Military Leader Tells Media: Marines Want to Keep Don't Ask, Don't Tell, But Says Troops Will Cope
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James T. Conway had some harsh words about the proposed end of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Conway told a Pentagon press briefing "I can tell you that an overwhelming majority would like not to be roomed with a person who is openly homosexual," Conway said. "Some do not object, and perhaps a voluntary basis might be the best way to start without violating anyone's sense of moral concern or perception on the part of their mates."
Conway’s sentiment is not a surprise, as he has spoken out in opposition to allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly, and specifically about the issue of living quarters. In March, he told Military.com that straight soldiers will not be asked to share rooms on base with openly gay soldiers if the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy is repealed.
Yesterday, Conway explained why he felt the change would be particularly difficult for the Marines, telling reporters "We recruit a certain type of young American, pretty macho guy or gal, that is willing to go fight and perhaps die for their country,"
But, Conway said "We've got a war to fight, and we need to, if the law changes, implement [it] and get on with it."
In the same press briefing, Conway criticized President Obama’s deadline to begin pulling out troops in Afghanistan. BBC reports Administration officials say privately they are not surprised to hear the comments from the general, who, correspondents say, has typical US Marine Corps bluntness - and (importantly) is also about to retire.
But Foreign Policy Magazine wonders whether Conway’s comments, in direct opposition to his Commander in Chief, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, crossed the line.
Meanwhile, the New York Times profiled Katie Miller, the former West Point student who quit earlier this month, rather than live with the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy. Miller was one of three service members featured on Rachel Maddow’s show a few weeks ago, after she announced she’d be leaving West Point for Yale. The Times says Miller’s situation is not unique, and that West Point has many gay and lesbian students who are struggling with life under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
The Senate is expected next month to take up a bill that includes language that would allow the Pentagon to lift the policy. If the measure passes, the Pentagon says it will decide when and how to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell after the results of an ongoing survey have been analyzed.