Was Charged with Implementing the Discriminatory 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Policy in 1990s...
By Jon Ponder on 12/16/2008, 5:40am PT  

Guest blogged by Jon Ponder, Pensito Review.


In 1993, when he served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Pres. Clinton, Colin Powell was a leading advocate of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy that essentially allowed gay people to serve only if they agreed to stay in the closet. Now, in an interview with Fareed Zakaria on CNN, he says it's time for the policy to be reviewed.

Transcript (at 03:10 on the Video):

FAREED ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about one social issue you were associated with, which was "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" --- the policy toward gay people being in the military openly. Do you feel like the country has moved to a place where we could reevaluate "Don't Ask, Don't Tell?"

POWELL: We definitely should reevaluate it. It's been 15 years since we put in "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which was a policy that became a law. I didn't want it to become a law, but it became a law because Congress felt that strongly about it. But it's been 15 years, and attitudes have changed. And I think it is time for the Congress, since it's their law, to have a full review of it. And I'm quite sure that's what Pres.-Elect Obama will want to do.

This indicates a radical change in Powell's thinking on this issue. In 1993, he was in charge of implementing the military's policy toward gays. Here are highlight of his position on the issue, as compiled by Emma Ruby-Sachs at Huffington Post:

He said [in 1993], "I continue to believe strongly that the presence of homosexuals within the armed forces would be prejudicial to good order and discipline." (USA Today, November 16, 1992) In support of this position, Powell told Ted Koppel that in the military, "we have to shower together."

According to the San Francisco Chronicle's coverage of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testimony to Congress on DADT, Powell stated, "'cohesive teams of warriors who bind so tightly' that they can charge into machine gun fire could not be sustained with known homosexuals among their number." He further testified that he would be troubled if a soldier of his showed up at a gay pride parade dressed in drag. (San Francisco Chronicle, July 21, 1993)...

Yesterday, Powell may have asked for a review of the discriminatory policy of the military. But he is still on record justifying the exclusion of LGBT people, equating sexual orientation with lifestyle choices and is personally responsible for the termination of 9,488 employees under DADT since 1993.

It was disconcerting back then that someone as worldly as Powell was such an adamant homophobe, especially since he belonged to a minority that had been the object of equally vile discrimination by the military in his lifetime. Like Nixon, the old red-baiter, engineering the rapprochement with Communist China, as DADT's former champion, Powell is in a unique position to lead the charge to end this illogical, divisive and discriminatory policy.

With his endorsement of Obama, and in this and other recent interviews, Powell seems to be seeking redemption. Taking on the role of the Republican militarist who makes the case to the public for ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would be a start.