Press

ARMY WINS CONFIRMATION OF CONTROVERSIAL GENERAL AFTER 14-MONTH FIGHT

Date: 
November 18, 2003

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Below is an update from Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN).

ARMY WINS CONFIRMATION OF CONTROVERSIAL GENERAL AFTER 14-MONTH FIGHT

WASHINGTON, DC - The full Senate voted today to confirm Major General Robert T. Clark for promotion to Lieutenant General, the Army's second highest rank. Despite unprecedented action by Senators to delay his confirmation over concerns about his leadership, Clark will assume command of the Fifth U.S. Army in Texas. His confirmation followed an historic debate this afternoon on the Senate floor.

MG Clark was commander of Fort Campbell, Ky., in 1999 when PFC Barry Winchell was bludgeoned to death by fellow soldiers who believed Winchell was gay. Under Clark's watch many reports of anti-gay harassment surfaced in addition to Winchell's murder, including anti-gay graffiti and assault. MG Clark also implemented a policy at Fort Campbell that led to a record number of lesbian, gay and bisexual discharges at the post. A Department of Army Inspector General report also found other troubling facts about MG Clark's tenure at the post, including command-wide low morale; inadequate delivery of health care to soldiers and their families; and wide-spread, leader-condoned underage drinking in the barracks. According to a report from 60 Minutes, Fort Campbell also saw an alarming spike in domestic abuse cases during MG Clark's tenure. Despite Clark's claims that the IG report exonerated him, the IG in fact asked no questions regarding anti-gay harassment.

MG Clark's nomination, stalled for over 14 months in the Senate Armed Services Committee, was voted out to the full Senate on October 23rd. At that time, Committee members Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) all voted to deny Clark's promotion because of questions about his tenure at Fort Campbell.

"There is compelling evidence that anti-gay harassment at Fort Campbell was pervasive," Sen. Kennedy said on the Senate floor today. Sen. Kennedy also said that, when he pointed to such evidence during Senate Armed Services Committee hearings, "General Clark stated that he agrees with these findings, but that he was, nonetheless, not aware of a single instance of anti-gay harassment prior to the murder." Sen. Kennedy went on to say that "A brutal, bias-motivated crime is an extraordinary event in any community," and that "the available evidence indicates that General Clark's response was not adequate."

Sen. Mark Dayton (D-MN), speaking on the Senate floor, asked, "What about... gay and lesbian service members? What message are we sending to them?"

Sen. Akaka issued a statement November 10th stating that "I remain disturbed by General Clark's continued reliance on lack of knowledge regarding misconduct and anti-gay harassment on post as a rationale for his lack of action." Akaka also said that, "After reviewing all of the information and listening to General Clark's testimony, I decided that I could not support his promotion to Lieutenant General."

After leaving Committee, an anonymous Senator placed a hold on Clark's nomination, according to reports from the Associated Press. The hold was recently released in wake of an agreement to allow for debate on MG Clark's nomination. "Major General Clark's record does not merit this promotion, and we are disappointed in the Senate's action," said SLDN Executive Director C. Dixon Osburn. "We believe an open, honest debate on Clark's record would have clearly shown him to be unfit for promotion. For the first time in history, however, Senators have closely scrutinized an officer's record on preventing anti-gay harassment. Our military leaders must accept responsibility for what happens under their command."

In addition to SLDN, Clark's nomination was also opposed by People for the American Way, the Democratic National Committee, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition, American Veterans for Equal Rights, New England GLBT Veterans, the Transgender American Veterans Association and a coalition of state-wide civil liberties organizations, including Michigan's Triangle Foundation.

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