Best Defense

Asking and telling: From the court-martial of Jackie Robinson to us today

The Pentagon is set to release this afternoon its report on what the troops think about lifting the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on being openly gay in the military. By coincidence, I didn’t know until last weekend that baseball great Jackie Robinson, in 1944 a lieutenant in the Army’s 758th Tank Battalion, was court-martialed ...

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The Pentagon is set to release this afternoon its report on what the troops think about lifting the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on being openly gay in the military.

By coincidence, I didn’t know until last weekend that baseball great Jackie Robinson, in 1944 a lieutenant in the Army’s 758th Tank Battalion, was court-martialed back then for refusing to move to the back of an Army bus at Fort Hood, Texas. He was acquitted on all charges and honorably discharged later in the year.

He also had been turned away when he tried to play for the baseball team at Ft. Riley, Kansas. He was told to report instead to “the colored team” — which didn’t exist. A big joke.

It all reminds me of a talk I attended years ago at the Naval War College by Richard Danzig, who was then secretary of the Navy. He began by showing a few photographs, including one illustrating the racism of a Navy ship’s crew during World War II. This was “the Greatest Generation,” he observed, yet they did this. So, he asked, what are we doing now that our descendants will shake their heads over and wonder how could we be so head-slappingly stupid?

My candidates:

  • Discriminating against gays
  • Eating meat (I write this as someone who is going to cook a great beef bourguignon later today)
  • Denying global warming

Any other guesses?

(HT to PC)

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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