An Army general playing a prominent role in readying the military for open gays in the ranks has equated those who resist the plan to racists who opposed racial integration after World War II, according to two service members and a civilian who heard his remarks.
But the Army says officials checked notes taken at the sessions in Germany and found no reference to Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick making such a comparison. Gen. Bostick said the attendees are misquoting him.
“We have checked the notes from that meeting and could find no evidence that Lt. Gen. Bostick compared racists in post-WWII Army to current people who oppose the overturning of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,’” Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, an Army spokesman, said in an e-mail. “We have found no evidence that Lt. Gen. Bostick even remotely made a reference like that.”
The two service members told The Washington Times that Gen. Bostick, Army deputy chief of staff for personnel, made the comparison during a talk at a U.S. European Command base outside Stuttgart, Germany, last month.
The two said they were offended because they base their opposition to homosexuality on religious grounds. They said Gen. Bostick’s remarks raised fears that the Army will seek to punish soldiers for their religious beliefs, or push them out for not going along with President Obama’s policy of lifting the ban on open gays, known as ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’
One of the member’s account of the Gen. Bostick’s presentation first appeared in an editorial in The Times Sept. 16. Gen. Bostick released a statement saying the words attributed to him were “inaccurate.”
A Washington Times reporter later interviewed both sources on the condition of anonymity because they fear reprisal from the command.
The source who was quoted in The TImes editorial said that he took mental notes of Gen. Bostick’s remarks and then wrote them down 10 minutes later. He said Gen. Bostick used the word “racist” three times in comparing opposition today with the military’s racial integration in the 1940s.
“If there is anything to quibble over, it’s whether I punctuated the quote correctly,” the service member said. “It’s not over the substance.”
“He said those things. He said ‘racist.’ He equated them with racists. Basically, I got the quotes exactly right. There might have been ellipses between the sentences. He may not have said them consecutively.”
Gen. Bostick used the term “racists” after a soldier stood up toward the session’s end and talked about the military’s history of leading social change, such as the integration of blacks and of women. The soldier asked the three-star general if someone who opposes open gays would be treated like racists and sexist.
Gen. Bostick then gave a long answer. “He equated opponents to racists at least two times,” the source said.
Gen. Bostick was in Europe with other officials as part of a study ordered by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on how to integrate open gays, as promised by Mr. Obama.
He issued a statement sharply rebutting the words attributed to him in the editorial. “The statements attributed to me are inaccurate. I simply did not make those statements,” Gen. Bostick stated, adding that “as a member of the Department of Defense Comprehensive Review Working Group, I have been extremely careful not to express any views that might influence the integrity of the comprehensive review. I, therefore, have not expressed any opinions that might suppress the opinions of anyone participating in our discussions. I find the statements falsely attributed to me to be personally reprehensible.”
“The general made an unfortunate analogy,” this service member said. “He compared the resistance that’s present already in the military to repealing [the ban] as akin to the bigotry that was present in the Army before it was integrated. … If you’re against the integration of open homosexuals in the Army, well then, you’re similar to the bigots who were against racial integration.”
This source said he was offended because “we’re talking about a behavior here that has been identified as a mortal sin.”
“People’s ethnic background is not a violation of a moral code. There are no choices there,” the source said.
A third source came forward on Thursday. Rob Fulcher, a civilian defense employee, attended one of the sessions and stated Gen. Bostick drew the racist comparison to those opposed to lifting the ban on open gays.
He wrote in a letter to the editor published in The Times that “a black senior noncommissioned officer stood up and challenged the general on the issue of civil rights, stating, ‘I am black, and I find it highly offensive that you would consider homosexuality to be the same as civil rights of blacks.’ Again, Gen. Bostick sat smug in his chair without a response.”
He added, “After a while, the sanctimonious and pompous answers given by him and his panel were easy to overlook. However, the simultaneous gasp of a few hundred people came when Gen. Bostick responded to the morality and religious aspects of homosexuality. It is absolutely true that Gen. Bostick in part thinks that Christians were bigots and racists, and those who felt homosexuality was immoral should start looking for a new line of work.”
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