Breaking Things

Seb Gorka went on BBC Radio to explain how Donald has re-introduced gender apartheid into the U.S. military out of his great sense of compassion:

The military is not a microcosm of civilian society. They are not there to reflect America. They are there to kill people and blow stuff up. They are not there to be socially engineered. We want people who are transgendered to live happy lives, but we want unit cohesion and we want combat effectiveness. There are leading studies from the medical establishment, for example, that state that the transgender community has a 40 percent suicide attempt rate. That is a tragedy. We need to help those people, we don’t need to try and force them into the hierarchical military environment where they are under the utmost pressure to kill or be killed, and that is why the president is doing this out of the warmth of his consideration for this population.

This is, of course, a completely reasonable position to take, and and in no way an example of the sort of ridiculous, lickspittle propaganda one would expect from the sort of shitbird that would join a gang of Hungarian Nazis.

Apropos of nothing, here’s a poster showing how much Stalin loves the children, and totally won’t have any of them executed or imprisoned.

In the spirit of fairness, I don’t believe this policy originated with Donald personally. I assume this is part of some deal with the evangelical fringe in exchange for their unflinching support of a serial adulterer and all-around scumbag. You could be forgiven for thinking that it was Pence being allowed to push the buttons once a month, but the level of incompetence in it’s implementation belies the involvement of someone with actual experience in government. Regardless of who’s idea it was, Donald ordered it, and therefore it’s his policy now, and the parade of nonsense calling itself the Executive doesn’t really interest me enough to write about it.

What does interest me, however, is the reference to a now-infamous formulation that the job of the military is to “break things and kill people.” In fact, I’ve used this phrase myself, and while it’s clearly designed for a bumper-sticker audience, that doesn’t mean it cannot represent a shorthand guidance for the role of standing armed forces in a democratic republic.

However, like most aphorisms grunted out by self-styled conservatives, it’s difficult to determine the origins or veracity of the quote. While interned by members of the Cult of Limbaugh as a child, I was told the phrase originated with H. Norman Schwarzkopf, one of the generals involved in the first invasion of Iraq, in early 1991. As the story went, it was spoken as part of testimony he gave during congressional hearings over the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Specifically, he described the mission in those terms because “the military wasn’t a place for social experiments.”

However, trying to find a source for that quote, Google is telling me it came from Colin Powell in 1993, or during the run-up to the 1991 invasion of Iraq, or no wait, somewhere else. Easily tracking down the correct source seems elusive: the earliest source I can find online is a 1996 essay on civil-military interactions, which offers it as an unsourced phrase in quotation marks—precisely the sort of allusion I’d wanted to avoid having to make.

It seems as though most people familiar with the words these days also trace their information to Limbaugh—for all we know, those are his words, attributed it to Powell or Schwarzkopf as a means of imbuing his opinions with an air of authority. Regardless of the ultimate providence of the quote, it’s usage in the service of gender apartheid is a basic propaganda technique: an unstated assumption.

Clearly, there are transgender people living openly in America today, just as there have been for literally half a century. The Stonewall riots themselves were, as the story goes, started by transgender persons. Just as in 1991 or 1993 or whenever the actual quote got itself started. Unfortunately it’s worth pointing out that even during those eras in America’s history when members of the LGBT were strongly discriminated against, they didn’t cease to be LGBT. Cary Grant wasn’t straight 90 years ago just because he had to hide his attraction to men.

The unstated assumption, then as now, is that being a straight man is the “natural” way of the world, and “allowing” LGBT members to be themselves would be the social experiment. However, given the existence of the LGBT community in every culture in the world, obvious conclusion is obvious: those who want the military to reflect anything other than the society which supplies its members are the ones trying to maintain a social experiment. Unsurprisingly, it’s a known fascist demanding this new, “pure” military.

Further, by discriminating against transgender persons, the military is now limiting the talent pool it is able to draw from. Enforcing the wish of civilian bigots to recreate their fictional “pure” society within the military makes the military necessarily less capable of performing any mission, including the traditional one: breaking things and killing people.