What defines conduct unbecoming an officer?
Major General Thomas Fiscus, judge advocate general of the Air Force, opposed
the harsh interrogation techniques approved and later rescinded by Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld for use on Guantanamo prisoners. Subsequently, General Fiscus
has been reprimanded
for a dozen sexual affairs during the last decade and may face disbarment
As the affairs were consensual with civilian and military women, one doesn't
know whether the general is being punished for sticking up for human rights
or whether the U.S. military thinks abstinence is a requirement of general officers,
with sexual license left to the Dominatrix
of Abu Ghraib.
Punishing a general for sex is inconsistent with the macho "burn, kill,
and destroy" image being cultivated by the U.S. military in Iraq. Can a
hegemonic army be commanded by saints?
Gen. Fiscus' punishment is unlikely to stifle sex in the military. His punishment
can, however, be defended as an attempt to uphold rules against fraternization
and conduct unbecoming an officer. However impractical these old rules might
be in a military integrated with women and homosexuals, if these rules are not
enforced, other rules will go by the wayside, and the rot of demoralization
will take hold.
What jumps out from this reasoning is the extent to which the U.S. military,
which abandoned the Geneva Conventions against prisoner torture and the U.S.
War Crimes Act of 1996, is being a stickler at enforcing its rules against sexual
affairs. Is the military clutching the rule against fraternization closely to
its breast because it is the only rule the military has left?
Alas, such may indeed be the case. White House Counsel and Attorney General
nominee Alberto Gonzales advised President Bush in January 2002 that all laws
and conventions against torture could be swept away simply by declaring detainees
to be outside the protection of law and international agreements. Gonzales advised
President Bush to turn his back on the "obsolete" and "quaint"
requirements in the Geneva Conventions for the humane treatment of prisoners.
A year later, a Pentagon task force reasoned that the president had the authority
to approve any policy needed to protect the nation's security.
These are the "moralists" who are compelling General Fiscus to retire
at a lower rank because he misbehaved with a dozen women.
Numerous reports, including reports from the FBI, have made it clear that torture
of prisoners is more widespread than the White House has admitted. Numerous
reports have made it clear that U.S. troops, whether from confusion, fear, or
sport, have slaughtered Iraqi civilians. Marines destroyed the city of Fallujah,
and the commander on the scene claimed no Iraqi civilians were killed.
But General Fiscus has behaved unbecomingly.
President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and Deputy
Defense Secretary Wolfowitz lied about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction
and being involved with the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. The consequences
of these lies: tens of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians and countless others
wounded, Iraq's infrastructure in ruins, 1,325 dead U.S. troops and another
21,000 maimed and wounded (and the toll is mounting), 150,000 U.S. troops tied
down by a few thousand ragtag insurgents, U.S. alliances and reputation in tatters,
and America roundly hated throughout the Middle East.
But General Fiscus behaved unbecomingly for an officer.
Yes, he did. And President Bush behaved unbecomingly for a commander-in-chief.
Dick Cheney behaved unbecomingly for a vice president. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz
behaved unbecomingly for civilian leaders of the military.
But no one is being held accountable except General Fiscus.
Is this right? Is this what Americans want? Do we want to punish General Fiscus
for violating "obsolete and quaint" rules against consensual sex but
not punish government leaders who tell us lies about Iraq and get our sons,
fathers, husbands, brothers, and daughters killed as a consequence? Do Americans
really want to be led by people who believe in the efficacy of torture, military
might, and propagandistic manipulation of an unsuspecting public?
If so, where is the virtue that neoconservatives claim justifies American hegemony?