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Posted on Oct 9, 2007 Print this Article

Kennedy Smears Military in Pursuit of “Hate Crimes” Bill

We have heard a lot about Rush Limbaugh ‘s alleged insult about “phony soldiers,” but almost nothing about a genuine attack against our soldiers that was launched on the floor of the U.S. Senate.  As reported by Byron York of NRO, on September 26 Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) was promoting his “hate crimes” amendment to the Defense Authorization bill.  The legislation would expand legal sanctions against persons targeting a victim because of sexual orientation and “gender identity.”

Kennedy listed several examples of alleged hate crimes in the military, suggesting that his amendment was the answer to such problems. Kennedy’s list of allegations sounded like a rant from a left-wing blog, but most of the examples he cited were punished years ago, or are still under investigation. 

Kennedy’s tactic, unfortunately, worked.  The Defense Authorization bill, headed for conference committee, is now encumbered with his non-germane “hate crimes” amendment.  If passed and signed into law, the legislation would add nothing to current provisions in military law that forbid and punish racism, harassment, and violence against any individual—not just members of special groups.

Hot Air About Harassment

The senior senator used the usual disclaimers, but they did not mitigate his slur against the armed forces for “hate motivated violence.”  For example, he mentioned a recent incident involving the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, involving two soldiers who allegedly stole and sold military equipment, including armored vests and a Humvee, to white supremacists.  Fort Bragg officials confirmed that Kennedy’s statement was only half-true and misleading. 

As reported in the Fayetteville Observer, Army officials were in the process of dismissing the soldiers in question, Private Joffre Cross, 21, and Private Jason Niewoit, 18, on June 11, due to “patterns of misconduct.”  Their discharge date was June 11, but the FBI got there first.  Both soldiers were arrested on June 4 for selling stolen Army equipment and medical supplies. 

The two soldiers could have offered the contraband to gang members or flea market merchants.  Unlucky for them, their customer happened to be an FBI agent posing as a white supremacist.  One of the two soldiers was drawn to racist websites, but contrary to Sen. Kennedy’s hot-air rhetoric, there was no evidence that the misfit men were involved in violence motivated by hate. 

More can and should be done to prevent the recruiting of individuals involved in disreputable groups.  Part of the problem is that juvenile misconduct records frequently are withheld from recruiters.  Still, Kennedy’s “hate crimes” amendment would not accomplish anything new that would be useful to minorities.  Most of the military cases cited by Kennedy were punished promptly and followed by extensive training programs to counter the influence of civilian racist groups and gangs.  The armed forces led the way in officially banning racial discrimination decades ago. 

Exploiting Tragedy for Ideological Purposes

There are troublesome individuals in the military, but this is no excuse for suggesting that “hate crimes” are rampant and accepted in the ranks  Nor is it fair to speculate about tragedies that may or may not have involved sexual tensions in the military. 

One of these occurred on September 26, when Army Specialist Ciara Durkin, 30, was killed while serving with the Massachusetts National Guard in Afghanistan.  On October 4, Massachusetts Democrats Kennedy, Sen. John Kerry, and Rep. William Delahunt joined with a homosexual activist group, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) to demand an investigation of Spec. Durkin’s death.  The Pentagon described it a “non-combat related incident,” still under investigation. 

The fatal single gunshot wound to the Spec. Durkin’s head could have been the result of an enemy attack, an accident, murder by a resentful colleague, or suicide.  Family members said that Durkin had told them in a letter that she had ruffled some feathers in her finance unit job. No one knows for sure, but since the family said that Spec. Durkin was a lesbian, the SLDN rushed to suggest that the motive might have been hate. 

Spec. Durkin’s reported plans to marry her female partner in Massachusetts would have confirmed her ineligibility to serve in uniform, but that is beside the point.  Violence against any person in the military is completely wrong and punishable under current law.

The grieving Durkin family deserves more information from the Army, as soon as possible.  According to the Boston Globe, they have not even been told whether a gun was found next to her body.  If another soldier intentionally killed Spec. Durkin, the crime should be punished to the fullest extent of the law¾no more and no less if she was a lesbian.  Massachusetts politicians should not be exploiting this or any other tragedy to push their hate crimes bill. 

Pfc. Barry Winchell

In 1999, homosexual activists crafted a polemic campaign that focused on the brutal murder of Army Pfc. Barry Winchell, an alleged homosexual, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in July of that year.  Senator Kennedy cited the savage killing of Pfc. Barry Winchell as evidence that more must be done to end “hate crimes” and harassment of homosexuals.

The confessed killer, Pvt. Calvin Glover, assaulted Winchell in the barracks with a baseball bat on July 4, 1999, several hours after Winchell had beaten him in a drunken brawl.  Evidence of Glover’s hostile attitude toward Winchell, who was involved with a transgender male nightclub entertainer who appeared to be a woman, was a factor in his trial and sentencing to life in prison. 

An Army Inspector General investigation cleared Fort Campbell commanders, but noted poor morale and a tolerance of underage drinking and anti-gay language by the senior sergeant in the battalion. The report also noted the reluctance of battalion commanders to ask questions about matters involving alleged homosexuality.  Military discipline requires constant awareness of what is happening in military units, throughout the chain of command. Bill Clinton's “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which should be dropped so that the law banning homosexuals from the militry can be better understood and enforced, discourages the asking of legitimate questions and undermines sound leadership.

In the tragic case pf Pfc. Winchell, a failure to ask questions apparently was a factor in the creation of a volatile situation that exploded with violence.  Perpetrators of this crime have been rightly punished, but there is no need for additional legislation to stop harassment or murderous assaults—of anyone—in the barracks.

Exaggerated Claims of Harassment

Contrary to exaggerated claims by activist groups, more than 80% of homosexual service members discharged since passage of the 1993 law excluding homosexuals from the military left the service not because of witch hunts rooting them out but because of voluntary statements admitting homosexuality.  According to a 1998 Defense Department Task Force report, there were only four cases of anti-homosexual harassment reported since 1994. Two of those cases involved anonymous letters that could not be traced.

If Kennedy’s controversial amendment is not stripped in the conference committee, President George W. Bush should veto the bill and instruct Congress to try again.  The military is not a perfect institution—it is composed of imperfect human beings.  Nevertheless, it is wrong for politicians to defame the armed forces just to score rhetorical points for a pet liberal cause.


Posted on Oct 9, 2007 Print this Article