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SENATE TABLES GENERAL’S PROMOTION, NTAC ASKS FOR WITHDRAWAL OF CONSIDERATION

by NTAC Media Thursday, May. 22, 2003 at 5:07 PM
info@ntac.org 832-483-9901 P O Box 76027 / Washington DC 20013

For the second time, Sen. John Warner (R-VA), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has delayed consideration of the promotion of an Army general who commanded the base where one soldier beat a fellow soldier to death. The decision drew praise from the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC), which also requested that the general’s promotion be removed from further consideration.

For the second time, Sen. John Warner (R-VA), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has delayed consideration of the promotion of an Army general who commanded the base where one soldier beat a fellow soldier to death. The decision drew praise from the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC), which also requested that the general’s promotion be removed from further consideration.

Maj. Gen. Robert T. Clark, up for consideration to receive his third star, was commander of Fort Campbell, KY, in 1999, when Pfc. Barry Winchell, 21, was bludgeoned to death in his barracks at the base. In March, President Bush re-nominated Gen. Clark for promotion. Possibly feeling pressure from calls for an open hearing, the Senate Armed Services Committee delayed further consideration of the general’s promotion late last week.

“We’re pleased that the Senate Armed Services Committee has temporarily tabled consideration of Maj. Gen. Clark’s promotion,” said NTAC chair Vanessa Edwards Foster, “but we’d much prefer seeing the promotion withdrawn altogether.” Foster added that, “Gen. Clark has been widely maligned, and with good reason.”

Clark has been the subject of much controversy for his apathy toward the homophobic harassment that Barry Winchell faced in the weeks leading to his death. Winchell fell in love with a pre-operative transsexual, Calpernia Addams, who performed at the Connection – one of Nashville’s famed nightclubs known for its drag performances just an hour down the road from the army base. After a night of drinking, Pvt. Calvin Glover beat Winchell to death as Pvt. Justin Fisher egged Glover on.

On May 12 Patricia and Wally Kutteles, the parents of Barry Winchell, finally met with Maj. Gen. Clark, the man whom they say allowed a “tyrannical, homophobic atmosphere” to fester at the base where their son was stationed. The Servicemembers’ Legal Defense Network (SLDN) reported that Clark never offered an apology to Winchell’s parents during their meeting.

The Kutteleses contend that during Clark’s command at Fort Campbell he failed to address anti-gay harassment. In a recent interview on CNN, Mrs. Kutteles added that Clark offered “no teaching on ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ until ordered to by the Pentagon.”

The Kutteleses alleged that Clark also initiated an investigation into Winchell’s sexual orientation, against military policy, while ignoring threats to Winchell’s safety.

“I wonder if General Clark has ever publicly addressed the major problems occurring on his watch,” asked Calpernia Addams, Winchell’s girlfriend at the time: “How and why so much underage drinking was going on at Fort Campbell; why his officers were unschooled in the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy; why violations of this policy were permitted; why complaints of harassment went unheeded?”

“It really is a shocking list of failures that would be individually problematic,” Addams added, “and I don't recall a good explanation from anyone, much less the man in charge.”

Clark was also criticized for his treatment of Winchell’s loved ones as well as his lack of communication.

“He didn’t apologize for the way Barry’s things were sent back,” Mr. Kutteles said in an interview with SLDN. “They didn’t send any dress uniforms, only fatigues … one boot…. The inside of the box looked like someone emptied their trash.”

“We called down there but no one responded,” Mr. Kutteles added. “Why wouldn’t you want to meet us as a sign of courtesy?” Kutteles asked Clark. “He didn’t answer.”

“I asked him, “Why did you wait four years to meet with us?” Mrs. Kutteles recounted for the CNN interview. “He said, “Well, you could’ve called me”.”

Addams stated flatly that, “[neither] General Clark, nor anyone from the military, has ever acknowledged me in any way.”

The Kutteleses said that Clark told them that he would likely retire if he does not receive the promotion and added that he knew the meeting was necessary for his confirmation. Mrs. Kutteles felt, "this meeting was clearly more important to Maj. Gen. Clark than to us.”

“Clearly with all of the missteps and problems under his command, offering a promotion to Gen. Clark distinctly sends the wrong message,” added Foster of NTAC. “Regardless of whether he is contrite about it now, why reward a poor track record?”

“These failures [at Fort Campbell] allowed the murder of Barry Winchell to take place,” said Addams, now living in California. “In the end, nothing [that] anyone does makes up for a lost life.”

- 30 -

Founded in 1999, NTAC - the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition - is a §501(c)(4) civil rights organization working to establish and maintain the right of all transgendered, intersexed, and gender-variant people to live and work without fear of violence or discrimination.

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