unasked questions

Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach: How Come Nobody Surveyed Me About Getting Shot At Over Baghdad?

The DADT survey is “unnecessary, completely,” Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach tells Rachel Maddow. It’s also “unprecedented,” since the Pentagon doesn’t ever poll troops on their comfort levels. If they did, they’d be asking troops whether they wanted to go home for Christmas. Many of them would say yes!

Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #don'taskdon'ttell(dadt) #pentagon #rachelmaddow stories and more


  • MyGayRant

    Scary to think that there were no surveys for ending segregation of minorities and females from the armed forces yet there is a survey to see is we queers should be allowed to fight for the country. What does this say about our position in U.S. society?

  • hyhybt

    I really don’t see a problem with the survey: all it is is taking the areas opponents of repeal claim will cause difficulties and attempting to measure how much, if any, trouble they actually will be.

    In particular, it seems like exactly the sort of survey you ought to expect if they are, as they said, looking at how rather than if (despite the use of the word ‘if’ in the questions.) As in, how much training is going to be necessary etc. In particular, I like the “what would you do” questions that leave a blank for “something else.” Hopefully those who would react violently will answer the survey honestly, and those whose answer would be “celebrate, because I’d have company” won’t, just in case the repeal doesn’t go through.

  • Cam


    I see a problem with it because the Army never asks questions about what soldiers would like and not like. There is no reason to do this other than to have an excuse to delay the implamentation. If somebody came into the Military and didn’t like women, the army says “Too damn bad”, yet here they are allowing them to use their bigotry as an excuse for not letting people in.

  • Michael @ LeonardMatlovich.com

    Great points by LT COL Fehrenbach regarding the survey which was unquestionably conceived of and designed as a side-attack to justify not ending the ban. But, while I have enormous admiration for him, and, therefore, deeply regret having to publicly disagree, if I am correct, his statements last night about the so-called “more humane” regs announced March 25th could unintentionally lead others to think they are safe when they are not.

    I have no doubt that publicity about his uniquely unjust case was the driving force behind the Obama Administration’s desire to appear to be more fair. But the functional effect of the new regs, despite widespread belief to the contrary, do not match the circumstances their cause. Based on a story in the “Idaho Statesman” about the evolution of his case, why he believes his is the “poster case for the new enforcement standards…meets every one of those criteria” is beyond me. Unless there have been further clarifications since DODI 1332.30 was released, I can only imagine that one of them might be exculpatory, BUT, as noted below, it would surely be cancelled out by other circumstances.

    First, for those still unclear, “third party outings” were NOT banned under the new regs. Without going into all the extremely bizarre details leading up to the Air Forces finding out that Fehrenbach is gay, the second primary fact is that Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson said upon the new regs’ announcement: “If there is compelling evidence that a person has engaged in homosexual conduct, I would not expect that these new regs would make a difference.“ Therefore, it’s puerile Pentagon propaganda to call them “more humane,” and Johnson specifically refused to call them more “lenient” as Fehrenbach does.

    Why he believes the information the Air Force was given about him was not “credible” [even by deconstructing the DOD’s strange formula of contigent facts] is very confusing. He IS gay; he did engage in “homosexual conduct.”

    Fehrenbach added that the AF didn’t take into consideration “how that information was gained.” Nothing in the regs requires them to at least as far as it applies in his case.

    The only remotely possible save, as I understand the regs, is that his accuser certainly met the current definitions of not being a “reliable person” from which “credible information” theoretically must come [the contingent formula I mentioned].

    – “A person with a prior history of untruthfulness or unreliability”
    – “A person with a motive . . . to cause personal or professional harm to the Service member specifically, or to cause personal or professional harm to persons suspected of being homosexual generally.”

    He boldly met both definitions. He had approached the Air Force with the offer to literally “go undercover” which they declined. Despite their lack of interest, he then solicited Fehrenbach, had consensual sex with him, then accused him of rape, and, in the process, falsely told the Boise police that he was working for the Air Force. In fact, apparently even in 2008, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations described his accuser as an “unreliable source of information.” [And no one could disagree with Fehrenbach’s statement “there was clearly malicious intent,” but while the term is bandied around a lot, it doesn’t appear in the DODI.]

    BUT Johnson’s statement about “compelling evidence” makes it clear that “credible information” trumps the source not being otherwise “reliable.” Which brings us to the fact that Fehrenbach was cruelly forced to CONFIRM that information himself (that he had engaged in “homosexual conduct”) to the police in order to defend himself against that charge by his accuser of rape.

    For the record, perhaps a reporter at the DOD press conference with Johnson on March 25th was thinking of Fehrenbach’s situation in this exchange:

    “REPORTER: And just to go back for a second to the situations of open cases, if a case was started, on what would be considered unreliable information now, but during the course of the investigation over the last few months and a officer were to come out and say, “Yes, I am gay” and admit — you know, admit their homosexuality, when that case is reopened now, that’s something that could still be admissible, if —

    MR. JOHNSON: That’s a good question. And we’ll have to work that through.

    REPORTER: Well, I mean, that speaks to the core of the open cases here. If someone, over the course of the investigation, was confronted and was honest, you know, this doesn’t really get them out of trouble.

    MR. JOHNSON: Like I said, that’s a good question and we’ll have to work that through.”

    I’m unaware of whether they’ve ever released a clarification, but this seems to me just another example of Johnson’s cluttered thinking given, again, his earlier statement about “compelling evidence” overriding everything else.

    Whatever Fehrenbach admitted or did not to the Air Force personally about being gay and having engaged in “homosexual conduct,” I’ve not seen; nor clearly whether the Air Force first heard about it from his accuser or the Boise police. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter because, however unfair, the facts that were true, however wrapped in the malice and melodrama of his apparently very disturbed accuser, made him eligible for discharge under regs then and now.

    I happen to believe that had his accuser not been “angry that there would be no prosecution [and] wouldn’t go away and was pressing the Air Force for a dishonorable discharge,” AND Fehrenbach had not admitted his status and conduct, they would have “looked the other way” about someone with such a long, distinguished career. Regardless, and sadly, I don’t see the logic behind Fehrebach’s belief that there are adequate grounds for his recommendation for discharge being cancelled [under Gates’ statement that all “open cases” would be automatically re-evaluated].

    As much as I hope I’m wrong about that, it seems to me that the tactic with far more potential for success would be to threaten to sue [upon his actual discharge] to require them to apply the so-called Witt standard required [at least for now] by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals be applied to him, that is that the Air Force have to prove how allowing him to remain would hurt unit cohesion, etc. Ironically, that decision was handed down barely a week after he was outed, but came before he was recommended for discharge and applies to Idaho where he was processed and remains on active duty pending a final decision by the Secretary of the Air Force on the recommendation that he be discharged. Who knows how many others have been discharged during that time because of the DOD’s failure to follow the ruling as they still are.

    Regarding why he’s still in limbo, as in the case of Dan Choi, I believe someone high up has said to leave him alone pending resolution of “repeal.”

  • DR

    Fehrenback served in combat. No one was surveyed this formally about racial or gender integration, it happened, and the soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines were expected to deal with it. Same thing ought to happen here.

  • Kieran

    Countries that allow homosexuals to serve in the military:

    As of 2009, the Argentine government has officially ended the ban on gays in the military.

    The Commonwealth of Australia policies are to allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly.

    Austria permits homosexuals to serve openly

    Belgium permits homosexuals to serve openly.

    The Bermuda Regiment does not discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation, as it is formed by random lottery-style conscription. Officially, members of the Regiment are prohibited from discriminating against or harassing gay soldiers;[7] such activities, however, are tolerated by officers, to the extent that one conscript described the Regiment as “the most homophobic environment that exists”.

    There is no law forbidding gays from serving in the military. Libidinous acts are not allowed.

    Main article: LGBT policy in the Canadian military
    As of 1992, lesbians, gays and bisexuals are allowed to openly serve in the military.

    In 1999, the Colombian Constitutional Court ruled that the prohibition of homosexuals from serving in the armed forced is unconstitutional.

    Czech Republic
    The Czech Republic allows homosexuals to serve openly.

    Denmark allows homosexuals to serve openly.

    Estonia allows homosexuals to serve openly.

    Finland allows homosexuals to serve openly.

    France allows homosexuals to serve openly.

    The German Bundeswehr ruled that it is forbidden to discriminate based on sexual orientation. The “Working Committee of Homosexual Employees in the Military Forces”[11] is the organization that represents the interests of gay men and lesbians in the armed forces. Heterosexuals and homosexuals alike are allowed to engage in sexual activity while in the military service as long as it does not interfere with the performance of their duties. Lesbian and gay soldiers are also entitled to enter civil unions as defined by Germany’s domestic “partnership” law.

    Ireland allows homosexuals to serve openly. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal.

    Israel Defense Forces policies allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly and without discrimination or harassment due to actual or perceived sexual orientation. This was put into effect in 1993 after an IDF reserves officer testified before the Knesset claiming that his rank had been revoked, and that he had been barred from researching sensitive topics in military intelligence, solely because of his sexual identity. Homosexuals serve openly in the military, including special units, without any discrimination. Moreover, gays in the IDF have additional rights, such as the right to take a shower alone if they want to. According to a University of California, Santa Barbara study, a brigadier general stated that Israelis show a “great tolerance” for gay soldiers. Consul David Saranga at the Israeli Consulate in New York, who was interviewed by the St. Petersburg Times, said, “It’s a non-issue. You can be a very good officer, a creative one, a brave one, and be gay at the same time.”

    The Armed Forces of Italy cannot deny men or women of homosexual orientation to serve within their ranks, as this would be a violation of Constitutional rights. However, much prejudice about homosexuals still exists within the Italian armed forces, so that they generally decide to hide their sexual orientation.[citation needed] In the past, homosexual conduct was grounds for being discharged from the Italian armed forces for reason of insanity, and feigning homosexuality was a very popular way to obtain medical rejection and skip draft.[citation needed]

    Lithuania allows homosexuals to serve openly.

    Luxembourg allows homosexuals to serve openly.

    Malta allows gay and lesbian people to serve openly in the armed forces. According to the Armed Forces of Malta, a number of openly gay people serve in the AFM, and the official attitude is one of “live and let live”, where “a person’s postings and duties depend on their qualifications, not their sexual orientation”.

    The Netherlands
    In 1974, the Netherlands was the first country to ban discrimination against gays in the military.

    On March 18, 2010, after U.S. President Obama announced that he wanted to put an end to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, former U.S. general and high ranking NATO official John Sheehan blamed homosexuals serving in the Dutch military for the fall of Srebrenica to Serb militias in the Bosnian War fifteen years earlier, stating that homosexuals had weakened the Dutch UN battalion charged with protecting the enclave. In the U.S. Senate, Sheehan said that European countries had tried to “socialize” their armed forces by letting people serve in the army too easily, which according to him, left them weakened. He claimed that his opinion was shared by the leadership of the Dutch armed forces, mentioning the name “Hankman Berman”, most probably referring to the then chief of the Dutch defence staff, Henk van den Breemen. Dutch authorities dismissed Sheehan’s statements as “disgraceful” and “total nonsense”. Dutch advocates of gay rights, organized in the “Pink Army” (foundation) and the Stichting Homosexualiteit en Krijgsmacht (“Foundation Homosexuality and Armed Forces”), announced a libel lawsuit against Sheehan.

    New Zealand
    In New Zealand it has been legal for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons to serve in the military since New Zealand’s Human Rights Act 1993 ended most forms of employment discrimination against lesbians, gay men and bisexuals. New Zealand military leaders did not oppose the end of military service discrimination

    Norway allows homosexuals to serve openly.

    Until December 2009, Peru had a ban on openly gay people in the armed forces. However, in December 2009, the Supreme Court of Peru held that sexual orientation cannot be a requirement for entry into the police force or the military. The Government accepted the decision.

    The Philippine government have officially ended, as of 2009, the ban on gays in the military.

    Homosexuals are allowed to serve openly in the Romanian army. According to the Ministry of Defence’s recruitment policy, “it is the right of every Romanian citizen to take part in the military structures of our country, regardless of their sexual orientation.”

    See also: LGBT rights in Russia
    Before 1993, homosexual acts between consenting males were against the law in Russia,[30] and homosexuality was considered a mental disorder until adoption of ICD-10 in 1999,[31] but even after that military medical expertise statute was in force to continue considering homosexuality a mental disorder which was a reason to deny homosexuals to serve in the military. In 2003, a new military medical expertise statute was adopted; it said people “who have problems with their identity and sexual preferences” can only be drafted during war times.[32] However, this clause contradicted another clause of the same statute which stated that different sexual orientation should not be considered a deviation. This ambiguity was resolved by the Major-General of the Medical Service who clearly stated that new medical statute “does not forbid people of non-standard sexual orientation from serving in the military.”[33] Thereby, as of July 1, 2003 (2003 -07-01)[update], homosexual people in Russia can serve in the military, even openly — there is no official policy coercing them to hide their sexual orientation.

    Slovenia allows homosexuals to serve openly without discrimination or harassment due to actual or perceived sexual orientation.

    South Africa
    South Africa allows homosexuals to serve openly.

    Homosexuals are allowed to serve openly in the Spanish Army. As of 2009, after the case of Aitor G.R, the courts also ruled that transgendered individuals are also permitted to serve in the military.

    Sweden allows homosexuals to serve openly.

    Switzerland’s military policies also allow for gay men and lesbians to serve openly without discrimination or harassment due to actual or perceived sexual orientation.

    Taiwan repealed their ban on conscripting gays into the military in 2002.

    United Kingdom
    The United Kingdom’s policy is to allow homosexual men and lesbians to serve openly, and discrimination on a sexual orientation basis is forbidden. It is also forbidden for someone to pressure LGBT people to come out. All personnel are subject to the same rules against sexual harrassment, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Since 2008, military personnel have been permitted to attend Gay Pride marches in uniform.

    Gays were prohibited from serving in the Uruguayan armed forces under the 1973-1985 military dictatorship, however this prohibition was lifted in 2009 when a new decree was signed by Defence Minister Jose Bayardi which provided that that sexual orientation would no longer be considered a reason to prevent people from entering the armed forces.

    Countries with other policies:

    United States
    The United States prohibits LGBT service members from serving openly under the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Service members who remain closeted are allowed to serve, but investigation into a member’s sexuality without suspicion is prohibited.

  • Michael @ LeonardMatlovich.com


    It’s been over a year since Fehrenbach was then on Rachel’s show discussing his having asked his Commander-in-Chief, face-to-face, for help after SLDN’s Aubrey Sarvis took him as his Plus One to the thingy for the gays at the White House in June 2009.

    Alison Stewart was subbing for Rachel:

    “STEWART: You spoke with President Obama today. What did you tell him?
    FEHRENBACH: I did, just after he spoke, I was about the third person to get to him and I introduced myself and told him my situation, and he looked like he knew who I was and what my situation was already. So, I basically told him that I was currently being discharged under don‘t ask, don‘t tell and I told him the situation for me was urgent and I needed his help.
    STEWART: And were you satisfied with the answer you got from the president? How did he respond? That‘s a very direct question.
    FEHRENBACH: It was. He looked me right in the eye and he said, ‘We‘re going to get this done’. And then he continued to say, you know, everyone seems to be onboard. We‘ve got about 75 percent of the public that supports this. He said, BUT WE HAVE A GENERATIONAL ISSUE. And so, there is some convincing to do, that THERE IS A GENERATIONAL GAP IT SEEMS AND SOME OF THE SENIOR LEADERSHIP.”

    TRANSLATION: Obama was, and still is, letting the homohating dinosaurs in the Pentagon’s Jurassic Park tell HIM what to do even tho he’s had the legal authority since the second he was sworn in to stop discharges in the name of national security. Over 800 gays have been shitcanned since then, more continue to be day after day, and his DOJ is in court this week AGAIN defending the constitutionality of DADT!

    BTW: Reinforcing the additional legal danger Dan Choi has put himself in wearing his uniform when arrested and speaking at the the NEM, the Air Force ORDERED Victor not to wear his uniform that day because they considered it a “political event” even tho he had worn his uniform to events attended by President Bush.

  • Retired Combat Soldier

    You took an oath, you willing violated it.

    Hit the road Jack

  • Hyhybt

    @Retired Combat Soldier: I should know better than even to respond at all, but: how so?

Comments are closed.