The Florida lawmaker said he can’t change his skin color, but they can change their behavior.
In remarks delivered Tuesday at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, Rep. Allen West (R-Florida) drew on his 22 years in the military to call for increased military spending and a more aggressive national security strategy and weighed in on the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that bars gays from serving openly in the military.
The Army veteran said that it is critical that there be an adequate and steady stream of defense funding and recalled times when soldiers had to make do, including using golf carts to practice tank strategies and not having enough toilet paper.
“I can tell you as an executive officer when we did not have enough money to buy tools to repair our howitzers, or we did not have enough money to get toilet paper for some of our soldiers,” West said. “We did not have enough money to buy the ammunition so that guys could stay out on the rifle range. And we find ourselves going down that exact same path.”
West also said that Al Qaeda is just one security threat facing the nation and that the United States needs to develop a “national security roadmap” that targets those threats.
One of the things that I kind of got upset with was that a lot of people up here in Washington D.C., said that, you know, ‘You cut the head off the snake,’” West said, referring to the killing of Osama bin Laden. “Once again, that’s the lack of strategic clarity and understanding of who the enemy is. All you really did is you cut the head off a multi-headed hydra.”
With regard to gays in the military, while West did not say they should not serve, he did say that it’s their job to adapt to the military, not the other way around.
“Now, if we start to have a perspective and belief in this nation that the military conforms to individual behavior, then we have lost the understanding of what it means to be in the U.S. military,” he said, adding that the rules are very clear and anyone who doesn’t want to conform to those rules shouldn’t join.
Allen also said that although some people will say he should be more understanding because he is African-American, the military is not a place for social experimentation.
“Unless I’m Michael Jackson, I can’t change my color. But people can change behavior,” West said.