Washington, D.C. -
Former NATO supreme commander Wesley Clark says it is time for the ban on gays in the military to be lifted.
The retired four star general told NBC's Meet The Press that 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell, does not work.
“[E]ssentially, we’ve got a lot of gay people in the armed forces, we always have had, always will. And I think that . . . we should welcome people that want to serve.” Gen. Clark went on to say that the ban is “an issue that the leaders in the armed forces are going to have to work with and resolve.”
Clark, who is considered a possible candidate for the 2004 Democratic Presidential Nomination, pointed out that many NATO allies have abandoned their policies of discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual troops. Openly gay troops from allied nations “already are” serving together in joint exercises with the U.S., he said. “And they served together in Kosovo and in Bosnia and so forth.”
The United States “should welcome people that want to serve,” Gen. Clark told host Tim Russert.
Clark served as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO from 1997 until 2000 and was also Commander-in-Chief of the United States Southern Command and Commander-in-Chief of the United States European Command. Among his military decorations are the Defense Distinguished Service Medal (three awards), Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, Legion of Merit (four awards), Bronze Star Medal (two awards), Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal (two awards), and the Army Commendation Medal (two awards). Clark is a 1966 graduate of West Point Academy.
C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), welcomed Clark’s comments. “Clearly, Gen. Clark has seen that lesbian, gay and bisexual troops are serving our allies well,” Osburn said.
“His experience, and the experiences of our NATO allies, has shown that national security and military readiness are enhanced when every able-bodied person is allowed to serve. Our leaders should heed Gen. Clark’s call to welcome every American, regardless of their sexual orientation, to our armed forces.”
Of the nine declared Democratic presidential candidates, eight have voiced support for repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
by Paul Johnson
Washington Bureau Chief