Under General’s Command, Unchecked Harassment Lead to Anti-Gay Murder of Soldier
The Senate Armed Services Committee will soon consider the promotion of Major General Robert T. Clark to the rank of Lieutenant General in command of the Fifth U.S. Army. Clark was the commanding officer at Fort Campbell, Ky. While Clark was in command at Fort Campbell, PFC Barry Winchell was repeatedly and blatantly harassed in violation of the Army’s strict guidelines, and ultimately was killed in an anti-gay attack.
People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas urged the committee to reject Clark’s promotion in a letter sent May 1st.
The promotion of General Clark has even been decried by a conservative group opposed to gay men, lesbians, and all other women serving in the military. Elaine Donnelly, the president of the Center for Military Readiness, asked in a recent interview, “Why did the general not have an attitude of discipline on that base?” Donnelly continued, “The problem is … indiscipline and frankly, I’ve heard of other generals who have been held accountable for less than that.”
In their letter, Neas wrote, “the Defense Department’s Anti-Harassment Action plan clearly states that ‘commanders and leaders will be held accountable for failure to enforce’ the anti-harassment rules. At Private Winchell’s murder trial, soldiers and non-commissioned officers testified that Winchell had faced daily anti-gay harassment for several months before his death, and that although his commanders knew about the harassment, they did nothing to remedy it.”
In the murder’s aftermath, Major General Clark failed to condemn the anti-gay harassment and allowed anti-gay graffiti, cadences and rhetoric to continue unabated under his command. Further, according to the Army’s own Inspector General’s report, Major General Clark failed to order any training on the military’s harassment policy.
“Senate Armed Services Committee Chair John Warner has previously called for accountability when a command fails to protect its personnel,” said Neas. “He should uphold these standards — and the standards of equal protection for all — in the case of Private Winchell’s death.”
“In attempting to promote Clark, President Bush has demonstrated that he, like Senator Rick Santorum and other members of the Republican leadership, lack concern for equal rights and protections for all Americans,” Neas said. “General Clark’s conduct should not be rewarded with a promotion. Rather it compels bipartisan opposition.”