ONLY ONE LESSON...COUNT AGAIN!!!!
NY TIMES EDITORIAL
November 13, 2012
One Lesson From a Messy Scandal
The scandal unfolding around the resignation of David Petraeus as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency after an adulterous affair raises many questions that need to be answered — from the unusual role played by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in what seems to have begun as a routine investigation of harassing e-mails to whether and when Congressional intelligence committees should have been notified that the leader of the C.I.A. had come under an F.B.I. investigation.
On Tuesday, the scandal took another disquieting turn, with the announcement that the F.B.I. investigation had turned up tens of thousands of pages of “inappropriate communication” between Gen. John Allen, the Marine officer who succeeded Mr. Petraeus as the top military commander in Afghanistan 16 months ago, and Jill Kelley, the woman from Tampa, Fla., whose complaints to the F.B.I. about harassing e-mails triggered the inquiry that uncovered the Petraeus affair.
Those communications have been turned over to the Pentagon for further investigation. General Allen has not been accused of any sexual misconduct, but the Obama administration has now delayed his nomination to be the commander of American forces in Europe and the supreme allied commander of NATO, a move that had been expected early next year.
Amid the growing career rubble left by this scandal, one positive development may yet emerge. Mr. Petraeus, considered by many to be the most celebrated American military leader of recent times, says his affair with Paula Broadwell took place after his 2011 retirement from the military. But the fallout from this episode may finally push the Pentagon to enforce the military’s standards of sexual conduct more consistently, especially against male commanders of senior rank.
Different forms of sexual misconduct obviously call for different punishments. Adultery itself is not a violation of the uniform code unless it diminishes “good order and discipline” or brings “discredit upon the armed forces.” That, unfortunately, leaves plenty of room for subjective judgments and selective enforcement.
The military has long had a culture of impunity that seemed to shield high ranking officers for sexual misconduct, though more have been disciplined in recent years.
Thom Shanker reported in The Times on Tuesday a list of senior officers punished over the last year for a variety of leadership failures, including poor judgment and financial malfeasance. Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, a former deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan, faces a possible trial for adultery, sexual misconduct and forcible sodomy stemming from relationships with five women. James Johnson III, a former commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, was kicked out of the Army, fined and reduced in rank after being convicted of bigamy and fraud related to an improper relationship with an Iraqi woman. At an Air Force basic training center in Texas, six male instructors were charging with crimes, including rape.
The problem of sexual crimes in the military stretches back decades. In 1991, more than 100 flight personnel from the Navy and Marines allegedly sexually assaulted more than 80 women at the annual Tailhook symposium. Several lower-ranking officers were disciplined as a result of that infamous case, but none of the senior officers also present were held accountable for doing little to stop it. That led the Clinton administration to order a second investigation, and only after that were some senior officers punished.
Yet, in 1997, America’s first female B-52 pilot, First Lt. Kelly Flinn was discharged from the Air Force after the disclosure of an adulterous affair with a married civilian. Would a male pilot have been punished as severely?
The murky issues and facts arising from the Petraeus and Allen investigations must be pursued quickly. At the same time, the Pentagon should make clear that its rules on misconduct apply to all serving personnel, regardless of rank or gender.