by Aamer Madhani
The gay rights advocacy group PFLAG is blasting President Bush's for his decision to award the highest civilian award to Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who once said that he thought homosexual acts are "immoral."
Pace later apologized for injecting his personal opinion in his defense of the U.S. military's "don't ask don't tell" policy. PFLAG is calling on Americans to write the president to protest his decision to award Pace the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
"Honoring General Pace for using his personal prejudice to meddle with military matters is just plain wrong," PFLAG wrote on its blog. "There should be no medal for bigotry and intolerance."
In its announcement, the White House called Pace "one of our nation's most accomplished and respected military officers."
Pace sparked controversy in March 2007, when he said in an interview with Chicago Tribune reporters and editors that he supported the "don't ask, don't tell" policy because homosexual acts are immoral and akin to a member of the armed forces conducting an adulterous affair with the spouse of another service member.
Under the policy, gays and lesbians may serve only if they keep their sexual orientation private and do not engage in homosexual acts. Their commanders may not ask about their orientation.
"As an individual, I would not want [acceptance of gay behavior] to be our policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else's wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior," Pace said in the Tribune interview.
Pace, who played a central part in planning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, eventually was forced out his post as the chief military advisor to the president at the end of his first term as the chairman of the Joint Staff.
At the time, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the decision not to appoint him to a second term wasn't a reflection on Pace's performanc. Gates said that he knew Pace would face bruising questioning by the Senate Armed Services Committee for his role in the early mismanagement of the war in Iraq if the President nominated him to serve again.
Pace will be the fourth key figure in the Iraq war to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Bush previously honored George Tenet, the former CIA director; retired Gen. Tommy Franks, the head of U.S. Central Command at the start of the Iraq war; and Paul Bremer, who headed the U.S. provisional authority in Iraq.