Rachel Maddow opens her interesting interview with General Colin Powell who served as Secretary of State during the George W. Bush administration with comments by his former Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson that senior administration officials knew the consequences of sending untrained staff to Guantanamo and that there were many in Guantanamo who were innocent.
Powell’s response essentially validates in substance and emotion Colonel Wilkerson’s views — particularly when you watch General Powell’s expression when he speaks of the detention of teenagers and a 93-year old man.
Then, Rachel Maddow gets into the question of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the policy that permits gay Americans to serve in the military as long as soldiers hide their sexual identity. . .completely. If they don’t, then they can be and usually, will be discharged. Barack Obama has signaled his intention to eventually change this policy. Powell’s response was fairly bureaucratic — open to change if it can be shown that the “quality of the force” would not be adversely affected.
Powell is tilting in a constructive and progressive direction, but I still find myself disappointed by the lack of principle he feels in this case with regard to discrimination against gay people. The “quality of the force” has clearly been adversely affected by the discharge of highly qualified soldiers, technical experts, and translators because they were gay and we allowed bigotry to undermine American national security interests.
But beyond the question of soldiering efficacy is the question of whether the U.S. military should look like American society — or not. And in my view, discriminatory standards and codes are as abhorrent when applied to race as to sexual identity. I think Colin Powell knows this — and have reason to believe that he is more than ready to accept and support gays in the military. But it is clear that he is not going to be the leader that calls for change.
— Steve Clemons