Moral Low Ground

US Government


Last week, we told you about Sec. 1034, a proposed provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would give the President vastly expanded powers to wage war wherever, whenever and for however long he or she pleases. Yesterday the US House of Representatives voted 322 to 96 to approve the 2012 NDAA with Sec. 1034 and other deeply troubling provisions included. One of these would delay the repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy that bans openly homosexual men and women from serving in the military.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the worldwide war provision in the NDAA gives the President sweeping powers to wage war against terrorism suspects and nations suspected of harboring them anywhere in the world, including in the United States.

Sec. 1034 is the brainchild of Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) and greatly expands the already substantial powers granted the executive branch under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that Congress enacted in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The new authorization will continue for the duration of the undefined “War on Terror” and allows the President to attack countries with no connection to the 9/11 attacks, as well as countries that pose no threat to the United States.

Furthermore, the 2012 NDAA contains discriminatory provisions that would delay the repeal of DADT by requiring certification from the head of each service branch. Another provision would deny LGBT troops equal access to government facilities solely because of their sexual orientation.

“Trying to throw a roadblock up to derail ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal at this point is a desperate attempt to postpone the inevitable,” said Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “For nearly 20 years, lesbian, gay and bisexual service members have been forced to hide who they are and who they love in order to serve their country,” she added.

Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, issued this statement on the House passage of the 2012 NDAA:

The passage of the defense authorization bill with these hostile amendments included comes as no surprise, and it should not become a cause for concern as long as our allies in the Senate and the President all stand strong and refuse to support a defense bill containing these amendment… These amendments are nothing short of a waste of time by lawmakers who were sent to Washington to do serious business and waste of taxpayer money. The Pentagon, the President, and the American people have made it abundantly clear – we are moving forward and building a stronger military free of unnecessary discrimination.

Meanwhile, an amendment  to the NDAA that would have lifted the ban on insuring abortions for servicewomen who are rape or incest victims was never even considered for debate. This is a curiously and infuriatingly glaring omission, considering that in 2009 there were a staggering 3,230 reported sexual assaults in the US military. Anti-abortion ideology has clearly won out over concern for women service members’ wellbeing. Said Murphy: “It is indefensible that the House would decide against voting on an amendment to benefit our women in uniform who become pregnant as a result of rape. Women who join the military face shocking levels of sexual assault and this current ban on abortion coverage is both unfair and disgraceful.”

If there is a silver lining to all this, it is that the NDAA has less of a chance of passing a Senate vote with such shocking provisions in it. And earlier this week, President Barack Obama said he would veto the bill if it made it to his desk. Let’s hope he doesn’t flip-flop on this one like he has on so many other issues of vital importance to the survival of our democracy.

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