Monday, October 25, 2010


Maybe you saw this:

Barney Frank's Republican House challenger Sean Bielat argued this weekend that gay people should be as accepting of the fact that they can't serve in the military -- since people under 5'2" tall are also prohibited.

"There's no absolute right to serve. Men under the height of 5 feet, 2 inches can't serve -- I don't see anybody protesting," Bielat said, according to the
Boston Herald. "Where are the people standing in front of the White House, the short guys standing in front of the White House? You don't see it."

"We understand that there's no absolute right to serve in all these other areas," he went on....

Apart from the sheer absurdity of the comparison, Bielat has his height data wrong -- the service branches have different standards, but the Army will actually let men in if they're 5'0" or taller (up to 6'8"), while women have to be between 4'10" and 6'8" (PDF). In the Marines -- Bielat's a Marine vet -- everyone, male or female, has to be between 4'10" and 6'8".

Maybe it's nitpicking to point out that Bielat's numbers are wrong. But can you imagine the right-wing snickering if a Democrat got something about the military wrong, however trivial, in a public statement?

The real point here is that, yes, there are height restrictions in the service -- but no short (or very tall) person is being kicked out because large percentages of the population think very short or very tall servicemembers are inherently immoral and are going to hell. No one thinks they destroy unit cohesion. No one compares them to drunks and child molesters and animal shaggers and Nazis.

Additionally, there are height waivers offered in some cases. And, as I found when I looked at this military Web board, on which a 4'8" woman was aking about a possible waiver to join the Air Force, there are practical reasons given for the restrictions:

If you have a guaranteed job in mind and can tie your waiver to it, you'll be in good shape. If your intended job is short, pardon the pun, on personnel worldwide, then they'll most likely grant the waiver. What your recruiter won't tell you is about your mobility commitments. Yes, the Air Force likes to "play Army" too. You do need to know that uniforms aren't your only concern. Chemical warfare clothing cannot be altered and if your proportions are very small, you could be at risk during a chemical attack. Carrying the M-16 using its shoulder harness will be very uncomfortable because the butt of the rifle will smack you in the back of the legs when you walk. Alice packs (backpacks) will not fit you properly and can't be adjusted down short enough for you. You'd be carrying the load instead of using your hips and back. Flack vests will not fit you if your torso is too short and that is one piece of equipment you want to fit perfectly. If it doesn't, you spend all day fighting it and it will hamper your ability to move quickly. You need that for donning chemical masks or unholstering your weapon.

And you know what? A large group of short people probably could make a case for changing the rules -- and if their case was good, a lot of us would support them, too.

(I say all this, by the way, as the son of a 5'3" World War II veteran. My father's brother, who I'm sure wasn't tall either, died in that war.)


On a related subject, you may have seen the vile Washington Times editorial "Queer Eye for the G.I.":

... The destructive force unleashed by the Pentagon's collaboration with the leftist agenda is apparent from the circus created when homosexual activists like Dan Choi sashayed over to the Times Square recruiting center to make a political point in the short period in which the Phillips order [blocking Don't Ask, Don't Tell] was effective. Leftists are only interested in political points and symbolism here. Providing defense to the nation in the most effective way possible is the furthest thing from their mind. Treating military recruitment primarily as a diversity issue opens up a closet full of absurdities. On what basis, then, would the military discriminate against the elderly? Why can't grandpa become a paratrooper? Should the military not reject someone merely because he is handicapped? Why not a wheelchair-bound infantryman? ...

The sewer nature of this -- "sashayed," "closet" -- speaks for itself. But beyond that: hasn't some of the selling of the Bush wars included heart-tugging stories about wounded troops very much including amputees -- who've returned to active duty in combat zones? (And that's in addition to the famous Bush-jogs-with-an-amputee-vet photo op.) And as for age, the oldest enlistee to die in Iraq was 60 years old; the call-up for the wars has included at least one 70-year-old reservist and 70-year-old surgeon. Those are exceptional cases (and, in the case of the call-ups, rather appalling) -- but does the Times ever editorialize about them? Not so I've ever noticed.

And if we're talking about who is and who isn't primarily interested in "providing defense to the nation in the most effective way possible," I'll just remind you that Dan Choi is an Arabic linguist, one of dozens of gay Arabic and Farsi linguists who've been dismissed from the service in recent years. Who thinks we've got a surplus of people with those skills that we can spare so many? Not us liberals, Washington Times.

(Via Steve Benen and Adam Serwer.)

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