Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Men Stuck At "Boys Being Boys"

"We're in a remarkable place. The chief witness lied under oath. The lead prosecutor resigned because he found her untruthful and non-credible. The army's senior leaders agree with his assessment and yet we're going to trial."
Richard Scheff, lead lawyer, for American Brig.-Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair
An Army private sweeps the floor in Fort Knox, Kentucky, on 27 February 2014 The number of reported sexual assaults in the US military has been on the rise, jumping to 5,400 in the last year alone
From a high-ranking, rising star in the firmament of America's top battle commanders, Brig.-Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair is set to be judged by a panel senior in rank to himself -- so he is looking forward but not particularly wanting to be in the situation -- of being judged by a jury of generals. This is the military justice system. And, under the stern dictates of justice in the military justice system it is feasible, but hardly conceivable that he could be disciplined in a fairly stark manner; life incarceration in a military prison.

US Army Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair leaves the courthouse at Ft Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina 4 March 2014 US Army Brig Gen Jeffrey Sinclair is accused of forcing a female captain to perform a sex act on him and threatening to kill her family if she reported it
The U.S. has seen quite a number of charges laid against its senior military officers around the subject of sexual misconduct. Illicit alliances for the most part, with senior, married officers engaging in sexual relations with women under their command. The shock and repercussions that shook the Pentagon with the November 2012 revelations of David Petraeus, newly assigned as CIA director, the most renowned general of his time having been revealed with an adulterous affair, are still reverberating.

From sex-and-bribery to a three-star admiral caught out using counterfeit chips at a riverfront casino, and an Air Force nuclear commander relieved of duty after he disgraced himself on a drinking binge in Moscow, new revelations are surfacing to embarrass and confound the nation, without let-up. One general was fired from the Army for groping a woman, another was invited to retire after accepting costlygifts from a foreigner, and the U.S. Army's top commander in Africa was demoted after it was discovered he and his wife enjoyed a $750-a-night hotel suite in the Caribbean at taxpayer expense.

The latest revelations of top-ranking misbehaviour appears in a category of its own. Brig.-Gen. Sinclair was deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne, and now he's facing court martial on criminal charges in a Fort Bragg courtroom. Those criminal charges are inclusive of his having physically forced a captain under his command to perform oral sex. That's what women are for, after all, in peace and war, right? Well, wrong, and Brig.-Gen. Sinclair denies guilt.

It has been confirmed that he had a three-year extramarital affair with a junior female officer during war tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. But forcing anyone to comply with his sexual cravings? Never. Innocent of the charges, M'Lord. Married, a father of two children, at 51 years of age, his career utterly destroyed, the man pleaded not guilty to eight criminal charges inclusive of forcible sodomy, indecent acts, violating orders, and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. Quaintly Victorian, is it not?

The sex involved was always consensual, argue his lawyers, defending the man considered to represent the most senior U.S. military member ever to face trial for such violently squalid behaviour. The woman, they claim, fabricated the assault claims to avoid herself being prosecuted for adultery; she pursued him, not he her. Prosecutors, on the other hand, refer to this disgraced man as a sexual predator, abusing his position of authority over subordinates. They emphasize that he had threatened to kill the woman, and her family as well, should she think of revealing the situation.

The veracity of the main accuser was called into question when the chief prosecutor, Lt.-Col. William Helixon resigned, informing another military lawyer he was unable to proceed unless the most serious charges were dropped. There is suspicion that senior officers may have had a hand in influencing the case against their erstwhile colleague. The Uniform Code of Military Justice expressly prohibits adultery or "improper" personal relations. Military leaders are facing intense scrutiny from Congress and the White House for their response to sexual assault or abuse in the ranks.

Some lawmakers have gone so far as to attempt to strip commanders of their authority to oversee such investigations under the premise that, lacking appropriate legal training they seem hardly prepared to take on the task. Added to that, they are often seen as being insensitive to the problem and how best to handle it, other than to hope it will just go away. It won't. Data reveals that the number of officers leaving the Army as a result of misconduct tripled in the past three years. Enlisted soldiers forced out for drugs, alcohol, crimes and other misconduct rose from 5,600 in 2007 to over 11,000 in 2013.

 "I wouldn't say lack of character was tolerated in (war) theater, but the fact of the last 10 or 12 years of repeated deployments, of the high op-tempo - we might have lost focus on this issue," Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army's top officer, told the AP last week. "Sometimes in the past we've overlooked character issues because of competence and commitment." At your peril.

This photo April 23, 2013 file photo shows Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

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