  When the policy was announced there was public outcry from Veteran’s organizations but even more so from conservative religious groups.  I had no problem with the policy as I think that everyone should be somewhat discreet in their sexual habits, especially in the military. Regardless of sexual orientation it is always important for military members to conduct themselves in professional manner, and not only in sexual matters.  It is always a matter of good order and discipline.   While the policy made no one happy, gay activists did not think it went far enough and anti-gay forces hated it, I think it was a wise policy.  The President may have erred in the way that he announced it, but I think it was still the right thing to do at the time.

Since then our society as a whole has changed in its view and treatment of homosexuals.  There is a lot more acceptance of them now and many more people are openly gay.  I think that those who hid that aspect of their lives in earlier times now feel safe enough to come out.  Yes there are those who vehemently oppose any form of equal treatment for homosexuals, but there is a lot more acceptance than in the past. Various polls show that a sizable majority of Americans support changing the policy while polls of military personnel have seen the opposition to ending the policy drop significantly since 2002 even though most of these polls indicate a fair amount of opposition to the policy but even those who oppose a change by and large have determined that they would make their peace with the decision. I believe that this is due to the change in societal views of homosexuals as well as the fact that military professionals, especially officers and career NCOs tend to tend to be more dispassionate and pragmatic than they are given credit.

There have been famous military leaders who were gay including Frederick the Great who was forced to marry but kind of liked other guys better.  Lord Kitchner and Sir Hector Archibald MacDonald, both distinguished officers were homosexual, MacDonald committed suicide when notified that he would be courts-martialed for his homosexuality.   There were constant rumors when I was in the Army about senior leaders who were suspected of being gay.   While a majority of military members polled opposed the Clinton administration change of policy, it seems to have worked.  There still are objections by gay rights activists that the policy is too restrictive and opponents who desire for it to be repealed, but in large part there is no problem.  Other countries the British, Canadians and Israelis and a number of other European nations all allow homosexuals to serve in the military. Contrary to claims that the policy would destroy the military there is nothing to support that.  In fact the US Military has been more heavily engaged on multiple fronts since the policy went into place and done well despite being undermanned and often over-committed.

The Rand Corporation had a study of how allowing gays to serve would impact the military suggested the following was of ensuring that such a change would not endanger good order and discipline or unit cohesion, the two most critical aspects of any change.  They suggested:

  • A requirement that all members of the military services conduct themselves in ways that enhance good order and discipline. Such conduct includes showing respect and tolerance for others. While heterosexuals would be asked to tolerate the presence of known homosexuals, all personnel, including acknowledged homosexuals, must understand that the military environment is no place to advertise one’s sexual orientation.
  • A clear statement that inappropriate conduct could destroy order and discipline, and that individuals should not engage in such conduct.
  • A list of categories of inappropriate conduct, including personal harassment (physical or verbal conduct toward others, based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or physical features), abuse of authority, displays of affection, and explicit discussions of sexual practices, experience, or desires.
  • Application of these standards by leaders at every level of the chain of command, in a way that ensures that unit performance is maintained.

It has been over 15 years since the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy went into effect.  I have noted that while some military members still vehemently oppose gays serving in the military, that quite a few, officer and enlisted, especially those under the age of 30 are much more tolerant than were those of my era.  A while back I was talking with a couple of military doctors and a hospital corpsman, all of us committed heterosexuals, not that there’s anything wrong with that the other day and the subject came up in a humorous way when discussing ways to get out of the military.  The corpsman noted that saying you were gay was one way, and I said, at least for now it was.

As we talked we all agreed that anyone willing to serve in the military at this point of time should be able to so long as they meet the professional standards of the services.  This is no gravy train.  Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen are constantly deployed and putting themselves in harm’s way.  If a gay wants to commit his or her life to the service of this country, who am I to object?

From a practical and somewhat humorous standpoint we have to acknowledge a number of things about gays, especially gay men.  Many are very well educated successful professionals.  Most seem to have a far better sense of taste and style than most of us on the heterosexual team and quite a few are very physically fit and health conscious. Anyone who has ever served in the military knows that we are not known for the greatest living conditions, food or ascetics.  Military housing, both barracks and family quarters tend to be rather boring, and often substandard.  There is not a lot of imagination in most military dining facilities and the ascetics and design of many of our buildings and bases leaves a lot to be desired. Can you imagine if we let these guys serve?  Our bases would probably look a lot better and well kept.  Our living quarters would be nicer and more ascetically pleasing. The food would definitely go up in quality and we would get some highly qualified folks in the service, especially in some of the more scientific and medical specialties.  As a married heterosexual and “a uniter not a divider” I see all of this as a win-win situation.  Who could be against that? I would have loved to drive onto bases where buildings and landscaping were done well, where you didn’t feel like you were driving onto a prison.  I’d love to work in buildings where there was some sense of style and artistry, where when you walked in you didn’t think you had walked onto the set of a WWII movie.  I would love a nice selection of food that was both healthy and tasty.

Will this happen anytime soon? I don’t know.  At the present time DOD is studying how the change might be implemented including the possible ramifications of the decision on the force.  That study will take time and I suspect that at some point the President and Congress will address the issue and if it is changed I expect little practical change in the military.  We will keep deploying and doing our job, some people will be upset and some won’t, but I think there has been enough societal change over the last 27 years to allow this to happen relatively smoothly.  Will some people be unhappy? Most certainly. Will crusades be mounted against it by some?  Most definitely and one is already being waged by Gordon Klingenschmitt who went on record calling Admiral Mullen a liar and others will also oppose any change.  However I think that this opposition will come more from the outside and less so from the military which is busy fighting wars and protecting the country.  If “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is repealed I expect that the military will survive and continue to do well.  I think that most will make their peace with any change and those who desire to serve their country, even those who oppose repealing the law will still elect to serve I the military.

Those are my thoughts and as I said at the beginning I remained as dispassionate as I can while still stating what I believe. After all, in the end this is all well above my pay grade.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Gordon Klingenschmitt Calls Admiral Mullen a “Liar”

How do you know when Gordon Klingenschmitt is lying?

When his lips are moving.

Well Gordon James “Chaps” Klingenschmitt a former Navy Chaplain convicted by a Special Court Martial for disobeying a lawful order not to wear his uniform to participate in a partisan political rally back in 2006 is at it again.  The defrocked Priest, former chaplain, convicted criminal, compulsive liar, and theological thug has called the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen a “liar” in an e-mail sent out through the Washington Times Marketing Showcase in which he was calling for Christians to join his petition “DEFENDING OUR TROOPS AGAINST OPEN HOMOSEXUAL AGGRESSION.” Since I received this unsolicited and poisonous e-mail I figured that thousands of others had it well. The fact that the conservative bastion Washington Times allows a man of Klingenschmitt’s low ethical and moral character to send out poison like this to collect money for his particular political-religious crusade shows me that this paper is nothing more than a shill for the extreme right wing fringe of American political and religious life.

Klingenschmitt who has little regard for truth as was evidenced during his relentless campaign against the Navy while serving as an active duty Navy Chaplain as per his standard operating procedure has one again engaged in the character assassination of yet another military officer, this time Admiral Mullen.  Klingenschmitt who has a palpable propensity to spin the truth in such a manner that it is no longer recognizable as truth; has launched this gratuitous attack against Admiral Mullen using the venomous invective that is his specialty.  The title of his e-mail reads: “Top Admiral Lies to Senate about Homosexuality.”  If I recall lying to Congress is like a felony, so not only has Klingenschmitt accused Admiral Mullen of being a liar but committing a Federal Crime.  Well I guess that Klingenschmitt knows what that is about having done it himself and then using it afterward to make a decent living off of gullible Klingenschmitt believing Christians who I sometimes refer to as the Klingenban who eager eat up his fabricated tails of being persecuted for “praying in Jesus Name.”

Since lying to congress is a pretty stiff charge to level at anyone let’s see the Klingenfraud’s leap of legal logic which allows him to make such a claim about the nation’s top military officer.  Klingenschmitt is his e-mail makes the following explanation of his case in his e-mail:

CHAIRMAN OF JOINT CHIEFS DEMANDS HOMOSEXUALS LIE TO MILITARY

Tuesday the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen deceived the Senate Armed Services Committee, repeating President Obama’s demand to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) prohibition against open homosexual aggression within the ranks of the military.  “We have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens,” Admiral Mullen fibbed, revealing his personal belief that “allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do.”

First he claims that Admiral Mullen “deceived the Senate Armed Services Committee” by “repeating President Obama’s demand to repeal “the don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) prohibition against open homosexual aggression within the ranks of the military.”  If don’t ask, don’t tell was a “prohibition against homosexual aggression in the military” then the charge might have merit, but alas Gordon is serving up his own lie.  “Don’t ask don’t tell” was designed to protect homosexuals and allow them to serve in the military with the restriction that they could not openly admit that they are homosexual and to prevent commanders or others from asking if they are homosexual which then could be used against them in judicial, non-judicial and administrative procedures which leave them with a criminal record like Mr. Klingenschmitt and end their career.  It was never designed to protect the military from “homosexual aggression” as is charged by Mr. Klingenschmitt.  The fact that the nation’s top military officer supports allowing homosexuals to serve openly is lying by saying that don’t ask, don’t tell is a “policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they areis frankly insulting to any rational human being.  The policy indeed forces these men and women to daily hide a major part of who they are in order to serve.

Now here is where Mr. Klingenschmitt’s argument gets a little bit, oh well a lot loopy.  Instead of perusing any actual point of law in regard to the crime of lying to congress he goes into an anti-homosexual screed built around his theology which is taken loosely out of Romans Chapter One but even so incoherently argued that it makes your head spin.  It as if that he believes that his interpretation of scripture places him as the judge of Admiral Mullen or anyone, especially homosexuals who dare to disagree with him.  He then makes this incredibly ignorant statement of circular logic that says in short that homosexual man are trying to be women and homosexual women are trying to be men. You have to read this to believe it:

“Here’s a simple proof:  Men who were created by God with male body parts are not women, and they lie to themselves, the world, and their commanders when they pretend to be, and act like, women.  Women who were created by God with female parts are not men, and they lie to themselves, the world, and their commanders when they pretend to be, and act like, men.” So in other words if a gay person admits to being gay they are lying about who they are because they are pretending to be the opposite sex.

He then goes on:

“Mullen’s confused argument would permit men to deceptively act like women, and women to deceptively act like men, openly deceiving themselves, the world, and their military commanders, and boldface lying against God’s very truth, that He created men to be men, and women to be women.   But today’s confusing homosexual propaganda equates “honesty” with men openly flaunting their femininity, and “truthfulness” with women openly flaunting masculinity.   Who’s really telling God’s truth?”

Gordon states that: “Admiral Mullen’s confused argument…”  You have got to be kidding.  I don’t know any homosexual men on active duty who deceptively act like women and some of the homosexual men and women who are lesbians would surprise you, manly men and feminine women.  You see Gordon Klingenschmitt attempts to impose his beliefs on others and uses the basest of stereotypes to paint homosexual men as effeminate, when only some are and homosexual women as the classic “dyke” which again pandering to the basest of prejudice which seeks to all lesbians as the crudest stereotype imaginable.  He continues on in this vein for some time and it is not worth regurgitating here.

He then launches his attack loosely paraphrasing Romans One interspersed with his own commentary to buttress his charge that Admiral Mullen lied to Congress and that homosexuals are liars and that we need to help Senator McCain to “fight this open perversion, and protect our troops from open homosexual aggression…”  The attack is disingenuous and dishonorable, but then I would expect nothing less out of a man who has made a career out of defaming others and using bully tactics to attempt to force the Navy to let him do whatever he wants.

He then makes a vicious and yet nonsensical attack at Army Lieutenant Daniel Choi a West Point Graduate.

“CBS news interviewed homosexual Army Lt. Dan Choi, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point who currently faces discharge for publicly announcing he’s gay.

“I think it’s a very healthy thing for people to be able to tell the truth and to come to terms with who they are. I think it’s a sign of maturity,” Choi said, “At my very first day at West Point, I learned that the honor code says a cadet will not lie, will not tolerate those who lie,” said Choi. “They didn’t say that a cadet who was gay could lie whereas straight cadets didn’t have to lie.”

As a USAF Academy graduate knowing the honor code, I now personally confront Choi as a liar, who now openly violates his honor oath, since he deceives himself and the world, by claiming to be feminine, when God created him masculine, with a male body.  LIAR. Choi should immediately be thrown out of the Army, not merely for sexual perversion, but for DISHONESTY AND LYING.  The only reason he graduated West Point is that he never lied by openly claiming to be feminine while a cadet, when God created him to be masculine.  THIS PROVES DON’T ASK DON’T TELL IS THE MOST HONEST POLICY, because it encourages people with sexual perversions not to openly lie about their sexual identity.  But if DADT is repealed by Congress, men will claim to be women, and women will claim to be men, and the open season of dishonesty and lying will begin.”

Klingenschmitt once again uses the argument that Choi like other homosexuals is a liar because they are honest about their sexual identity.  Whether Klingenschmitt and the Klingenban agree with this or not we live in a free country.  We don’t live in Afghanistan or Iran where guys just like Klingenschmitt, only Moslem versions, preach the same hatred and use their religion as the law of the land.  Klingenschmitt though “Christian” is no different than the Taliban and if people like him were ever to assume control of the country we would discover what fun it is to live in a country where religious fanatics have the power of the gun to enforce their law.  Lieutenant Choi in my view whether one agrees with his sexual preference has demonstrated integrity, honor and devotion to his country and never in his protest against don’t ask, don’t tell slandered his superiors.  However I digress. Klingenschmitt who did not lie about being on a combat tour on USS Anzio his combat record pales in comparison to Choi a Military Academy graduate, son of a Korean Baptist minister, Arabic and Farsi translator and interpreter who served two combat tours as an infantry officer in Iraq before returning to the National Guard was discharged under don’t ask, don’t tell when he revealed his homosexuality.  Since then he has become an advocate for ending don’t ask, don’t tell.  Both are advocates for their cause but Choi has never offered public prayers for the death of his opponents or smeared the reputations of honorable men who were his superiors either before his discharge or after.

Klingenschmitt then recites a litany of reasons of why don’t ask don’t tell should not be ended.  His e-mail makes the following points:

“Four reasons: 1) Allowing open homosexuality especially hurts unit cohesion and would cost American lives in war, damaging the trust shared in close proximity, common sleeping quarters and showering facilities that are unavoidable in close combat.  2) Men and women do not share the same showers for obvious reasons, so why force men to share showers with openly homosexual men?  This fact alone would hurt recruiting.  3) The rampant spread of the HIV-AIDS virus contaminates the blood often shared by necessity on the battlefield.  Soldiers requiring blood-transfusions and medics would be immediately endangered.  4) “Gay promotion quotas” would soon be forced upon presently impartial promotion boards, causing a burdensome rise in sexually-charged “equal opportunity” complaints against commanders, especially those who offend gays by inadvertently speaking of their traditional Judeo-Christian faith.”

First he makes the charge of decreased unit cohesion and trust but most recent polls of military personnel do not bear this out. Yes some will not be comfortable with open homosexuals in the ranks. However as I have said it is about conduct, if the standards of how one conducts themselves toward other service members are enforced uniformly there will be few problems.  Shower facilities are an issue often thrown up by people like Klingenschmitt but there is no actual facts to back it up.  His misuse of AIDs and HIV being blood donors either in combat zones or outside of them is spurious. No one with AIDS or HIV is allowed to donate blood and military personnel regulations which I helped to draft in 1987-88 forbid the deployment of HIV positive people to areas that they cannot be treated or that could endanger their medical condition.  Since HIV and AIDS is not confined to the homosexual population and is not being spread rampantly as Klingenschmitt alleges the argument is a straw man.  Finally the charge that there would be homosexual quotas for promotion is also disingenuous.

Plainly speaking Klingenschmitt has no honor. He is an expert at distortion of the facts, misusing scripture and character assassination. He has since his first days in the Navy sought to enforce his brand of Christianity on his shipmates, peers and superiors. He lodged complaints against every commanding office that he served under and with his accomplices at World Net Daily engaged in every form of malicious conduct imaginable to include clandestine recording of the his superiors informing him of his court-martial charges.  His shipmates from USS Anzio have told me in person and in comments to this site of his intimidation tactics and bullying on that ship.  Following his discharge from the Navy he has engaged in a tactic called “imprecatory prayer” against a number of adversaries, praying for God’s judgment on them and that their days be few, a comment that he says is not a prayer for their early death but in the context of the entire scriptural passage (Psalm 109: 7-11) can only be read as such.

Klingenschmitt also quoted Elaine Donnelly of the “Center for Military Readiness” a right-wing organization that features Phylliss Schafly as a member of its board of advisors, that “it is unconvincing to hold up the small, dissimilar of foreign nations…as models for America’s forces.” Well since 25 nations including our closest allies, Britain, Canada, Australia, Israel, Germany and France as well of most of NATO whose soldiers both straight and gay serve alongside of ours in Afghanistan have allowed homosexuals to serve with little or no disruption in operations or efficiency I wonder what she is getting at.  Maybe its that she feels that American military personnel are less professional than our allies and would not behave professionally if we end don’t ask, don’t tell.  It is curious that I don’t see too many elected Republicans getting on the Klingenban bandwagon…huh… perhaps they know that a large majority of voters would find their support of Klingenschmitt’s crusade unpalatable and might react negatively to them if they oppose the change. 

I have posted a myriad of links to other things that this dangerous man has done here:

http://shamefulchaplain.blogspot.com/

http://pubrecord.org/religion/3355/ex-chaplain-offered-sacrifice-jesus/

http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/press-releases/audio_recordings.html

http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2009/04/klingenschmitt_prays_for_death.php

http://blog.au.org/2007/04/05/a-matter-of-honor-the-truth-comes-out-about-former-chaplain-klingenschmitt/

http://undergroundunbeliever.blogspot.com/2009/04/continuing-tale-of-court-martialed-navy.html

http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=33868

http://faithfulprogressive.blogspot.com/2009/08/scaring-naive-christians-and-elderly.html

http://www.benedictionblogson.com/2009/04/28/the-imprecatory-prayer-of-gordon-james-klingenschmitt/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-rodda/conspiracy-theorist-milit_b_204948.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/09/AR2006010901812.html

http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2008/07/the_continued_absurdity_of_gor.php

http://bypi.blogspot.com/

http://hamptonroads.com/node/153451

http://www.britannica.com/bps/additionalcontent/18/25635760/ExChaplains-Boss-Says-Religious-Right-Tales-Inaccurate

http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389×6708951

http://www.religionnews.com/index.php?/rnstext/does_god_answer_prayers_to_do_someone_ill1/

The list can go on and on, these are but a few reports about Klingenschmitt so here are my own tributes to “Chaps” which are linked below:

https://padresteve.wordpress.com/2009/05/30/gordon-klingenschmitt-and-his-followers-the-klingenfraud-and-the-klingenban/

https://padresteve.wordpress.com/2009/08/08/oh-lord-stuck-in-lodi-again%E2%80%A6-gordon-klingenschmitt-does-lodi/

So with Klingenschmitt in the news it is right that his theological cousins in the Taliban, Iran’s President Ahamadinejad and the Mullahs seek to enforce the same standards of belief on their people as Klingenschmitt and the Klingenban seek to do here. He may be a “D-lister” but he serves an evil purpose and masquerades as a minister of light.  Klingenschmitt’s cause is not the redemption and reconciliation paramount in the Christian Gospel, but rather a twisted and hateful campaign of self promotion as he exalts not Jesus but himself and his political cause which he baptizes with Scripture verses.  This is not Waziristan and the Taliban and Al Qaeda are not in charge. Our founding fathers fought to prevent the United States from becoming a theocracy. While we cherish the role of religion in particular the Judeo-Christian tradition of this country we recognize that this is a pluralistic nation where no religion can impose its views simply because they believe that they are more correct than others and no-one including Gordon Klingenschmitt can issue a Fatwah stating otherwise.

Have fun with the links and spread the news that Gordon Klingenschmitt is coming to town.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under faith, Lies of World Net Daily, Military, Political Commentary, Religion, US Navy

Tom Watson: Gentleman, Champion and Supporter of the Troops

Tom Watson and Me

Shaking the Hand of Legendary Golfer and True Champion Tom Watson at Al Taqaddum Iraq 24 Nov 2007

My dad was a golfer.  He began golfing as he was in his last few years in the Navy.  Before he started golfing he was constantly watching it on TV when no baseball was on.  When he retired he began golfing in earnest.  It remained a lifelong passion of his even after he contracted Alzheimer’s disease.  He developed as a golfer and by his early 50’s had developed a decent handicap.  He also would help out as a volunteer at major tournaments at Pebble Beach.   Dad loved golf, but as with everything in his life he took it very seriously.  Sometimes when I visited home on leave dad would take me golfing and let me use his old clubs.  Well, since I would golf once every three to five years I would not do very well.  Before long he would be preaching at me and berating me because he said I had natural talent to hit the ball well and was wasting it.  Those were always interesting outings, as my brother Jeff can testify to himself.

Anyway, back in the 1970s when I was still living at home dad would frequently watch golf on TV.  One of his favorite players was Tom Watson.  Back in those days because of dad I was familiar with almost every major figure in the sport.  However they were not the same to me as like baseball players.  Baseball was more of my sport, though I did and still do appreciate golf and now that my shoulder is getting healed up from the beating it took in Iraq I am going to be getting out on the course on a much more frequent basis once the Minor League Baseball season is over.  The last time I was out in California my brother told me the same thing that my dad did about my ability to hit them ball.  I trust Jeff as he is a very good golfer and had coached golf at the high school level.  I think I am even more attuned to what I’m doing on the golf course because of Iraq and my PTSD.  I am much more in tune with what my body is doing at any given point of time.  I can now feel when a shoulder dips or I pull up on a shot as well as a number of other things that I never noticed before when I would go out on the course.

Because of dad I have retained a latent interest in golf.  So when I heard that Tom Watson was in the lead at the British Open while listening to my local ESPN Sports Radio 1310 on the way home from having the Undead Tooth of Terror extracted my ears perked up.  I had met Tom as well as a number of other golf legends in between missions at Al Taqaddum Air Base which was my home away from home while deployed to Iraq.  Tom and several others came through on a tour.  Now celebrities would make the rounds of Iraq and Afghanistan and I am grateful for them coming to visit, especially when things were not going well and a lot of guys were still getting killed and wounded.  Many times I was out in the far reaches when people would come through so I didn’t see many of them.  My friend Father Jose Bautista-Rojas was an escort for some dignitaries who accompanied the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen on his tour which included Lance Armstrong and Robin Williams.  Jose got to spend some time with them and got me baseball hat signed by both.  He said that Robin said that “I had better be praying for him.”  I thought that was both funny and kind.  I did meet Chuck Norris when he made his 2007 trip through Al Anbar visiting Marines.  He shook about every person’s hand and had pictures taken with them and he didn’t just go to the big bases, but some of the little remote places that I went. I would have liked to meet Robin. I have heard from a number of folks that he is great to military folks.  One thing that I noticed about the celebrities that came out, no matter who they were or what their politics, they were generally very friendly and seemed to care.  Celebrities take a lot of knocks for many reasons, some justified and others not, but when they come out to a combat zone it is appreciated.  I remember my dad talking about the Bob Hope tour that came to his ship off of Vietnam which included Sammy Davis Junior and Charro.

Anyway, I met Tom at Al Taqaddum in between mission’s right after Thanksgiving on November 24th 2007.  He and his group comprised of him David Feherty, Butch Harmon, Joe Inman, Tom Lehman and Howard Twitty were some of the finest and kindest men I have ever met while deployed.  These men took time with every Marine, Soldier and Sailor who came to see them.  They not only signed items but they gave away more things to our folks than I have seen given anywhere.  I received a hat signed by Tom and the others from the Rider Cup Team, and a picture signed by all, personalized to me.  That was really cool.  While talking with Tom I told him about my dad and his condition as well as my brother.  I asked if it would be possible to get something signed for them.  Tom got with the other guys and had a hat signed for my brother and each of the golfers inscribed a person message to my dad on the pictures.  They all expressed their well wishes to him and prayers for his health.  I was really touched by what gentlemen all of these men were.

I watched the last part of the British Open today pulling for Tom, but unfortunately he lost in the playoff to Stewart Cink after making bogey on 18. The golf miracle story ended with Tom finishing in second place, but even still he was not expected to do what he did even a week ago.  I really felt bad for him as he stood with tears in his eyes.  Despite the fact that he finished second Tom Watson to me is a gentleman, sportsman, a supporter of us who serve in unpopular wars, a man of compassion and a true Champion.  God bless you Tom and thank you for what you did for my dad while I was in Iraq.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under alzheimer's disease, celebrities, golf, iraq,afghanistan