Trump's nominee withdraws amid flak over anti-Islam views and gender bias

ark Green, a Republican state senator of Tennessee who was forced to withdraw his nomination as Army secretary. (Twitter photo)
Updated 06 May 2017
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Trump's nominee withdraws amid flak over anti-Islam views and gender bias

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s choice for Army secretary has withdrawn his nomination in the face of growing criticism over his remarks about Muslims, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans.
Mark Green, a Republican state senator from Tennessee, said in a statement Friday that “false and misleading attacks” against him had turned his nomination into a distraction.
“Tragically, my life of public service and my Christian beliefs have been mischaracterized and attacked by a few on the other side of the aisle for political gain,” Green said, expressing “deep regret” over the decision.
Green is the second Trump nominee for Army secretary to withdraw.
The move to step aside comes after a video began circulating of a remarks Green gave in September to a tea party group in Chattanooga. Green, who is opposed to gay marriage, said being transgender is a disease. He urged that a stand be taken against “the indoctrination of Islam” in public schools” and also referred to the “Muslim horde” that invaded Constantinople hundreds of years ago.
Several Senate Democrats, including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, declared they would oppose Green’s nomination over what they said were intolerant and disturbing views. Democrat Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a combat veteran who lost her legs and partial use of her right arm during the Iraq war, said in a statement Friday that Green wasn’t fit to lead the service.
Schumer welcomed Green’s move to step aside.
“Mark Green’s decision to withdraw his name from consideration as Army secretary is good news for all Americans, especially those who were personally vilified by his disparaging comments directed toward the LGBTQ community, Muslim community, Latino community and more,” he said in a statement.
Also on Friday, a coalition of 41 organizations led by the Human Rights Campaign called on the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee to reject Green’s nomination. The letter to Senators John McCain of Arizona and Jack Reed of Rhode Island said Green’s “shameful rhetoric” is at odds with the Army’s core values and will affect recruiting.
Green’s withdrawal underscores the challenges Trump has faced in filling two of the service secretary posts. The president’s first pick to be the Army’s top civilian, Vincent Viola, dropped out in early February because of financial entanglements, and about three weeks later Philip B. Bilden, the Navy secretary nominee, withdrew for similar reasons.
The GOP-led Senate is scheduled to vote Monday on the nomination of Heather Wilson to be Air Force secretary.
Trump’s decision to tap Green in early April represented a stark contrast to President Barack Obama’s choice of Eric Fanning for the post. Fanning, who’d been a senior Pentagon official, was the first openly gay leader of one of the military branches.
Green graduated from West Point in 1986 and served as an Army physician. Green is the CEO of Align MD, which provides leadership and staffing to emergency departments and hospitals, according to the White House. He served in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment where he made three combat tours to the Middle East.
As a Tennessee state senator, Green sponsored legislation last year that his critics have said would make it easier for businesses to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
During his remarks before the Chattanooga tea party group, Green said the Obama administration has “bred general officers who are afraid of their shadow.” He also said that “if you poll the psychiatrists, they’re going to tell you that transgender is a disease.”
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Associated Press writer Erik Schelzig in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.


Joy as US-seized bells return to Philippine church

Updated 1 min 25 sec ago
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Joy as US-seized bells return to Philippine church

BALANGIGA, Philippines: A sleepy central Philippine town erupted in joy on Saturday as bells looted from its church more than a century ago by vengeful US troops were to be turned over to the community.
Children waving bell-shaped signs and tearful residents in Balangiga gathered to welcome home the three bells that are a deep local source of pride, and which the US flew to Manila this week after decades of urging by the Philippines.
US troops carted away the bronze objects as trophies, after razing the town and killing potentially thousands of Filipinos, in reprisal for a surprise 1901 attack that left 48 of their comrades dead.
For the people of Balangiga the bells are a symbol of the Philippines’ long struggle for independence, and a dark chapter which is the subject of an annual re-enactment and remembrance event locally.
“It’s not just me but the whole town is walking in the clouds because the bells are finally with us,” 81-year-old Nemesio Duran told AFP.
“We are the happiest people on Earth now,” he added, noting he is descended from the boy who rang one of the bells, long said to have signalled the attack on the Americans.
The bells arrived in Balangiga late Friday ahead of an official handover ceremony set for later Saturday, but the town’s streets were already crowded with people and vendors selling T-shirts saying “Balangiga bells finally home.”


The ceremony will be not far from the town plaza that holds a monument with statues of the American soldiers having breakfast as the Filipino revolutionaries raise their machetes at the start of the onslaught.
Manila has been pushing for the bells’ return since at least the 1990s, with backing from Philippine presidents, its influential Catholic Church and supporters in the United States.
But the repatriation was long held back by some American lawmakers and veterans who viewed the bells, two of which were in the US state of Wyoming and the third at a US base in South Korea, as tributes to fallen soldiers.
A confluence of factors earlier this year, that included a key veterans’ group dropping its opposition, culminated in the bells landing in Manila aboard a US military cargo plane on Tuesday for a solemn handover.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, 73, bluntly called on Washington in a 2017 speech: “Give us back those Balangiga bells. They are not yours.”
His arrival in power in mid-2016 was marked by moves to split from Manila’s historical ally and former colonial master the United States. At the same time Duterte signalled an end to the standoff with Beijing over the disputed South China Sea.
Yet for some in Balangiga the bells’ return is also a somber occasion tinged with the pain of the past, which has been passed from generation to generation.
“It’s mixed emotions because the bells also remind me of what happened,” Constancia Elaba, 62, told AFP, adding how she grew up hearing stories of the episode from her father.
“It was painful and you cannot take it away from us. We can never forget that,” she said.