administration sidelined Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Friday, announcing plans to
replace him as the nation's top military officer
rather than reappoint him and risk a Senate
confirmation struggle focusing on the Iraq war.
''It would be a
backward-looking and very contentious process,'' Defense
secretary Robert Gates said at a Pentagon news conference
where he announced he would recommend Adm. Mike Mullen
to replace Pace. Mullen is the chief of naval
operations, and Gates praised him for having the
''vision, strategic insight, and integrity to lead America's
At the same time,
he made it clear that he had made his decision with
reluctance, saying he wished it had not been necessary.
''I am no
stranger to contentious confirmations, and I do not shrink
from them,'' Gates said at a hastily arranged news
''However, I have
decided that at this moment in our history, the nation,
our men and women in uniform, and General Pace himself would
not be well served by a divisive ordeal."
As chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff for two years and vice chairman
for the previous four, Pace has been involved in all of the
key decisions leading to the 2002 invasion of Iraq and
the planning for the post-Saddam Hussein era.
controversy earlier this year when he was quoted in a March
12 Chicago Tribune interview as saying that
while he supports the military's "don't ask, don't tell"
policy because it allows gays to serve--though
not openly--"I believe that homosexual acts
between individuals are immoral and that we should not
condone immoral acts. I do not believe that the armed forces
of the United States are well served by saying through
our policies that it's OK to be immoral in any way."
Though he later expressed regret for making the
remarks, he has never apologized for them.
never know if concerns about General Pace's
homophobic remarks played a role in his decision not
to seek reconfirmation, but it seems reasonable to
assume that the controversy he ignited weighed on his
mind," Steve Ralls, director of communications for the
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, told The
Advocate. "In the wake of Pace's
resignation, SLDN urges President Bush to appoint a
new chairman who values the talents and contributions
of every service member, regardless of sexual orientation.
We hope the next chairman will embrace the commitment to
fairness expressed by former Joint Chiefs chairman
John Shalikashvili and leave behind General
Pace's legacy of divisiveness and disrespect."
However, in a
statement released Friday night, SLDN notes a report by CNN
Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr that Pace's departure
may indeed be tied to his antigay remarks.
"Congressional leaders, in warning Secretary of
Defense Gates that Pace's remarks would be an obstacle to
his confirmation, have sent a clear message that antigay
prejudice has no place in public policy debates," said
Sharra E. Greer, SLDN director of law and policy.
"General Pace's remarks are still fresh in the minds
of lesbian, gay, and bisexual military personnel and were
disrespectful to their commitment and service to our
country. Those who held General Pace responsible for
his irresponsible remarks should be commended for
taking a courageous stand in favor of our military
The war, now in
its fifth year, has claimed the lives of more than 3,500
U.S. troops and has become intensely unpopular with the
American public. The new Democratic majority in
Congress has shown an eagerness to challenge Bush's
handling of the conflict, and the president has
already vetoed one bill that included a troop withdrawal
timetable. (AP, with additional reporting by The