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Tilting at Windmills

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May 20, 2009

LT. COL. FEHRENBACH.... Rachel Maddow's introduction of the segment on Lieutenant Colonel Victor J. Fehrenbach last night told a rather remarkable story.

"[Fehrenbach is] an F-15 fighter pilot, 18-year veteran of the United States Air Force," Rachel explained. "On Sept. 11, Lt. Col. Fehrenbach was picked to be part of the initial alert crew immediately after the 9/11 attacks. The following years, in 2002, he deployed to Kuwait, where he flew combat missions over Afghanistan, attacking Taliban and al Qaeda targets. After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Lt. Col. Fehrenbach deployed there, flying combat missions in support of mission Iraqi Freedom.

"Over the span of his career, he has flown 88 combat missions, including missions that were the longest mission sorties in the history of his squadron. He's logged more than 2,000 flying hours, nearly 1,500 fighting hours, 400 combat hours. Lt. Col. Fehrenbach is also highly decorated -- he's received nine air medals, including one for heroism. After 18 years of active duty in the Air Force, this experienced, decorated fighter pilot says he is ready and willing to deploy again. He's ready to do what his country and the United States Air Force ask of him."

Except, Fehrenbach will no longer able to serve, because the Air Force is kicking him out of the military because he's gay. This genuine American war hero, who's put his life on the line over and over again, and who the U.S. government has invested $25 million in training, is two years from retirement. Instead of thanking him for his extraordinary service, the country he's served with honor and distinction is firing him for his sexual orientation.

Just once, I wanted to hear someone explain why the United States is stronger, safer, and more secure with Lt. Col. Fehrenbach out of the military.

The news comes the same day as word from the Pentagon that officials have barely begun to review the policy.

This is not only unacceptable, it's inexplicable. In the midst of two wars, these decisions are nothing short of madness.

The White House continues to say the president supports repealing DADT, but is looking for Congress to change the law. Fine. In the meantime, as the LA Times reports today, the president has short-term alternatives: "Under the 'stop-loss' provision, Obama can issue executive orders to retain any soldier deemed necessary to the service in a time of national emergency, the report said. The president also could halt the work of Pentagon review panels that brand troops as gay and thus excluded from service, the report said. And Obama and his Defense secretary could revise discharge procedures, as allowed under the 1993 law banning gays in the military."

I realize the administration would catch some flak for this. Obama should do it anyway.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (43)

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Comments

As taxpayers, can't we just sue whoever actually implements DADT for the money they're costing us, the lost investment in these guys?

Posted by: theAmericanist on May 20, 2009 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

It's not clear how, but the military clearly has its grasp firmly on Obama's you-know-whats.

Posted by: K in VA on May 20, 2009 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

K - It is not just Obama's, they've got mine and yours as well

Posted by: Maineiac on May 20, 2009 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

however good a president he may turn out to be, this makes me lose all respect for Obama as an individual. he claims to oppose DADT, yet does nothing while absolute injustices are perptrated on good and honorable people - injustices he could stop with little more than a word or stroke of a pen.

imagine walking down a street and seeing a woman on the other side being raped and stabbed, and walking by telling your friend "yeah, I oppose rape and murder, but this can't be solved overnight. I'll call the city council tomorrow and see if they can up the police patrols" and having not another though about the fate of the woman you saw. Who thinks like that?

morally, that is what Obama is doing here. Fehrenbach is about to be totally screwed over just short of retirement and Obama will do nothing, even though it would keep our country safer (safer still would be stopping the discharge of translators, but Steve's covered that extensively.)

reprehensible.

Posted by: zeitgeist on May 20, 2009 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

Not only the military has Obama by the short hairs, but AIPAC, the bankers, and Dick Cheney have all got their dirty mitts in there.

Why is it that Bush could be stupid, arrogant, and unilateral, get us into two wars with lying, dissembling, and propaganda, tearing up the constitution along the way, and get away with it? And Obama behaves like a cowering puppy after being disciplined for not being housebroken.

It gets more disgusting by the day.

Posted by: rRk1 on May 20, 2009 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

Obama and his brethren in Congress are making calculated decisions based solely on how they'll affect future elections. They're weighing how many votes will be lost if they're seen as reneging on past promises. Gaining new voters or keeping crossover voters must be weighed against retaining loyal Democrats that thought Obama was truthful in his campaign. The number of those faithful dupes willing to stick with the administration must be high for all the promises Obama is willing to abandon. Or so he hopes.

Posted by: steve duncan on May 20, 2009 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

If Obama fails to immediately and fully restore Fehrenbach's active duty status, then I'm afraid there is only one word for him: coward.

The trimming, the parsing, the careful calibration has to end here.

Posted by: bluestatedon on May 20, 2009 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

Your move, Mr. President. We're all watching.

Posted by: shortstop on May 20, 2009 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

A few years ago, I watched a program on the Military Channel - A lady who thought she was close to the dictator of a cruel regime learned about some despicable work which was being done by his underlings. She thought, "If only he knew". When, she had a chance to meet with him at his retreat, she, passionately told him the news. He became furious, said "You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs", and had her kicked out and barred.

This is not to equate Obama with a cruel regime. However, I thought of this when Max Baucus had five Single Payer protesters arrested and threw SP overboard. I thought "If only Obama knew" - Well, in New Mexico, I found out he not only knew, but had decided on his own to kick SP out the window. So, this lack of fortitude for over ruling DADT comes from him. Obama, not only knows, he cares more for political expediency than moral courage. For Shame, Mr President.

Posted by: berttheclock on May 20, 2009 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

er, "thrown" - As BlueGirl has said on countless occasions, preview, then post.

Posted by: berttheclock on May 20, 2009 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

a person gives their life to the military and this is our thanks. The man flew hundreds of combat hours and we show him the door? DADT is an insult to humanity.

Posted by: johnnymags on May 20, 2009 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

Your move, Mr. President. We're all watching.

Posted by: shortstop
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

No shortstop, hating on gays isn't the same as abusing African-Americans, Latinos, the handicapped, elderly or women. Each of those groups rain hell on politicians that marginalize them and easily solicit sympathy from the public at large for perceived or real slights. Causing gays harm might piss off what, the 10% of the population that is either gay or very close to someone gay? Nah, abandoning promises made to gay people isn't yet the real loser that a politician sweats. No more so than messing with bass fishermen or grandfather clock makers. Teh gay can go to hell.

Posted by: steve duncan on May 20, 2009 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

Instead of thanking him for his extraordinary service, the country he's served with honor and distinction is firing him for his sexual orientation.

What might one expect, from a nation that can elect a tail-tucking, yellow-dog coward who gets his noogies off from watching torture videos as the previous administration's vice president?!?

Posted by: S. Waybright on May 20, 2009 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

This is just an excuse for cost-cutting, no — avoid having to pay the pension? I bet there's evidence they knew he was gay long ago....

Posted by: rabbit on May 20, 2009 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

Causing gays harm might piss off what, the 10% of the population that is either gay or very close to someone gay?

That percentage is much too low. And while I agree that continuing to discriminate against gays and lesbians is still a position politicians can get away with, and share your intense frustration with this, Quinnipiac's poll from last month has voters in favor of DADT repeal, 56-37 percent. Among military families, that's 50-43 percent.

I don't know whether there's enough hard support to get Obama off his ass on this. My sense is that there isn't. But the only way we may accomplish something is by keeping people like Fehrenbach front and center in the public eye.

Posted by: shortstop on May 20, 2009 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

A true American hero, just like all the soliders who are fighting, or have fought, to keep us safe. Let's not forget the soldiers who do not make the news.

Obama won't touch this issue. He has no desire to change the status quo. Nor did he.

He simply pandered to the electorate during the elections. He pandered to everyone during the elections. To think he will keep even a simple of majority of those promises is insane.

He is just another politician.

Posted by: Irving on May 20, 2009 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

"Under the 'stop-loss' provision, Obama can issue executive orders to retain any soldier deemed necessary to the service in a time of national emergency ..."

As has been done in previous wars. How do you think San Francisco became a center for gay men? A high percentage of them were in the military and demobilized at San Francisco at war's end.

And how cynical such a move would be! Right, gay men and lesbians are good enough to be shot at (cannon fodder) or to serve during hot wars, but not good enough to keep as career soldiers. Ugh.

Using a "stop-loss" order to retain gay and lesbian military members only to discard them when the war is over is no more "moral" an action than firing them for their sexuality, regardless of their battle performance.

Posted by: Nanuq on May 20, 2009 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

Lets not get caught up in "If the Czar only knew" discussions--lets grasp that we have to force the Military and the President *and* Congress to do the right thing. A parade of people who are being wrongfully terminated under DADT, who have served their country honorably, is going to do the trick. Getting personable gay people with great stories to tell on camera and getting their stories out with the punchline "now are we safer?" is what we need to be doing. Eventually Obama (who could care less) and Congress (who care only about the votes) will flip, just as the whole northeast is slowly flipping.

The right wing knows that eventually equal marriage in the Northeastern states is going to publicly run headlong into recruitment for the States National Guard.

Things like taht will eventually force the tide to turn.

aimai

Posted by: aimai on May 20, 2009 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

The Col must have done something extraordinary to make his sexuality known. What was it? It may be why his current commander has declared his presence a threat to unit morale.

Posted by: Joe on May 20, 2009 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

shortstop, of course a poll will reflect majority support for any proposition advocating fair treatment of almost anyone. Telling a pollster you want DADT repealed and holding your representative accountable for not working towards that repeal are two very different matters. Bottom line is abandoning gays is not a net loser for Democrats. For every lost gay vote I wager a waffling Republican, conservative Independent or religious nutjob is gained or retained.

Posted by: steve duncan on May 20, 2009 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

aimai's got it.

Posted by: shortstop on May 20, 2009 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

I watched this last night, and have been following several of these stories in the news. An important question hasn't been asked yet. In this case and the, one of the lesbian discharged (I forget her name) there were investigations into their sexuality. These two servicemembers were doing their part to "follow the law" of Don't Ask, Don't Tell: they weren't telling. Why is DOD asking? Doesn't that go against the first part of the policy? Now, obviously, I think this law should be overturned and gays and lesbians should be able to serve openly. But under the law of the land, it seems to me that it is the government that isn't living up to it's end.

Posted by: john on May 20, 2009 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

"The Col must have done something extraordinary to make his sexuality known."

It might have been nothing more "extraordinary" than refusing to hide it any more. I think it's ridiculous to think his fellow officers and pilots didn't already know. Fighter jocks are a pretty small and tight-knit fraternity.

Posted by: bluestatedon on May 20, 2009 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

The 2nd half of DADT means "don't tell", right?

Only 2 years from retirement? Just seems like there's more to this story we haven't heard.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on May 20, 2009 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

"Now for the rest of the story"

Yeah something smells. 18 years = no pension, this guy is essentially starting over. Somebody had it in for him.

Posted by: Bruce Webb on May 20, 2009 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

If Obama fails to immediately and fully restore Fehrenbach's active duty status, then I'm afraid there is only one word for him: coward.

The trimming, the parsing, the careful calibration has to end here.

Yes, I agree let's hang all the shitty policies of the last 10,20,50,hell 100 years, around Obama's neck. While we're at it, let's bitch like babies that he didn't fulfill all his election promises January 21st,2009. I for one, will consider anything less to be labeled cowardice.

The Fehrenbach story is sad, tragic, and personally urgent. It is also the type of story that can shine a spotlight on the inappropriateness of a 16 year policy that has entrenched itself into the cogs of our military tradition.

Posted by: about time on May 20, 2009 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

I am a 26-year active duty senior master sergeant stationed in the National Capitol Region...additionally I am an unwavering Christian conservative (not the crazy type).

Lt Col Fehrenbach was my supervisor while I was stationed at Pensacola Naval Air Station and I must say he was one of the best supervisors I have ever known. Obviously, I am not aware of all the facts concerning this situation. However, on a professional and personal level, Lt Col Fehrenbach is an honorable and highly effective Air Force leader. I know based on my extensive experience in the Air Force, he was on the right track to get promoted to Colonel. His service to our country should never be overlooked and soiled because of who he loves or what he does outside of duty.

I support Lt Col Victor Fehrenbach 100% and will pray that our institution will make the right decision to allow him to continue to serve with honor and dignity.

He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone."

Ray Verret

Posted by: Ray Verret on May 20, 2009 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

This madness is unacceptable, but it's not inexplicable. There are functionally insane people making these decisions.

Posted by: getplaning on May 20, 2009 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

This genuine American war hero, who's put his life on the line over and over again, and who the U.S. government has invested $25 million in training, is two years from retirement. -- Steve Benen

And there you have it, plain and simple. He's kicked out = no pension, no VA health care, no nothing. Pure saving. He's allowed to continue, he's probably due for promotion, so they not only have to pay, they have to pay at a higher level.

Remember Shakespeare and his "for the want of a nail..."? It ends with "... a kingdom was lost". And proves that the concept of pinching pennies and losing a pound is an old one, especially when it comes to the military.

Posted by: exlibra on May 20, 2009 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

I just don't get this stuff; I served in the Navy for five years (1951-56) and we had a number of gay men among an 800+ crew on my ship. We lived and slept in compartments of 60 or more persons and there were never any problems.

Posted by: TomPaine on May 20, 2009 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder just how many soldiers we'd lose if all of the gays and lesbians currently serving just decided today to 'tell.'

Perhaps that's what should happen.

Posted by: doubtful on May 20, 2009 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

Without knowing what "brought him out" makes this a discussion without facts. The Lt Col did something wrong.
As a past commander (twice), DADT worked as envisioned by the Clinton Admin. I'm sure gay members served in my squadron. One of the issues we faced was sexual assult; the Air Force Academy had to deal with this for years until a new Commandant fixed the environment. But sexual assults occur routinely in the military -- including guy-on-guy. It happens, but the mainstream media doesn't report it (you'll find it in the Military Times). As a commander, I had challenges keeping the sexes apart in the barracks. I'm not aware of any sexual assults among the same sex -- which really would have made that part of my job harder.
Did the Lt Col simply come out of the closet, did he "hit up" on a fellow crew dog, did he have gay porno on a government computer, or did something really bad happen? We don't know.
But as a Lt Col, he knew the consequences.

Posted by: Joe on May 20, 2009 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK
Lt Col Fehrenbach was my supervisor while I was stationed at Pensacola Naval Air Station and I must say he was one of the best supervisors I have ever known. Obviously, I am not aware of all the facts concerning this situation. However, on a professional and personal level, Lt Col Fehrenbach is an honorable and highly effective Air Force leader. I know based on my extensive experience in the Air Force, he was on the right track to get promoted to Colonel. His service to our country should never be overlooked and soiled because of who he loves or what he does outside of duty.

I support Lt Col Victor Fehrenbach 100% and will pray that our institution will make the right decision to allow him to continue to serve with honor and dignity.

Posted by: Ray Verret on May 20, 2009 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Ray, thanks for this bold testimonial. Your integrity and fair-mindedness are admirable and appreciated.

Posted by: trex on May 20, 2009 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

First, what trex just said.

Second, it's be great -- and a marked change from Bush's policy -- to see Obama use the stop-loss provision to retain a soldier who wants to stay. Not to mention allow a Lt. Colonel who served honorably to attain the pension he deserves.

Obama should do so, no ifs, ands or buts.

Posted by: Gregory on May 20, 2009 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

Let the Republicans call for it or be forced to explain their rationale for wasting $25M. I see no reason Dems should go out of their way to reform this program and take political heat for it.

It's stupid and wasteful, but not crucial to the American defense needs. Let the Repubs defend the stupidity they have handed America.

Posted by: MarkH on May 20, 2009 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

After fighter pilot Lt. Colonel Victor Fehrenbach successfully killed people on orders from draft-dodger W, George W. Bush, the military unjustly threw him out simply because he was a homosexual. It does not get more pathetic than that folks. Fubar!

Fehrenbach is like Socrates facing unjust accusers, or Christians torn apart by lions in the roman coliseums, even Jesus on the cross. Fortunately he has a sound mind, body and soul, and he has certainly proven his worth all around. He also has balls, which is more than can be said for the dishonorable wimps that threw him out!

Don't Ask Don't Tell should be thrown out. It is a great evil.

(Thank God Fehrenbach is not physically fucked up like disabled veterans who have lost hands, legs or arms Id go postal)

Posted by: Bubba on May 21, 2009 at 2:04 AM | PERMALINK

Just for accuracy in history, not the political talking points--

Pres Bush flew the F-102 Delta Dagger interceptor, considered a dangerous aircraft to fly (subject to spiral instability, it was replaced within years by the F-106 Delta Dart). He also volunteered for deployment to Da Nang Airbase, Vietnam, where an F-102 squadron was deployed. That F-102 mission was shortly thereafter cancelled when the Pentagon realized the North Vietnamese had no intent of launching airstrikes against South Vietnam.

As the War drew down, the Air Force had too many pilots, and as the combat vets from SEA returned home to join National Guard units as senior pilots, junior officer Bush left flying and the Guard. I didn't, and was then forced out of my flying career.

History will bear this out, not politics and perspectives...

Posted by: Joe on May 21, 2009 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

What did he do to make the Airforce all of the sudden discharge him after 18 years?

Posted by: Cherish on May 21, 2009 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Bush was discharged from the ANG in 1972 when his contract was up. He never was commissioned in the active USAF, and was activated for UPT (flight training) only.

Posted by: Joe on May 22, 2009 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think it matters if he was active duty or ANG...either way he served his country in some way. These people who call Bush a draft dodger...did THEY ever serve? They bash Bush for not going to war (whether he did or not) and at the same time many of those very people have never even served one single day in the military...not even on home soil, much less in war. If not going to war makes someone who has served in the military (ANG) bad, then what does that make someone who has never been in the military at all? Think about what you're saying before you say it.

Posted by: phil on May 22, 2009 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

...seems we have lost focus on Lt Col Fehrenbach over what you said -- hateful people who have to attack those they disagree with, have different morals, different perspective on national security. Fehrenbach made an error of some kind -- and we don't know what it is. But his CO decided it was "enough" to dismiss him.

Posted by: Joe on May 22, 2009 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

Joe, I hope that wasn't directed at me. I was agreeing with what YOU originally said about Bush, and then I commented on what I think about people bashing Bush for "draft dodging." I was in no way trying to be hateful toward anyone. When I said "think about what you're saying before you say it" that was also not directed toward you. That was directed toward the people who have never served, yet bash someone who has. Sorry for any confusion. By the way, you're right....we did get off on a tangent. Have a good one.

Posted by: Phil on May 22, 2009 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Phil, we're on the same sheet of music -- nothing negative directed to you -- the pitfalls of e-mail. I agree with you 110%.

Joe

Posted by: Joe on May 25, 2009 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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