Private First Class Bradley Manning is a traitor to the United States of America, and his choice to use “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as a defense for treason is a betrayal of all gay and lesbian service members past and present. Whatever his reasons or excuses, Bradley Manning does not deserve the sympathy of the LGBT community.
Upon enlistment into the Army, Manning swore to defend the United States from enemies both foreign and domestic, yet by stealing and publicly distributing classified material through WikiLeaks he turned against his own country and became the enemy. Perhaps his decision was an emotional outburst, reactionary or immature, but it was a conscious decision made by a trained professional soldier entrusted with a security clearance.
Manning not only violated security protocol and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, he violated the trust of his colleagues, the Army and his countrymen. Now that he prepares to stand trial, he has shown himself to be willing to sacrifice honorable gay and lesbian service members to avoid responsibility for his actions. Lawyers for Manning are claiming that his struggle with his sexual orientation contributed to emotional problems that should have precluded him from working in a classified environment. This shameful defense is an offense to the tens of thousands of gay service members who served honorably under DADT. We all served under the same law, with the same challenges and struggle. We did not commit treason because of it.
Log Cabin Republicans have long advocated that one’s sexual orientation should not be grounds for discrimination or dismissal in the workplace. As conservatives, we believe in the meritocracy of one’s labor. Good behavior and excellent performance come with reward and encouragement. Bad behavior and poor performance come with punishment and corrective measures. To justify misbehavior in the workplace because of minority status is detrimental to the morale and performance of others. For Manning’s legal counsel at Fort Meade to suggest that his orientation and/or gender identity be part of a defense or excuse for his behavior is as unacceptable as the use of a “gay panic” defense by a murderer.
As a combat veteran and current reserve intelligence officer, I have testified to Congress that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a hindrance to service member integrity, readiness, security and was a waste of tax dollars. Members of Congress learned that forcing service members to hide or lie about their sexual orientation undermined service members’ responsibility and accountability under the UCMJ.
I told lawmakers that dishonesty was inherently counter to the long-held Army values of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage. Repeal advocates also warned that dishonesty and lying are security threats. The fact that Bradley Manning’s failure may be a predictable result of the corrupting influence of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” does not excuse him from personal responsibility for his crime.
Today, sexual orientation is no longer a barrier for one to serve their country with honor. It should never be a defense for dishonor.
R. Clarke Cooper is executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. He was a diplomat in the Bush administration, a combat veteran of the Iraq campaign and serves as a strategic intelligence officer in the Army Reserve with a Top Secret/SCI clearance at Fort Meade, Md.