Code of HonorEllen Goodman's excellent article in The Sun...


July 30, 1993

Code of Honor

Ellen Goodman's excellent article in The Sun July 13 makes the point that the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy won't work. She's right, but saying it keeps gays in the closet (a place, polls indicate, the majority of Americans think gays should be anyway) doesn't go far enough to explain exactly why it won't work.

It won't work because, as we all know from past experience, young people are keenly interested in each other's sexuality.

It's not difficult to imagine a situation where talk in the barracks turns to something like, "What did you do Saturday night?" A gay soldier must either come up with a very creative and convincing lie or keep silent.

Either way, people begin to notice that someone who never does the usual things on Saturday night has something to cover up.

Then the question becomes more direct -- "Are you gay?" In answer to this, military policy requires that a person lie. A yes answer can get one booted out.

And a non-answer? Besides being laughably unbelievable after a while, the military system, we are told over and over again by the top brass, is based on a code of honor. It begins with the honor code at West Point and goes all the way down to watching over a buddy's wallet while he or she is in the shower.

Any honor code, in order to work, must be based on honesty -- that is, on not lying. The policy won't work because it puts the military in the position of explicitly encouraging its people to lie under certain situations.

People, of course, lie all the time. But I don't know of any agency of the government that has an official policy encouraging people to lie.

Where should the lying stop? Should one lie about his or her performance on the rifle range or on the yearly physical exams? How about lying in the supply room? The possibilities are endless.

Unfortunately, it's a fact of life in the military that one is provided with many opportunities to lie. What keeps the military honor system going at all is the penalty for lying, which is dishonor and discharge.

If this is true, then it's obvious that "don't ask, don't tell" is a stupid policy which can only undermine the morale not only of the gay soldiers but all the soldiers serving in the armed forces.

"Don't ask, don't tell" means the closet all right. It also means lying as an official policy and the end of the military code of honor.

J. R. Conrad


Right of Way

I read with interest your coverage (July 15) of the collision between the Moran tugboat Cape Romaine and the sailboat Lady Jane. I hope you will continue to provide follow-up coverage of this case.

I am afraid you have been misinformed, or that you have misunderstood your "several sources" from which you obtained the misinformation that "a 'steamship' over 66 feet in length has the right of way over all vessels." The closest thing I can find to this in federal law in Inland Rule 9(b), 33 USC 2009: "A vessel of less than 20 meters in length or a sailing vessel shall not impede the passage of a vessel which can safely navigate only within a narrow channel or fairway" (emphasis added).

It will be interesting to see whether this rule applies to the facts of the case. However, the rule clearly does not give any vessel over 66 feet in length a blanket right of way over all others.

William M. Riley


The writer is a forensic examiner for the American Admiralty

Bureau, Ltd.

Shaky Statistics

When one has a valid argument, as Jessica Monthony does in her letter of July 14, and when one builds a solid case for it, as Ms. Monthony did, and when one presents cogent and convincing evidence to buttress her points, as Ms. Monthony has, then why, after doing such a good job of getting everyone with half a brain on her side, does she want to risk blowing the whole thing by spouting totally ridiculous, spurious and unsupportable statistics?

No one with any sense, outside of a lunatic fringe who will take as gospel anything they see in print, believes that "25 percent of women are raped while in college" or that "at least 13 percent of all women have been forced into prostitution in their lifetimes."

Even the most committed feminist must question both the size )) and the precision of such numbers. By making such eyebrow-raising statements, which defy belief and cannot possibly be verified or proven, Ms. Monthony detracts from the weightiness of her argument and causes herself to be taken less seriously than she deserves.

The reader who wants to nod his or her head in agreement with the points in Ms. Monthony's letter and in support for the thrust of her arguments instead is tempted, because of those common-sense-defying statistics, to shake the head and say "Jessica Monthony is full of baloney."

Harris Factor



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