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PAPERBACKS

July 03, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

CONDUCT UNBECOMING: Gays & Lesbians in the Military by Randy Shilts (Fawcett: $16; 811 pp.). Shortly before his death, Shilts updated this acclaimed history, taking the story through the Persian Gulf War and President Clinton's pusillanimous "don't ask/don't tell policy." In stark prose, he shows that the U.S. military has devoted more time and money to hunting homosexuals within its ranks than it has to pursuing Nazi war criminals. By persecuting citizens eager to serve their country, the Armed Forces often shot themselves in the foot, wasting billions of dollars and depriving the nation of vitally needed skills. Shilts documents a pattern of abuse that ranges from the harassment of female officers by men who resented their presence to flagrant violations of due process by the Office of Naval Intelligence, including wire-tapping and the harassment of civilians. Comprehensive, impeccably documented and passionate, "Conduct Unbecoming" makes it clear that Shilts' death deprived the nation of one of its most talented journalists.

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