Stories by RD

RD is the pseudonym of a 10-year armed services veteran recently returned from Afghanistan.

The GOP Drops the Fight Against Gay Rights

August 24th, 2010 at 12:28 pm 155 Comments

When Bill Clinton moved to open the military to gays in 1993, ampoule the GOP and conservative Democrats led the effort to oppose gay rights. In 1996, find Hawaii flirted with gay marriage and the GOP again led the charge against gay equality, pilule culminating in the federal response known as the “Defense of Marriage Act”.

Flash forward fourteen years to the present. Gay marriage is ruled a federal right for the first time and the response from the GOP is… tepid. Not one nationally prominent elected official thought the issue was important enough to get worked up over. The only cries of outrage were from politically active religious groups.

Recently when both the Senate Armed Services Committee and the U.S. House voted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, hardly a critical peep was heard regarding the votes of leading GOP figures (with the exception of John McCain who was facing a conservative primary challenger).

Complicating matters for social conservatives, polls show even a majority of Republican voters support abolishing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

These swift changes in the GOP from gay bashing a la Patrick Buchanan’s 1992 convention speech towards tolerance and even support of gay equality is both astonishing and alarming to elements of the far right. Several prominent social conservatives have decried these changes. WorldNetDaily Editor David Kupelian recently wrote “Much of conservatism has now morphed into libertarianism…even high profile conservative warriors seem to be abandoning the gay issue” and went on to list recent examples of gay rights making progress within the GOP such as Glenn Beck’s announcement that gay marriage presents no threat to America, Ann Coulter addressing the gay conservative group GOProud, and CPAC’s refusal to ban GOProud. Social conservative Robert Knight bemoaned the fact that Republicans are increasingly supportive of gay equality in his column “Smarter than God”; and the American Family Association’s radio host Bryan Fischer also blasted Republicans for failing to sufficiently support the anti-gay cause.

This past week the Washington Blade even published an article titled “Conservatives take the lead in marriage fight” arguing that libertarian-leaning conservatives are advancing gay rights, perhaps more so than Democrats. Who would have thought in 1992 we would one day see Republicans lauded by the gay press?

The list of conservatives supporting gay equality is growing – from the many Republican appointed judges who have ruled in favor of various gay rights cases, to GOP Solicitor General Ted Olson, Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and even the ultraconservative former Vice President Dick Cheney. Nowadays Margaret Hoover of Fox News sits on the board of GOProud alongside conservative Grover Norquist; and even Elisabeth Hasselbeck has come out in support of gay marriage rights.

A growing list of conservative writers and activist have endorsed various gay causes as well. Philip Klein at the American Spectator and talking head Mike Gallagher oppose “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and pundit George Will has remarked that with changing attitudes and demographics, “homosexuality will soon be a non-issue in the military”.

A telling incident occurred this past week when an Iowa Republican candidate made anti-gay remarks and the state GOP chairman publicly rebuked him, claiming  his statements were “inappropriate and in no way represent the beliefs of the Republican Party of Iowa”.

What is happening to the GOP? First our elected officials tire of bashing gays and now our pundits? Perhaps Republicans are beginning to see the writing on the wall. Public opinion is changing rapidly in favor of gay marriage rights. In just 10 years gay marriage has become legal in 10 countries, 5 U.S. States and the District of Columbia. A just released CNN poll found half of all U.S. citizens now support gay marriage and Columbia researcher Suzanne Goldberg reported on CNN that “research indicates younger people are beginning to see sexual orientation as a benign variation”.  Even the Tea Party has generally sat on the sideline on social issues, preferring to focus on matters of economics and less government.

The religious right may be having a conniption, but younger Republicans increasingly appear to believe that opposing gay equality is inconsistent with a belief in increased liberty and smaller government. Although the religious right will continue to be a strong presence in the GOP for years to come, changing demographics are not on the side of anti-gay forces and the GOP appears to be awakening to this reality.

Fighting for a Country That Thinks I’m Second Class

April 13th, 2010 at 10:05 pm 75 Comments

RD is the pseudonym of a 10-year armed services veteran recently returned from Afghanistan.  A psychologist and long-serving veteran, tadalafil this officer had to deal with both the traumas of the troops in front of him, sovaldi sale and the psychic wound of his own situation: the risk that if he spoke frankly about his life to any colleague, discount he could find himself ejected from the war and the army.  This is the fourth in a series of excerpts from his journal.

I had a very bad session with my workout partner tonight. He is the person I am closest to in Afghanistan yet even he knows very little about my life. He asked if I was married and I lied, telling him I was divorced. Damn. I hate lying; I can count on one hand how often I have told a lie in the past 20 years. Yet if I told him I was a never-married, 42-year-old male it would have been too risky. If I told the truth I could be fired and go home to face unemployment. Why in the world would any soldier be fired for being honest? Because I am a gay soldier and it is illegal to say so. It is illegal for me to tell not just anyone in the military but anyone in the world – my parents, my siblings – even my best friend. Despite repeated studies by the Pentagon over the past 50 years that clearly suggest gays pose no threat to unit cohesion or morale; social conservatives insist that it is so and have passed laws demanding that gay Americans be fired if we are honest – even with our closest friends or family members. Being honest should never be illegal. This law results in gay military members being socially isolated from our peers, our friends and our families so that others will not get to know us lest they discover that we are gay. We could be turned in by anyone. It also means we cannot date anyone – even on our own time and out of uniform. So we can only keep our jobs if we lie, pretend, and remain isolated — celibate and alone. How is a law with such cruel consequences considered Christian? Lying is never good but it is the law so what else can I do? As a result of being so angry I was quiet during the workout and my gym partner expressed concern but I could not tell him why. It would have been illegal.

Moral laws do not force people to lie or pretend to be something they are not (a kind of lie itself). Even worse this law creates barriers between people and mandates a certain level of isolation and loneliness. It will drive me from the military. It is the main reason I am leaving the service when I return from Afghanistan. Despite a severe shortage of psychologists and two wars the military will lose me. I believed at one time I could live with the unfairness and the cruel message implied by “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) – that Americans like me are second class citizens, unwelcomed, unequal and unaccepted – not just in the military but by society. Make no mistake about it, DADT is intended by its supporters to convey just such a cruel message.

If I had accepted that I was gay I would never have joined the military – I naively thought I would “change” if only I met the “right” girl or was a good enough Christian. But when the people of California voted to strip the over 1,000 legal rights afforded married couples from gay Californians I decided I could no longer serve in the military. Why should I put my life at risk to defend the freedom of Americans who think so little of me and my relationships that they would take rights away from me? I was floored by the unfairness and the way rights were stripped away – by a simple vote – what the founding fathers called “the tyranny of the majority”. I am appalled that many Republicans support such attacks on freedom, liberty and limited government. One can be opposed to gay marriage by not entering such a marriage – but it is cruel to deny 1,000 legal rights to a couple just because you personally don’t believe in it. Barry Goldwater would be so ashamed of what has happened to the GOP. We are supposed to be the party of individual liberty. Ironic isn’t it? The party of big government favors government getting out of our lives while the party of less government favors more government involvement in our lives.

Extremists at Home and Abroad

April 12th, 2010 at 2:01 pm 42 Comments

RD is the pseudonym of a 10-year armed services veteran recently returned from Afghanistan.  A psychologist and long-serving veteran, ask this officer had to deal with both the traumas of the troops in front of him, and the psychic wound of his own situation: the risk that if he spoke frankly about his life to any colleague, he could find himself ejected from the war and the army.  This is the third in a series of excerpts from his journal.

Observing fundamentalism here in the Afghan locals got me thinking. Psychiatry defines mental illness as existing within individuals. If a person’s thoughts, feelings, or behaviors create an impairment or significant clinical distress, that person is said to have a mental illness. But what if societies – like individuals – can also be more or less healthy, even exhibiting “group psychopathology”? It is no secret that some societies are physically healthier than others – why would some societies not be mentally healthier than others as well?

The Taliban – just like the religious right – tend to view the world through a distorted “us versus them” lens where people are either with you or against you – and if one side “wins”, the other side must somehow “lose”. These groups exhibit a siege mentality, viewing themselves as constantly threatened by change and “outsiders”. They focus on differences rather than similarities – and see themselves as superior because of these differences. They reject any who do not conform to their concrete, inflexible beliefs. The Taliban and the Religious Right are both superstitious, using intimidation and coercion (and sometimes violence) to enforce their beliefs. Both groups have a warped sense of honor that encourages lying and hypocrisy (see Senator Craig’s bathroom arrest and Rev. Haggard’s escort scandal, to name a few examples). Interestingly both groups reject scientific findings that do not square with their literal interpretation of scripture – such as evolution. They believe it is their duty to tell others how to live – and often become upset or alarmed when others do not live according to their beliefs. On the other hand healthy groups that base decision making on logic and reason are open and accepting of differences, encourage a “live and let live” mentality that stays out of each other’s private business, promote peace and are significantly less violent.

You figure this out: which society is more flexible, happier, and peaceful … Switzerland or Pakistan? In which society are citizens more likely to murder or to physically attack someone because they are different? Which society is more likely to go to war? Just as we have a diagnostic manual for individual psychopathology perhaps we need a diagnostic manual for group psychopathology. Let’s be honest here – the Amish are not violent – and neither are Quakers. Neither the Amish nor Quakers have ever started a war or a revolution; radical Islam has. The problem is the way the group thinks. The idea of “group psychopathology” parallels the idea of “individual psychopathology” that is already widely accepted. However, the idea of group psychopathology is unpopular because it goes against the unfounded but idealistic multicultural belief that all cultures are to be embraced as equally good. Yet in the real world all cultures are not equally good – and in fact, some cultures are very bad. It’s time we accepted this reality. It’s also time we looked at what kinds of fruits our way of thinking is producing – and America is a very violent place compared to much of the civilized world. Why we accept the high level of personal assaults, domestic violence and murders we have in our society is beyond me. I do not mean to criticize Christianity and I am not doing so – I have no problem with Christianity or even with Islam – my concern is with the fundamentalist elements in both religions who seek to force their beliefs on all of society through politics, intimidation or violence.

We need to look at what kind of thinking in the Middle East – and in America – leads to better results for society. Everything I have said in this entry could be applied not just to religious fundamentalist but to the Timothy McVeighs and the Michigan Militias of the world. The thoughts and beliefs of extremists (religious or otherwise) lead them to engage in behaviors that are detrimental to society. Let’s be honest here – how many devout Presbyterians or reformed Jews in America commit violent acts against their fellow Americans or work to deny their fellow citizens equal treatment under the law? None – because practicing Presbyterians and Reformed Jews do not engage in the all-or-nothing, black-or-white thought styles common to fundamentalist Christians and Muslims.  There is a lesson in that.

Pushing Our Troops to the Breaking Point

April 11th, 2010 at 2:00 am 38 Comments

RD is the pseudonym of a 10-year armed services veteran recently returned from Afghanistan.  A psychologist and long-serving veteran, medical this officer had to deal with both the traumas of the troops in front of him, viagra sale and the psychic wound of his own situation: the risk that if he spoke frankly about his life to any colleague, he could find himself ejected from the war and the army.  This is the second in a series of excerpts from his journal.

I have spent all day and evening seeing soldiers who are depressed and angry. Many soldiers in one unit believe their commander is pushing them beyond the breaking point. The soldiers I saw 3 days ago came in and only two had been held back from further missions so they could rest and recuperate. These were the soldiers who had five hours sleep in 72 hours, fought two firefights, had three buddies killed, and four evacuated for heat exhaustion. Since 2 May they still have not had time to rest – despite a medical recommendation from the physician assistant and me. They have been working over 12 hours each day and often missing meals. In addition they have been tasked with other assignments outside the 12 hour work day, including four-hour guard shifts. They came by just now extremely angry, voiced feeling betrayed by their unit, and expressed the belief Command did not care about the troops.

One soldier stated the only way Command would ever realize how overstretched his men are would be if he started killing people. He then stated he was so angry he would kill his Commander and no one could stop him. Remember, these soldiers are holding automatic weapons in my office as we are talking. They have grenades attached to their vest. This soldier was not particularly coherent; he rambled, needing food and sleep badly – just as he had when I saw him previously.

Yet in all fairness, the Command has a war mission to accomplish and does not have enough troops for what it must do, and failure is simply not an option. So I understand where Command is coming from. With a nearby outpost just overran by the Taliban our commanders have no choice but to beef up manning at every other outpost and to pursue the Taliban while the trail is hot. If we did not do this we risked having other outposts overrun and even more U.S. soldiers killed. Every commander here tells me they plead for more troops but can’t get any – the focus right now is in the South.

Despite these problems, I again spoke with this member’s Command, only this time I made a written formal recommendation that the soldier be removed from weapons-bearing duties due to homicidal ideation, which in effect means he cannot work in a combat zone. I recommended a re-evaluation in 24 hours and that he be given a designated period for rest with no work. This time Command agreed. If they would have done this the first time I requested it the soldier would have been good by now, but since they didn’t they will have to find someone else to go on the mission he was scheduled to go on tomorrow, only three hours after his next guard shift was to end.

Good God we need more troops at this FOB. The troops here now are scheduled to go home in less than 45 days and four soldiers I saw today emphatically declared they could not make it another month due to the high ops-tempo. It is brutal. I have rarely seen soldiers in uniform cry in my office – much less in front of their peers, yet I have seen this every day since Baria Alai was overrun. If we had more troops here we would have far less stress. I am growing increasingly concerned that a soldier will harm either himself or someone else at this FOB if the ops-tempo does not decrease. But only the Generals can decide where troops go and they are sending Obama’s “surge” of troops to the South while we are in the northeast. It is very frustrating.

Our only comfort is knowing this operation will die down at some point and everyone will go back to complaining about being bored. War is long periods of intense boredom separated by relatively brief periods of excitement. Right now we could all use some boredom again. I feel conflicted between being a psychologist and being a military officer. Who is the client in this situation, the Army or the soldier sitting in front of me in tears?

A Gay Officer at War

April 10th, 2010 at 12:45 am 51 Comments

RD is the pseudonym of a 10-year armed services veteran recently returned from Afghanistan.  A psychologist and long-serving veteran, viagra this officer had to deal with both the traumas of the troops in front of him, decease and the psychic wound of his own situation: the risk that if he spoke frankly about his life to any colleague, healing he could find himself ejected from the war and the army.  This is the first in a series of excerpts from his journal.

This journal began as an attempt to capture what it is like to deploy in Afghanistan.

The first surprise is how extensive the waste, fraud and soldier frustration is because of the rigid Pentagon bureaucracy. What I found was how the military wastes millions of tax-payer dollars every year while degrading military readiness. I was stunned by how much was wasted because it was “the wrong color money”; because “if we don’t spend it we won’t get it next year” and because “the rules say so” – not so much because something actually improved our war-fighting ability.

I was shocked at how many hours and days were wasted on “mandatory training” that duplicated training I already received but was not accepted because the training was Air Force (and I was with the Army) or Army (and I was with the Air Force). In fact, as I write this introduction I am still in Afghanistan without an M16. The reason? Because I qualified on an Army range and the Air Force does not recognize Army training. I also lack access to the military’s secure secret internet protocol network and, you guessed it – because my computer security training was through the Air Force – which the Army does not recognize. As a result I am at a small remote post in a combat zone without an M16 and without secure means of communicating with my Commander. I am continually amazed at how dysfunctional the bureaucracy can be.

A second surprise is how inefficient and corrupt everything appears to be in Afghanistan. The natives routinely overcharge Americans by outrageous amounts even for work projects that benefit solely the Afghan people, with often shoddy results. Yet Americans continue to do business with Afghanis in an effort to “win their hearts and minds” but as soon as the money dries up – so does the loyalty. During my time in Afghanistan it has become increasingly clear that our victory hinges largely on buying the loyalty of locals through large infusions of U.S. tax dollars into the hands of corrupt local officials.

And last, the third surprise is how the religious fundamentalists in Afghanistan are strikingly similar to religious fundamentalists in America – who are also trying to force their literal interpretation of Holy Scripture onto everyone else through laws. While I served in Afghanistan the American “cultural war” exploded with California’s Proposition 8 and the pending discharge of an 18-year decorated combat pilot under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

A psychologist is also allowed to roam almost anywhere on a military post in Afghanistan – part of my job is to walk around and get to know people. As a result I have access to Artillery, Infantry, Medics, Logistics and every other area on post. My job is to get to know soldiers, assess the stresses they are under and make recommendations to Command on how to reduce combat and operational stress. Of course I also meet individually with soldiers for traditional counseling sessions, and in these sessions soldiers here in a combat zone would open up and share their innermost thoughts and concerns. I was honored to be here with them. As a result I heard their own thoughts on the war, on locals, and on their own battles with bureaucracy and waste.  I was also there with them to see everything for myself – a chief reason why I traveled to the various remote combat outposts. Soldiers would often invite me to travel with them on foot patrols in the mountains and villages of Afghanistan and I always tried to accommodate them.

I enjoyed my time with them. The men and women of the United States Army are some of the finest people on Earth. They consistently exhibit a “can do” attitude even in the most difficult of circumstances and accomplish feats which far exceed reasonable expectations; and they do so without complaining. What is truly amazing is that these outstanding soldiers are so often in their late teens and early twenties. They are absolutely incredible, but then isn’t that why we call them “Heroes”?

More to come…