First Published: 2012-11-13

 

Scandal after scandal: Have America's generals lost their way?

 

Sex scandal that punctured image of America's most admired general, Petraeus, is just latest in litany of cases of misconduct plaguing US top brass.

 

Middle East Online

By Dan De Luce - PERTH (Australia)

American hero ruined by temptation

The sex scandal that punctured the image of America's most admired general, David Petraeus, is just the latest in a litany of cases of misconduct plaguing the US top brass, raising questions about a military often isolated from the rest of civilian society.

Even before Petraeus -- a retired four-star commander -- stunned Washington by announcing his resignation from the CIA over an extramarital affair, a growing number of generals and other senior officers were facing allegations of ethical lapses as well as sexual abuse.

The revelations paint a picture of military leadership living a privileged, insulated existence, in a country that often discourages public criticism of anyone in uniform, after a decade of wars waged by an all-volunteer force.

The cloud forming over senior officers stems from recent cases that include the former head of Africa Command, General William Ward, who spent government funds to live a lavish lifestyle and ordered staff to perform personal errands, an inspector general's report found.

An Army brigadier general, Jeffrey Sinclair, the deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, was removed from his post earlier this year in Afghanistan after being accused of sexual misconduct with subordinates and of threatening one woman's life.

According to prosecutors, when questioned about his demeaning comments about women, Sinclair replied: "I'm a general, I'll do whatever the (expletive) I want."

His alleged remark reflects what critics call a culture of entitlement among top officers, who they contend are held to a different standard than rank-and-file soldiers.

Another inspector general report found Lieutenant General Patrick O'Reilly heaped abuse on his underlings at the Missile Defense Agency (MDA). One witness cited in the report described the general's leadership style as "management by blowtorch and pliers".

Although the Army has come in for the most scrutiny, no service has been immune.

The Air Force has struggled to cope with a flood of allegations of sexual assault against female recruits at its basic training centre in Lackland, Texas and the Navy took the unusual step last month of relieving Rear Admiral Charles Gaouette of his command of the Stennis aircraft carrier group while it was on mission in the Arabian Sea.

The admiral was one of 22 naval commanding officers sacked this year for various failures, according to the Navy Times.

Former defence secretary Robert Gates, who stepped down last year, argued that the general officer corps had become bloated and a wasteful drain on the Pentagon budget, and he pushed to scale back the number of generals and admirals.

Gates also voiced concern over a growing gap between the volunteer force and the rest of American society, which critics worry feeds a belief among some officers that rules do not apply to them because they have put their lives on the line, unlike civilians back home.

To counter the trend, there are calls by some commentators to restore conscription, or least some kind of national service, to improve civilian-military ties and bind the armed forces closer to society.

The scandals of misconduct gained renewed attention after the most prominent officer of his generation, Petraeus, abruptly stepped down as CIA chief last week.

No general was as revered and prominent as Petraeus, the soldier-scholar who was credited -- particularly among commentators on the political right -- with rescuing the war effort in Iraq.

His successor in Afghanistan, General John Allen, now finds himself embroiled in the scandal, with the Pentagon inspector general launching an investigation into potentially "inappropriate" emails between Allen and a key figure in the case, Jill Kelley.

Tom Ricks, journalist and author of a new book "The Generals", contends that the Army officer corps has grown unaccountable and that it bears a share of the blame for disastrous mistakes in the Iraq war.

"We tend to venerate the military these days unthinkingly and that's not good for the military or the country," Ricks said recently.

 

Erdogan in Riyadh as Saudi Arabia seeks to re-energise foreign policy

Two killed in Cairo bomb blast

US envoy to Yemen throws support behind President Hadi

Reconciliation with Iran proves far from simple for Hamas

Thousands turn out for funeral of Turkey literary giant Yasar Kemal

Palestinians prepare to lodge first war crimes complaint against Israel

Turkey probes soldier for failure to resist ‘Islamic State’

Libya recognized parliament names Haftar as chief of armed forces

How Islamic is ‘Islamic State’?

Separate battles rage on against IS in key border area

Before UN rights panel, Kerry delivers vigorous defense of Israel

Turkey explores for oil in Iraqi Kurdistan

Two killed in Egypt bomb blast

Egypt leader visits Saudi Arabia

Syria opposition hails France's anti-Assad ‘exemplary’ stance

Police, anti-shale gas protesters clash in Algeria

Baghdad launches military operation to retake Tikrit

Netanyahu puts US-Israel ties under strain

First Iran flight lands in Huthi-held Yemen capital

Egypt President meets Saudi King Salman for talks on bilateral ties

Netanyahu flies to Washington to press case against Iran nuclear deal

Court ruling may force delay of Egypt parliamentary elections

Yemen separatists suspend participation in UN-sponsored talks

Scores dead as car bombs target crowded market in Iraq capital

Iran shrugs off Netanyahu bid to abort nuclear deal

Egypt lists Hamas as terrorist organisation

Jailed Kurdish leader calls on followers to lay down arms

Dozens dead as Qaeda takes strategic rebel base in Syria

UAE reopens Yemen embassy in Aden

Libya PM threatens new air strikes with Egypt against IS

Qatar takes full ownership of Porta Nuova

Roadmap finally agreed to end brutal Syria conflict

Turkey not placing high priority on fighting IS

Aden becomes Yemen de facto ‘political capital’

Qatar emir committed to 'stability' in Egypt despite row

Rouhani adviser blames ‘extremists’ for rights violations

US-led coalition raids IS targets in northeastern Syria

IS executioner identity revealed

3 sentenced to death over Bahrain police killings

Hollande condemns French MPs for meeting Assad

HRW: Kurds preventing return of Arabs to disputed Iraq areas

One dead in series of Cairo bombings

UN Security Council calls for stepping up Yemen talks

Kerry: US, Iran have 'mutual interest' in defeating IS

Australian FM warns women against 'romantic adventure' with IS