Crawling Out of the Woodwork

For the last couple of weeks, military news has been abuzz regarding Navy Captain Owen P. Honors’ racy videos produced during his tenure as Executive Officer (XO)(second in command) of the Aircraft Carrier USS Enterprise.

While the Navy mulls what to do with the skipper of the USS Enterprise following revelations he was behind a series of raunchy, homemade movies several years ago that poked fun of women and gays, critics and supporters of Capt. Owen P. Honors are weighing in.

The videos — which were laced with obscenities and depicted two women showering with each other and men feigning masturbation — were made in 2006 and 2007 while the ship was deployed for Operation Enduring Freedom. Honors was the ship’s executive officer at the time, but he was assigned to the Enterprise as captain last year.

The videos, produced aboard ship using Navy equipment and broadcast to the crew, were reported recently by The Virginian-Pilot newspaper…

At this point, the Navy isn’t really mulling over its options. Capt. Honors was fired from his latest leadership position as Commander of the USS Enterprise for the 3-4 year-old videos. His career is done. Kaput.

Oh, he may still get smacked a bit more. Perhaps a letter of reprimand will be the icing on the cake. After that, the story moves, as those before it, into obscurity. This is not “Tailhook,” despite the efforts and desires of various pundits.

I didn’t post on this story initially because it didn’t interest me. From a legal perspective, it’s pedestrian. We merely have some wonderfully entertaining examples of conduct unbecoming an officer.

What interests me is not the video itself or the punishment exacted upon Capt. Honors. Instead, I’m fascinated by the flurry of individuals and groups emerging from their holes to comment.

SLDN

Let’s start with SLDN. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) evidently hates fraternity houses.

“Captain Owen Honors was acting more like the president of a frat house rather than the executive officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise. We call upon the Navy to investigate this matter thoroughly. It is very important that the most senior leadership make it absolutely clear that this kind of bad behavior and poor judgment is not only unacceptable, but that there is no place in the Navy for those who engage in this sort of frat house behavior in the workplace,” said Aubrey Sarvis, Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Why such hatred of frat houses? Notice that the phrase “frat house” occurs twice. Phrases/terms that don’t appear in the statement: discrimination, oppressive regimes, harming Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgendered service members, or equal treatment. I figure such things are important to SLDN, and most of their policy and posturing should revolve around those tenets. Let’s check their mission statement:

To bring Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to an end, either legislatively or judicially. Once that has happened, SLDN will remain dedicated to dismantling this oppressive and discriminatory regime within the military and assisting service members who are harmed by it during the transition. SLDN will work to ensure that evenhanded policies and regulations, providing equal treatment and opportunity for all, regardless of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or militarily appropriate gender expression, are established and effectively implemented in the armed forces, including active duty, National Guard, reserve and officer training programs.

Hey, that says some of the stuff mentioned above. There they are: oppressive, discriminatory, harm,  equal treatment, and opportunity. Great. So, why wasn’t any of this in the SLDN statement on the horrible atrocities aboard the USS Enterprise? Why is “frat house” substituted in their place? Why not something like “We are particularly disturbed by the use of gay slurs and depictions and the negative effect this may have upon gay members of the Armed Forces.” Couple this with “Actions such as this by a senior Navy official are a reminder of the oppressive and negative environment causing emotional harm to gay servicemembers everywhere.” Those are strong, poignant, and directly support the mission statement of SLDN.

It makes you wonder what they are hiding, or hiding from. Do they perceive their organizational pilot-light flickering?

I’ve complained about SLDN before. First, their name: Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. Several times, clients accused of non-DADT issues talked of “calling because I thought they could help with my legal defense.” The clients soon learned that SLDN’s focus on legal defense was a bit different than they perceived.

Second, their focus is always on strategic policy, not the individual servicemember. Of course, in my position as defense counsel, my entire focus is on the individual, strategic policy be damned. Granted, their stance has merit and reason. The problem is the perception that they were available to support gay servicemembers unconditionally and unwaveringly. This perception was held by many of my clients, and it led to inevitable disappointment. My clients were never squeaky clean. Often, in addition to the DADT issues, they were also accused of misconduct–shoplifting, desertion, assault, and stalking, to name a few. Once informed of the misconduct problems, SLDN declined direct assistance, although they said they’d remain available to help in an advisory capacity. They wanted someone to be a poster child, not someone with baggage and dirty laundry.

I appreciate SLDN and their accomplishments, but they could have done so much more for individuals. I’d express hope for the future, but I don’t see their coffers brimming with gold now that DADT is dead.

EXPERTS

In the wake (no pun intended) of Capt. Honors’ actions, “experts” began crawling out of their holes. As a general principle, they amuse me.

An article on Military.com utilizes several.

Ward Carroll, the editor of Military.com and a retired Navy aviator who flew with Honors, said, “Unfortunately, he pushed buttons that you just can’t push.”

That’s impressive. Military.com has some in-house experts, and they deliver insights about buttons. But, did our fine Captain push buttons? Perhaps he flipped a switch. Maybe he spun a wheel. Might he have yanked a lever? Maybe he turned a knob. From looking at the video, it certainly appears he thought about knobs frequently.

Maybe we should seek someone who isn’t focused on buttons or knobs.

“You don’t know that kind of constant pressure until you’ve been there,” said J. Tyler Ballance, a retired Navy commander who captained an anti-mine ship in the 1990s. “This is the kind of guy who keep spirits up no matter what.”

Mr. Ballance talks about pressure and spirits. Nothing like a gay or dick joke to keep me motivated and working diligently. I agree. Gold star to Tyler.

Then, we hear from a Yale Law Professor:

“This is very serious,” said Eugene Fidell, a law professor at Yale University and president of the National Institute of Military Justice. “After watching the videos, I don’t see how he could stay. He runs a warship, not a fraternity house.”

There’s the fraternity house thing again! Who knew the Yale Law School and SLDN were so tight? Plus, I certainly needed a Yale Law Professor to tell me that video depictions of sexual innuendo, gay slurs, and wanking condoned by a senior Navy official are “very serious.”

That’s OK, he’ll redeem himself later in the article.

“To say that you need to create this kind of material in order for the ship to be happy — that’s just not a valid argument,” he said. “This is so far off any standard for acceptable behavior for someone in his position.”

See! That’s the kind of biting, legal insight that I expect…

Aw, who am I kidding.

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