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.


Saudi to carry out nuclear power deal with or without US

Air strikes hit Ghouta despite rebel ceasefire effort

Three dead after suspected IS gunman takes hostages in France

US approves $1 billion in Saudi defence contracts

Exiled Syrian doctors treat refugees in Turkey

Iraqi asylum seeker gets life sentence for London bombing

UK says Israeli sentencing of Palestinian teenage girl "emblematic"

Israel ministers welcome US appointment of 'friend' Bolton

Sarkozy vows to clear name in Libya probe

Syria announces second evacuation deal for rebel-held Eastern Ghouta.

170,000 flee violence in Syria's Afrin

Norway proposes bill to ban full-face veils in education

Turkey says EU statements on Cyprus 'unacceptable'

In world first, flight to Israel crosses Saudi airspace

Saudi, US must pursue 'urgent efforts' for Yemen peace: Mattis

US, Jordan launch new counterterrorism training centre

Turkey’s largest media group to be sold to Erdogan ally

Rebels evacuate Syria's Eastern Ghouta

Two Hamas security force members killed in raid on bomb suspect

Turkey gives watchdog power to block internet broadcasts

EU leaders to condemn Turkey’s ‘illegal’ actions in Mediterranean

Sarkozy says life ‘living hell’ since corruption allegations

Hezbollah leader says debt threatens Lebanon disaster

Ahed Tamimi reaches plea deal for eight months in jail

UN launching final push to salvage Libya political agreement

Conditions for displaced from Syria's Ghouta 'tragic': UN

Sisi urges Egyptians to vote, denies excluding rivals

Rights Watch says Libya not ready for elections

Saudis revamp school curriculum to combat Muslim Brotherhood

American mother trapped in Syria’s Ghouta calls out Trump

Syria workers say French firm abandoned them to jihadists

Grim Nowruz for Kurds fleeing Afrin

Sarkozy back in custody for second day of questioning

'Saudization' taking its toll on salesmen

Syrian rebels reach evacuation deal in Eastern Ghouta town

Israel confirms it hit suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007

UN says Turkey security measures 'curtail human rights'

Netanyahu says African migrants threaten Jewish majority

US Senate votes on involvement in Yemen war as Saudi prince visits

What a ‘limited strike’ against Syria’s Assad might mean

Erdogan tells US to stop ‘deceiving’, start helping on Syria

IS controls Damascus district in surprise attack

French ex-president held over Libya financing allegations

NGO says Israeli army violating Palestinian minors’ rights

Human rights chief slams Security Council for inaction on Syria