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Top Marine: "Don't Ask" Repeal Would "Cost Marines' Lives"

4:31 PM, Dec 14, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Starts and Stripes reports that Marine Corps Commandant General James F. Amos just dropped a rhetorical bomb on renewed efforts to repeal "don't ask, don't tell":

ARLINGTON, Va. — The nation’s top Marine Corps officer said he read the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” report and troop survey repeatedly, thoughtfully, and without prejudice before deciding he could not endorse a change that might bring distractions or endanger the lives of Marines in combat. 

Ultimately, the voices of forward-fighting combat Marines who worried about unit cohesion in the Pentagon’s survey swayed Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos’ attention more than any other data point, leading him to recommend that Congress not repeal the law banning openly gay Americans from military service.

“Mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines lives,” he said. “That’s the currency of this fight.

“I take that very, very seriously,” he added. “I don’t want to lose any Marines to the distraction. I don’t want to have any Marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda [National Naval Medical Center, in Maryland] with no legs be the result of any type of distraction.”

Amos opposed repeal of DADT during recent Senate hearings--as did the chiefs of the Army and Air Force--on the grounds that it would hurt unit cohesion and combat effectiveness, but did not so starkly spell out the logical result of imposing another burden on combat Marines. Nearly 60% of Marines who have been deployed to combat zones and 67% of Marines in combat arms units (infantry, artillery, armor) said repealing DADT would have a "negative effect on their unit’s effectiveness in completing its mission 'in a field environment or out at sea.'"

Whether Amos's words have any effect on the effort to repeal DADT remains to be seen. House Democrats are introducing a stand-alone repeal bill, which incoming House Armed Services chairman Buck McKeon (R, Calif.) denounced today for prioritizing social policy ahead of the troops:

"Congressional Democrats continue to place a higher priority on repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ than the actual legislation which would provide for our nation’s security, troops and military services.  The defense authorization bill could—and should—have been passed months ago, but Democratic leaders have held it up because of controversial social provisions.  The American people and our troops demand better."

But the lame-duck Democrats have enough votes to quickly pass the bill in the House. 

Chances for repeal at this point depend almost entirely on (1) whether there's enough time to bring up a vote on a stand-alone repeal bill in the Senate and (2) whether moderate GOP senators such as Lisa Murkowski and Scott Brown vote for repeal. 

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