Ask, And Tell! An Open Letter To Lt. Dan Choi And Other LGBT/Queer Military Personnel!

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I’m a Lebanese queer; I have lived under the direct and indirect consequences of US war-policies for most of my life. I also spent time in Iraq in 2003 as an anti-war, anti-occupation activist and have witnessed countless crimes by the US military and government with my own eyes.

As an Arab queer, coming from a Muslim family, I have lived through and fought against diverse forms of discrimination; at home for being queer and internationally for being an Arab. I am a “despicable faggot” at home, and a “suspicious terrorist” in Europe and North America, guilty until proven innocent.

Lt. Dan Choi, I have seen your interview on Democracy Now, and at first I kind of fell for you. A poised and charming man, an oppressed individual who suffered discrimination and decided to fight against it, and most importantly a person concerned with the discrimination facing different minorities in the US; ranging from queer youth to US Muslims. Who can resist falling for that?!! But then I processed what you are asking for, and immediately I stopped caring if you take it up the ass or down the throat. I didn’t care anymore if you walked around with white skin or wore skin of an oppressed minority. I didn’t care if you were a homophobic Christian fundamentalist or an ardent fighter for queer rights. My mind was in your freely chosen battlefield: in my home, in my friend’s backyard, eyes fixed on your gun against my friend’s forehead. Your finger on the trigger, my life on the line. Again, I’m no longer who I am; I’m what your government and you make of me. Another Arab terrorist: on his knees, on her knees, in the dessert, Tom Hanks in his military uniform, or 50-Cent with a machine gun in his hand. I have no voice, my friend is no Private Ryan with blond hair and white skin, you speak, I utter sounds meaningless to Hollywood, on my knees, my friend on his knees, on her knees.  Your “suffering” takes center stage as the bullet shatters his brain. We die, get tortured, get our natural resources plundered and destroyed, our cultures stigmatized and vilified, our lives and childhoods taken away.  We are atheists, Muslims, Christians, queers, heterosexuals, women… whomever. We are all just props on the set of a decades-long Wild West movie transported to our homes against our will. And to you Lt. Choi, it seems that all of this is just an “educational” process about the meaning of YOUR life.

Lt. Choi, you said on Democracy Now and I quote “the military is sometimes the only option for some people, and we all do not think that when we join the military we are just going to kill people of color, I certainly didn´t think that as a person of color. As my mom is the orphan of the war she certainly told me that your job in the military is not to create havoc, but is to do everything that you can possibly, at least theoretically, to create peace to some extent (…) but war is the force that gives us meaning, war is the force that teaches us lessons of humanity, and allows us to realize something about our society, and teaches us the lessons that we probably should´ve learned before we went to war.” Unquote.

How could you call the countless cases of rape, environmental destruction, violations, violence, stolen fortunes and massacres (a.k.a. war) an educational tool to learn about your “humanity”? You told and I ask: when will you put this alleged humanity into practice? Our burnt skin is nothing but a book to give your life a meaning! You told and I ask: when will the screams of thousands translate into meaning in your life? Our spilt blood is nothing but a school presentation for you to realize “something” about your society! I ask you, when will you learn that the world is not your backyard and that millions of people don’t exist and die just for you to “learn”? I ask you, and I tell you, that we hurt, bleed, and die! That we mourn, get traumatized and miss our loved ones for ever and ever as we say a little prayer for you not to kill us. It is profoundly insulting and extremely infuriating to know that our deaths, losses and suffering are just a “force” to teach you that the meaning of your life is to re-enlist in the same army that caused all of this… “havoc”.

Yes, ask and tell, Lt. Choi and others! Ask who is pulling the trigger? Who is sitting in the tank? Or on the F15? Who is dropping the bomb? Who is burning the fields, the houses, and the livelihood of thousands of people and then calling it “mistaken target” or “unfortunate error”? Who is waging war for the benefit of multinationals and big corporations? Governments make decisions, fund wars and send people to them. But it is people like you and me who make the choice to kill or not to kill.

That “only choice” you talk about is what fundamentalists use in my country to excuse their murders and violence. Many of those who spread terror in Arab speaking countries and beyond claim that they have no other choice. I mean you must know Lt. Choi, you say you speak fluent Arabic. Ask them outside the US torture dungeons and they will tell you: they were robbed of their natural resources and childhoods, they lived in poverty, they saw their families being killed, they watched the world give up on them and call them terrorists just for the passports they carry, and thus…. they have no other choice but to kill and terrorize. That same argument you use to explain how important the army is for minorities and queer youth of color. The excuse of fundamentalists in my country doesn’t clear the air for me, neither does your excuse, and it is equally insulting.

Here I am, and look around and you will find many others who are a living proof that being another oppressor of another kind is never a choice no matter how oppressed one is. That there is always another option for attaining equality and acceptance other than committing crimes against humanity.

Go back Lt. Choi and tell your mother that another child of war says that an army can never bring peace, that the US army has never brought peace, only dictators and exploiting US corporations. Watch what you were doing in Iraq with any survivor of war, and let them tell you if it is different from what they lived.

Ask and tell, Lt. Choi! Ask and tell, for it is my blood, my skin, and my life! The army is just another closet, stop creating havoc! Come out against war and militarization!

- Contributed by Leil-Zahra Mortada

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