Military “Investigates” Gay Pride Flag Raising in Afghanistan, Surely Has Something Better To Do

Like all good political drama these days, the controversy at hand here begins with a photo + social media.  Late last month, Nicole Jodice uploaded a photo of a man in military garb raising a rainbow flag to the Wipeout Homophobia Facebook page. In the photo’s caption, Jodice identifies the man as her husband, a U.S. soldier deployed in Afghanistan.

The Family Research Council quickly pointed to the picture as the latest tactic by the “homosexual lobby” to trample on religious rights with their typical reckless abandon. (Unfortunately, information about the location of this homosexual lobby has not been divulged, which means I can’t actually go there, which is understandably devastating.)

Investigating  the alleged flag raising is the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), a NATO operation with the stated mission to:

…conduct operations in Afghanistan to reduce the capability and will of the insurgency, support the growth in capacity and capability of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), and facilitate improvements in governance and socio-economic development in order to provide a secure environment for sustainable stability that is observable to the population.

And boy howdy am I excited to hear what they learn or what on earth they’re looking to learn to begin with! Tasked with fighting an insurgency, building the nation’s infrastructure and improving internal political stability, the mission to investigate the potential raising of a gay pride flag seems like an excellent use of the resources and time of team ISAF.

So where is this flag you speak of...

America has  finally agreed as a nation Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was wrong and now it’s dead as a doornail. The anti-gay response this photo has garnered from conservatives is a reminder of the too long defended homophobic voices who until recently dominated the discussion of gays in the military. One such voice is that of FRC President Tony Perkins, asking:

Where is the concern now for angering Afghan Muslims, who vehemently oppose homosexuality? The issue is as much an issue of military security as it is of religious morality. After February’s accident with the Korans, American lives were lost. What price will we pay because some want to use the military to show their gay pride?

While it’s possible to criticize the flag raising on the grounds of the unofficial nature of the action, does it really warrant comparisons to the Koran burnings in February? The backlash from the the burning of an incinerator full of Korans on a U.S. Military base left over 30 dead. From the perspective of Fox news, open support of homosexuality plays right into the culture war between Afghan civilians and the U.S. military risking  lives. One could argue Obama negotiating with the Taliban poses much bigger risks to both Afghan civilians and the military.

And isn’t the U. S. military supposedly at war to protect and promote human rights and national security interests which include the right to be gay? America definitely uses protecting Afghan women’s rights as justification for the ongoing war. Hostile acts to destroy a holy book not surprisingly will be greeted with angry resentment. Flying a gay pride flag on the military base of a country which claims to support gay rights as human rights is hardly radical.

While it may not be wise to flaunt cultural differences abroad, the culture war playing out surrounding this image of gay pride speaks loudly to America’s own internal culture war more so than our international relations with Afghanistan.

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Jamie J. Hagen

Jamie lives in Boston and is currently a PhD student in Global Governance and Human Security at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is a freelance writer and also a team associate for the Boston chapter of Hollaback!.

Jamie has written 76 articles for us.


  1. Is there a rule about what flags can be flown at US military bases? I don’t know, but maybe you can only fly the US flag and unit colors or something or need permission from your commanding officer if it’s anythingelse. I don’t really see why else they’d be investigating. It can’t be much more than “did you ask your CO?” surely.

    • I dunno, depends on whether it has comfy sofas or those horrible plastic chairs like in airports and bus stations.

      • It’s a gay lobby — clearly it is tastefully and comfortably decorated (possibly by the lesbian interior designers from “No Man’s Land”).

  2. Tony Perkins is everywhere it seems. CNN has an article about his group meeting to get Santorum the GOP nomination, and they’ve also tried to get EA to remove Gay/LBGT content from its games (they’ve refused).

  3. I have to say I agree with the military on this one. Soldiers sign up to be part of one team identity and you go with the party line. Implicating controversial issues like gay rights in an already fraught war zone was reckless of the man who rose that flag.

    • WTF are you “fighting for” if not for human rights. Gay rights = human rights. I mean, there are plenty of ways to say that what we’re doing in Afghanistan isn’t right or just, but it’s kind of hard for me to stomach your implication that gay rights are nonessential, simply a “controversial issue”.

      • So it would have been cool with you if there was an extra suicide bomb or attack on that base so someone could raise a flag? Something which did fuck all for the state of gay rights in afghanistan anyway? I believe in standing up for gay rights abroad, but not in such a reckless fashion that doesn’t really benefit anyone?

    • I slightly agree with Helene here. While I’m all for waving the gay flag, I think there are implications about waving any flag, even the US flag, in a foreign country. Gay rights are human rights, yes, but we’re there (in theory) to stabilize a country, not necessarily to wave our political flags. I don’t think we should erect a gay pride flag just like I don’t think we should erect the US flag, not because I’m afraid of the implications but because I think we should recognize that we are guests and don’t have to right to erect a flag in someone else’s home.

      • “I think we should recognize that we are guests and don’t have to right to erect a flag in someone else’s home”

        I think that puts rather a gloss on the history of the war in Afghanistan. To be a guest in someone’s home implies that they invited you into it. The US and its allies made the decision to commence warfare in Afghanistan, turning that country upside down and causing the deaths of countless civilians. We’ve seen some atrocious behaviour from the American military and the militaries of its allies, including my own country. It seems a bit rich to me to act as if the US should respect the sovereignty of Afghanistan by not raising foreign flags in its territory – when the US made the decision to invade it!

  4. I am determined to decorate the bajeezus out of my foyer at home (aka lobby), complete with vibrant colours, a couple of pride flags, and lots of lesbians garnishing the furniture. Then I will call it “The Homosexual Lobby” and then we will all finally have a location for it.

  5. Man, that homosexual lobby sure does sound fun. Imagine what it’d be like if they let you up to the rooms!

      • I’m probably going to get flamed for this, but I object to the US military raising the Pride flag in a combat zone. The Pride flag isn’t an American flag, it is a global flag under which the GLBTIQ people of the world can stand united. I feel that in raising it in Afghanistan, there’s some kind of implication that the US are fighting for / on behalf of / with the blessing of / as representatives of the GLBTIQ people of the world. And they’re not. Not every queer lives in the US. Not ever queer lives in a country that is an American ally. A lot of us disagreed with this war. Some of us will even have died or been injured in it. So don’t try to speak for us by raising our flag in your war!

  6. Yeah, this was a poor decision on the part of the individual who rose that flag. Queer rights are important, but you know what? Just like @Dizzy said, you don’t endanger peoples’ lives in gestures that won’t do jack fucking squat to work toward them.

  7. My purpose for being disgusted with this is the fact that we have SO MUCH MORE to worry over than a damn rainbow flag in a country that would behead us all, no questions asked.

    I mean, just REALLY. Let the flag fly, it isn’t hurting anyone. I, for one, appreciate this soldier for his willingness to show his support of us.

  8. Just throwing this out there: The Rainbow Flag is, most accurately, a symbol of the Western GLBTIQ movement. I’m not sure most Afghans even know what it means. Even if you sat them down and explained it, I doubt they’d care enough to take to the streets.

    What’s going on between America and Afghanistan isn’t a culture war, it’s a war. The protests have nothing to do with culture and everything to do with occupation. It’s pretty insulting for Perkins et al. to assume that Afghans are as obsessed with supressing American gays as they are.

  9. I absolutely agree that it was a bad idea to raise that flag. It’s not just about ‘a flag’ and seriously, it can be on par for the Afghans with the Quran burnings. THIS IS BECAUSE THEY WILL CONSIDER THIS DISRESPECT. Also, do this will make gay rights associated with the Americans – the invaders. We don’t want that. If the US starts shoving ANYTHING down their throats (and a flag-raising counts) they will not be happy about it. The amount of resentment Afghans have for the Americans is not even funny, and if (and they have) they come to associate gay rights with the US, THEY WILL BE STRONGLY ANTI-GAY. This is kind of what is happening in Iraq, don’t you think? The killings of “western” or “emo” or “gay” kids is really a backlash against what they see as “western culture” (=the Americans). It doesn’t matter if it’s accurate or not. This is not based on rationality. This is based on fear and hatred.

    In Pakistan also when there was a celebration centered around gay rights at the US embassy, people weren’t too happy about it. You know what that does for us living in these countries? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Does it make people more likely to give us rights or to see homosexuality as not purely ‘a western phenomena’ (Ahmadinejad)? There is a dimension of imperialism and anti-imperialism here. I’m not saying that it is a bad idea to support gay rights, but seriously, how do they think this is going to help?

  10. I feel weird about a bunch of Americans guessing at the feelings of a whole country or culture toward anything.

  11. I don’t know how I feel about this… I’m Black and I would raise an eyebrow if my fellow Black peeps raised the Unity flag (Black, Green, Red) and raised our fists while on a tour of duty.

    Seems counter-productive. When representing your country, one flag should be raised. Part of the psyche. One unit. One purpose. Defending your sovereignty.

    So… yep.

  12. What’s awesome about this is this quote…

    “Where is the concern now for angering Afghan Muslims, who vehemently oppose homosexuality? The issue is as much an issue of military security as it is of religious morality. After February’s accident with the Korans, American lives were lost. What price will we pay because some want to use the military to show their gay pride?”

    Clearly this guy has never spent any time deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, because if he had, he would see the Iraqi and Afghani men holding hands all the time. They also openly sleep with each other, but it’s not considered gay to them because they are married. Granted this isn’t the case with every man, but it is a pretty common scene out there. So I’m just going to say this isn’t a valid argument.

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