Skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

Top Military Stories Of 2010: DADT Overturned, Wars In Middle East


How will the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" impact local Marines and sailors? What's the status of Camp Pendleton-based Marines currently serving in Afghanistan? And, when will Afghan-led security forces be ready to take over? We discuss the top military stories of the year, and look ahead 2011.

How will the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" impact local Marines and sailors? What's the status of Camp Pendleton-based Marines currently serving in Afghanistan? And, when will Afghan-led security forces be ready to take over? We discuss the top military stories of the year, and look ahead 2011.


Tony Perry, San Diego Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times.

John Warren, editor and publisher of San Diego Voice & Viewpoint.

Bob Kittle, director of News Planning and Content for KUSI.

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

GLORIA PENNER: This is the Editors' Roundtable, I'm Gloria Penner, and I'm here with Tony Perry from the LA Times, and Bob Kittle from KUSI, and John Warren from San Diego voice and viewpoint. And wee moving on with our end of the year wrap up. And this time we're turning toward the military. 2010 seemed to be a year of two steps forward and one step back when it came to the wars that the United States is waging in the middle east. But regarding the issue of gays serving openly in the military, it's a whole different story. So Tony issue let's start with the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the lame duck Congress came together to end the policy of requiring gays and lesbians in the military to keep their sexual orientation secret if they wanted to serve. So what happened to make 2010 the year of this major change?

PERRY: I think the culture had moved on, the political winds had changed, there's a younger generation in the military and in civilian life to whom this is not much of an issue of it's an issue to the senior, the generals, who are in their late '50s and 60s, oftentimes from Alabama and Arkansas, it's true, And they have certain political views and cultural views, but they aren't shared. The political vibes have changed. And if it didn't happen, and the president signed it Wednesday morning, if it didn't happen this year, it was gonna happen next, and if it didn't happen next year by legislative action, it was gonna happen by court fiat. There was so much writing on the wall, the wall collapsed.

GLORIA PENNER: We have heard the one branch of the service that wasn't really thrilled by the whole idea was the Marines. Who were the Marines that you cover responding to the impending change?

PERRY: A lot of them are very young men, 19, 20, 22 years old. And what they -- they will respond to strong leadership. When the general says, this is the policy, and the staff NCO says this is the policy, that will be the policy. And they will move on. Some history, in the late 1940s when the president of the United States thought it was time to racially integrate the military services, that branch of the service most opposed to it, most opposed to it, virulently opposed to it was the U.S. Marine Corps. They had fought a very successful campaign in the south Pacific with racially segregated troops, saw no reason to change. President said, thank you very much, we're gonna do it anyway. They did it, they did it very well, and by Korea, the Marine Corps was racially integrated and fought very bravely and very well. A couple of years from now, I think we're gonna look back on this and say, what was all that about? It works. Will there be a jackass or two, either gay or straight to cause trouble? Oh, yeah. It's a big organization. But over all, not gonna be a problem in the long run.

GLORIA PENNER: So a lot of time, a lot of words were spent on this policy, obviously, is in the process of being changed. But there are still those, John, in the military who say that changing the policy will disrupt so called camaraderie among infantry troops.

WARREN: Well, you know, I guess the big of the problem is most of the people talking have probably not been in the military. The military that I served in as an officer some 40 years ago was much different. It didn't even have coed barracks. Of it had women on one side of the post, and men on the other. We have a generation today, I don't think that the changing of the policy is gonna make people start wearing heels and handbags with their backpacks. But I think what it says is we're gonna have a scenarios whereby there's gonna be some respect for the differences, and I don't think that those who have differences will blatantly bring their differences in trying to change the culture of the military in terms of warfare. So I think that's why the president says, it's gonna be a while drafting the implementation. I don't think it's -- I was never in favor of the idea, but looking at it, you know, its time has come, and I think we'll move beyond it as Tony suggests.


KITTLE: Yeah, I really don't think this is gonna even be a small hiccup for the military. I think the truth probably is, and Tony having covered the Marines in Afghanistan and Iraq much more closely, I think the truth is that in almost any military unit, if there are gay members serving, folks tend to know it, whether they ask or not, whether they tell or not. They know they're working with -- you know, some of their colleagues are gay. So I don't think this is going to be a big deal at all, and I do remember 15, maybe 20 years ago, when women started being introduced into combat position, the concern was that men on the battlefield, they'll go out of their way to protect a woman because of our culture, that that's what is expected of a man of we will sustain casualties because men will be doing unwise things to protect the women. None of that materialized.

GLORIA PENNER: Yeah, but there are still plenty, plenty of reports of sexual harassment that go on in the military.

KITTLE: Separate issue, separate issue. But when it comes to good order and discipline, which is the military's term for maintaining the troops in a military fighting posture, good order and discipline I don't think is going to be compromised by this at all.

GLORIA PENNER: But will this be a particularly difficult time, bob, since the repeal is -- the repeal is approved, but the ban is still in place until the Pentagon writes and implements the new rules? So you have the repeal but you still have a ban.

KITTLE: Yes, but I think the truth is, no one is going to be excelled from this day forward from the military for acknowledging that he or she is gay. In fact, I think there are a number of former gay service personnel who were expelled from the military who will be signing up. And I don't -- so while it might take the Pentagon a year to develop the rules and regulations, I think that really particularly with the signing of the bill on Wednesday, gays no longer have to worry about being kicked out of the military because they're gay.


WARREN: And let's not forget that under the administrative procedures act, there is a process for rule making no matter what the law is. And there's a passage on the one hand, and there's the development of drafts and the circulation, and a comment period, and it will go through all of that. So this will be responded to the same way as other legislation is responded to. I don't think people as bob says, are gonna be penalized instantly, we're gonna find problems just because of the signing today.

GLORIA PENNER: Well, be we move on to the question of what's happening with the wars our marines are fighting. Did 2010 provide hope that troops could be withdrawn from any theatre of war? Tony?

PERRY: It provided -- the buzz phrase is fragile progress. And the hope now -- 2011 had been the target to begin, that sort of is fading, now it's sort of like 2014 to get the majority of the troops out and turn things over to the Afghans. And that relates to us here. We had at the height, almost 10000 marines and sailors from Camp Pendleton from Iraq and Afghanistan, this number is decreasing as they rotate home, and battalions from the other bases rotate in. We still have thousands over there. We had 60 marines and sailors from Camp Pendleton killed this year in Afghanistan, 21 from the same battalion, which is as we speak still involved in very serious combat in a place called Sangin in the Helmand province. It could be a decisive battle or not. This war, as the bar before it, in Iraq, is for us in San Diego, a local story, and it's gonna stay that way for a language time.

GLORIA PENNER: It is a local story, but from what I understand, there are being steps now to transition to an Afghan led security and government.

PERRY: Small steps, couple of steps forward, a step back, and don't forget, it's a big, big country. And it's really different one region to the next, and it's hard to generalize. Might do better in Helmand province. You send 20000 marines into a province, you're gonna get progress. How well that progress can be phased into Afghan control, that's the next big -- and we'll see some of that next year in some areas but I think what you'll do is you'll move the Marines out of places like Nawa, where the Marines in Pendleton have been, and they'll move them up to places like and Sangin and Musa Qala , and other garden spots like that, to bolster other Camp Pendleton Marines. So the number of actual marines coming home next year I think is gonna be minimal. The Marines issue if we stick with this foreign policy, marines from camp pen are gonna be going to and from Afghanistan for a long time.

PENNER: So when their deployments are over, they can still expect to be redeployed. It's not, like, okay, goodbye to Afghanistan, goodbye to Iraq.

PERRY: 7 and 7 is for most of us a kind of libation to have during happy hour. 7 and 7 for the Marine Corps means seven in Afghanistan, seven months, 7 months back home training to go back to Afghanistan.


WARREN: Well, I think let's remember that during this year, the president made great strides with his prom. We did reduce, I, by a hundred thousand the troops in the Iraqi theatre. And that's important. I think wee gonna see more activity in terms of chasing the Taliban into Pakistan. Because we're gonna stop this withdrawal and letting them create this safe haven, so the State Department is putting pressure, the defense department, and I think these things are working. Of when he talks about, you know, in the year 2014, the important thing here is that there are efforts being made consistent with promises to bring our troops home and to turn over leadership to people. And I think that shouldn't be played down, no matter what the problems.

PERRY: And there's a lot of things we don't see, as you know, John. The drones, the drones are carrying on a war, each day, all day in pack tan in those sanctuaries, and then, of course, there are people who don't exist. There's people that don't exist like the [CHECK AUDIO] from Coronado, they don't exist. They're at work somewhere in Afghanistan, very hard to gauge how they and special forces marines, are green berets, the special forces and all those, [CHECK AUDIO] but we do know this. They're at work.

GLORIA PENNER: All right. Before we have to wrap up, I do want to make an point, and ask you about this, bob, reports are that the American public generally is tired of the wars. And less tolerant of huge defense expenditures for them. So what -- what concerns are there that the American public's going to simply say enough is enough and that the armed services' appeal will lose popularity, that the returning veterans will lose public support, that the whole thing is going to turn into a Vietnam.

KITTLE: Well, I think Americans are very impartiality, and I think this war has actually run on almost longer than the active envelopment of the Vietnam war. But you're absolutely right. The American people want out of Afghanistan. And while they recognize the need to contain the Taliban, they almost never will sign on for a long-term commitment that exceeds five years. And I think if the president does not show some evidence of constructive policy that brings home the troops, at least some of them, without giving up the battle, in 2012, he's going to have a major issue on his hands and it won't just be from the far left or the Democratic Party who are very unhappy if we're involved militarily anywhere in the world, [CHECK AUDIO].

GLORIA PENNER: Lie there, and -- or is it lay there? Well, whatever, it's the end of 2010, and I want to wish all of you, a very happy 2011. Many thanks for your great service to KPBS, Bob Kittle, KUSI, John Warren, San Diego Voice and Viewpoint, Tony Perry, LA Times, and thanks mightily to our listeners and our callers. This has been the Editors' Roundtable. I'm Gloria Penner, and happy new year.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.