By Leonard Boasberg

'The American people don't want the American military to be used to advance a liberal political agenda, and House Republicans will stand on that principle," Rep. Mike Pence (R., Ind.) said before the House passed a bill repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military. Only five Republicans voted for the bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy of Bucks County.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved similar legislation, with only one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, voting yea.

So what is this "liberal political agenda"?

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

It sounds to me like an American political agenda.

And how does Pence know what the American people don't want? According to a recent Washington Post-ABC poll, three-quarters of the American people are in favor of letting gays serve openly in the armed forces. Even 64 percent of Republicans said they were in favor of it.

One of my best friends in the Army was gay. He and I enlisted as privates in a military intelligence Japanese-language program, aimed at commissioning us as officers trained to interrogate captured Japanese soldiers and to translate captured documents. He was a brilliant, witty, sophisticated man, and a damn good soldier. I didn't know he was gay until he told me, about six months after we'd become friends.

At first, I was shocked. I tried to talk him out of it. I told him that girls were neat, and some were neater than others, and he was missing a good thing. (I was pretty naive at that age.)

He said that was the way he was and he couldn't change. OK, I wasn't going to let it change our friendship.

After we were commissioned, we were sent overseas - he to Australia and later to New Guinea, I to China. He must have done very well, because he made captain several months before I did and became a general's aide.

There were other gay men in our outfit, and we all knew it, and nobody cared. Most of the newly minted second lieutenants were dispatched to the South Pacific. Many were involved in heavy fighting in New Guinea, the Philippines, Okinawa, and elsewhere.

Would the Army have been better served if these gay men, trained at considerable expense to speak and read Japanese and understand the enemy, had been cashiered out of service? There was a war going on.

In the last 16 years, about 13,500 gays have been kicked out of the military for the crime of being homosexual, including about five dozen who speak Arabic.

Does this make any sense? Don't we know there's a war going on?