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March 21, 2014

Accountability, Then and Now

Then:

"Everywhere else we are told how inhuman it is to submit men to the ordeal of answering for themselves; to haul them before committees and badger them with questions as to where they were and what they were doing while the ship of state careened from one course to another."

"This probing into the sea seems more merciless because everywhere else we have abandoned accountability. What is done is done and why torture men with asking them afterwards, why?........"

"We are told men should no longer be held accountable for what they do as well as for what they intend. To err is not only human, it absolves responsibility."

"Everywhere else, that is, except on the sea. On the sea there is a tradition older even than the traditions of the country itself and wiser in its age than this new custom. It is the tradition that with responsibility goes authority and with them both goes accountability."

"This accountability is not for the intentions but for the deed. The captain of a ship, like the captain of a state, is given honor and privileges and trust beyond other men. But let him set the wrong course, let him touch ground, let him bring disaster to his ship or to his men, and he must answer for what he has done. He cannot escape...."

"It is cruel, this accountability of good and well-intentioned men. But the choice is that or an end of responsibility and finally as the cruel scene has taught, an end to the confidence and trust in the men who lead, for men will not long trust leaders who feel themselves beyond accountability for what they do."

"And when men lose confidence and trust in those who lead, order disintegrates into chaos and purposeful ships into uncontrollable derelicts."

And now:

On Wednesday, a letter from Sinclair's wife, Rebecca, was read aloud. The general buried his head in his hands, appeared to cry and dabbed his eyes with tissues.

In the letter, Rebecca Sinclair said she hasn't fully forgiven her husband but that she didn't want the Army to punish him and his family further with a significant reduction to his pension and other benefits.

"Believe me when I tell you that the public humiliation and vilification he has endured are nothing compared to the private suffering and guilt that he lives with every day," she wrote.

When evenhanded justice gives way to courtroom theatrics and public accountability to secret back room deals, people and institutions are left rudderless; driven this way and that by our own dictatorial and capricious passions.

Humanity spent a long time crawling out of that gutter. It will be a long climb back up if we don't come to our senses soon.

Posted by Cassandra at March 21, 2014 07:58 AM

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"Everywhere else, that is, except on the sea. On the sea there is a tradition older even than the traditions of the country itself and wiser in its age than this new custom. It is the tradition that with responsibility goes authority and with them both goes accountability."

1. The quote concerns the Captain of a U.S. Navy Destroyer who killed his ship--and much of her crew--by colliding with an Aircraft Carrier.
2. The General was never at sea--and, BTW--never had the absolute power a USN Captain of his ship at sea has.
3. The General succumbed to temptation (freely offered temptation, I suspect) and thought with the wrong end of his body. Stupid? Yes. Deserving of punishment? Yes. The same as getting people killed? No.
4. Note that when you punish the General fiscally, you also punish his family.Not saying it ain't right to do so, but worth remembering.

Posted by: CAPT Mongo at March 21, 2014 10:31 AM

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
Gen. 1:31

Little known - but easily understood, considering the source – humans – that verse had had been subjected to an expurgation. In its original it read “...and behold, God blessed the man and the woman with the gift of free will and said ‘Let there be consequences’. And the evening... ”

Okay, I don’t know that for a fact, but I’d offer short odds on it being likelier than not in some instance or iteration.

When the philosophes had got hold of the concept they, in short order, came up with Tout comprendre, c’est tout pardoner – To understand everything is to forgive everything. We suffer now on account of that sufferance.

I don’t blame the French for having been first, only for having made a philosophy of it – they can do that with just about anything, including sauces.

The pusillanimous “it was an error in judgment” preserves for us our future claims to self-righteousness. The manly “I fucked up big time” preserves for us our claim on human dignity. Free will is easy once you don’t give a damn.

Posted by: George Pal at March 21, 2014 10:56 AM

I understand the difference between the Army and the Navy, having grown up in a Navy family and then having been married to a Marine for 35 years. The most relevant part of the essay on Accountability was this:

"It is cruel, this accountability of good and well-intentioned men. But the choice is that or an end of responsibility and finally as the cruel scene has taught, an end to the confidence and trust in the men who lead, for men will not long trust leaders who feel themselves beyond accountability for what they do."

"And when men lose confidence and trust in those who lead, order disintegrates into chaos and purposeful ships into uncontrollable derelicts."

"Ships" here is a pretty darned good metaphor for "organizations" or institutions.

I was not suggesting that preying on junior officers under one's command or openly flouting the UCMJ was the same as getting people killed.

I have a bit of a problem with characterizing what this guy did as merely "thinking with the wrong end of his body". This wasn't a momentary lapse in judgment or a one night stand. It was a continuous series of deliberate decisions to openly flout (and then keep flouting) the laws governing ALL soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. When your subordinates get the idea it's safe to have skits about general officers getting blow jobs from junior officers, I hope we can agree that something is wrong.

I understand that his family would suffer. I don't think he should be stripped of all his retirement pay, either. I do think he should be reduced in rank to LtCol and I think that if lower ranks have served jail time for the same offense, so should Sinclair.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 21, 2014 10:56 AM

Amen, George. I particularly admire this:

To understand everything is to forgive everything. We suffer now on account of that sufferance.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 21, 2014 11:00 AM

We're still better off here than we are with the civilian government, where accountability takes the form of Lois Lerner taking the 5th for using the taxing power to harm political enemies, while an attorney general stands in continuing contempt of Congress, and Arizona is forced by Federal government not to enforce immigration laws that are undesirable to the powerful.

I don't understand why the judge did what he did, and I agree that Sinclair and all the women who dallied with him should be out of the Army. But at least they were brought to account, in a way, according to the forms. For a long time, commanders of this rank were not prosecuted at all. We may be late into the decadence, but at least the Army is trying to improve. It may not quite count as a sign of health, but it may at least count as a beginning of what you are characterizing as 'the climb back out.'

Posted by: Grim at March 21, 2014 12:17 PM

If I thought this was the bottom I wouldn't be so angry about this. The perfumed princes used to -- sometimes -- be brought to account privately. This is telling them that the most they face is having people snicker about them. I fear it was not the bottom, but the step off the cliff that begins the fall to the bottom.

Posted by: htom at March 21, 2014 12:39 PM

Howdy Cassandra,
Hope you are able to let go f this topic soon; it angers me every time.
Sooo . . . how low can he go? Now he's hiding behind his wife's skirt, and begging for mercy because his family may suffer w/ him?
>>> Gosh, maybe he should have had that thought BEFORE he abused his position and sullied [strike that word] forsaked his honor.

A reduction of more than one rank is quite rare, normally only imposed by a proper General Courts Martial for the most heinous crimes. He should really only be busted down to full colonel (I refuse to capitalize his rank); but that really, really should happen. It's a terrible message to allow this creep to retire w/ a star.


Very Best Regards,

Posted by: CAPT Mike at March 21, 2014 02:17 PM

It's not often I get this fired up about something, and I would probably be less fired up if I hadn't seen so many ignorant posts suggesting that it was somehow improper for the Army to charge him in the first place.

I think htom makes a good point - this sort of thing used to be dealt with quietly in the past. I have mixed feelings about, as often everyone in the command knew something was going on and yet they never see the guy formerly punished. It leaves junior personnel (officers, NCOs, and enlisted alike) feeling that there are two sets of rules: one for the Little People and one for the elite/perfumed princes.

I understand not wanting to drag the service through the mud, but sometimes that does serve a purpose.

I don't understand why the judge did what he did, and I agree that Sinclair and all the women who dallied with him should be out of the Army. But at least they were brought to account, in a way, according to the forms.

I hope they will all be held accountable. Not sure that's happening with the women, who ought to be up on charges as well if they didn't rebuff his advances. They certainly should not be charged simply because they happened to catch his wandering eye (not enough room in the jails for that crowd), but if they didn't rebuff him then they are complicit.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 21, 2014 02:33 PM

Women? Plural? Where did that come from? Only one woman as far as I can tell. Did he mildly hit on other women? Yes, but the gravamen of that offense wasn't the hitting, because as far as I can tell, those were isolated instances which he didn't repeat once he was rebuffed, but the fact that the women he hit on were in his chain of command. In civilian life, what he did isn't even a crime.

And I'm not too sure it should be a crime in the military, either. Mere chain of command doesn't do it for me--I think that once a member of the opposite sex is outside the fitrep chain, i.e., the superior is neither the reporting senior nor the reviewing officer, then the conduct is not detrimental or prejudicial to the good order and discipline of the service.

I'm willing to be persuaded otherwise....

Posted by: Rex at March 21, 2014 03:59 PM

Women? Plural? Where did that come from? Only one woman as far as I can tell. Did he mildly hit on other women? Yes, but the gravamen of that offense wasn't the hitting, because as far as I can tell, those were isolated instances which he didn't repeat once he was rebuffed, but the fact that the women he hit on were in his chain of command. In civilian life, what he did isn't even a crime.

I've been posting on this for weeks, and have mentioned several times that there were 4 accusers, and that he asked 2 of them for naked photos and videos.

You can look back at my other posts for details.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 21, 2014 04:02 PM

Yes, 4 accusers, but only one accusation of adultery. The others essentially accused him of hitting on them. I'm not bringing up the misuse of the credit card here, nor his sentence. I'm merely pointing out that other than the credit card, what he did wrong wouldn't be a crime in the civilian world, and I don't think that it should be a crime in the military either, subject to my caveats about being in the fitrep chain as I posted above.

Posted by: Rex at March 21, 2014 04:15 PM

From the Feb. 17th (one of the earliest) post, 1st sentence:

What constitutes an "iffy" case? If you answered, "One where a senior military leader admits violating the UCMJ by carrying on an adulterous affair for 3 years with a subordinate", or "one where four other subordinates have come forward claiming inappropriate conduct (including pressuring them to send him nude photos)"...

From March 17th:

Sinclair was accused of adultery, an offense under the UCMJ, and 7 other offenses. Here are the ones Sinclair has agreed to plead guilty to... so far:

Adultery.
Requesting explicit photographs from several female Army officers.
Possessing pornography in theater (violation of General Order 1).
Seeking a date with another junior officer (a lieutenant).
Disobeying a commander’s order.
Misusing his government charge card.
Mistreating his former mistress, a captain.

I think I've covered this pretty thoroughly (and repeatedly).

Posted by: Cassandra at March 21, 2014 04:25 PM

No, they accused him of pressuring subordinates to send him nude photos and videos, which in civilian firms will get you sued right quickly.

Sorry, but I don't think that's OK.

As I said before, if we don't like the laws and think it's fine for a CO to pressure subordinates to have sex with him or send him nude photos, let's change the law. I'm not convinced that's a great idea, but arguing that he would be allowed to do this in the civilian world doesn't strike me as a great excuse.

I'm not even sure it's factually accurate, but I don't know much about sexual harassment law.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 21, 2014 04:37 PM

One more thing. A while back on one of the other posts, you commented:

.. as I recall, the BG under comment kept things low key, and it was only the outing by the jealous former lover that brought everything to light.

That's not really true, though. There was testimony that the affair was common knowledge and that his own people put on a skit about it at a command function. That's hardly keeping things low key.

I'm really surprised that some of you are portraying what he did as no big deal. If everyone knows you're having an affair and you're hitting on multiple women in the command, it's not a secret and you *are* flouting the rules openly.

I must be far more old fashioned than I thought because I just plain expect more.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 21, 2014 04:42 PM

It appears that some of us were brought up to believe that we had self-control and that we should use that ability, and that along the passage of time that expectation has diminished. It's maybe too old-fashioned to think that there are things that should not be done. Even as a civilian I didn't date people I bossed or was bossed by. (Thinking about it, that rule seems to be pretty slack nowdays; direct underlings, not, everyone else seems ok. Hmmmph; what will you do if your sweetie is promoted?)

Flirt with them, yes; heck, I flirted with everyone who showed the slightest inclination, and mean only "we can enjoy each other's company here for this minute" by it. I still do (and when I don't, Spice asks if I'm well.)

Maybe this is a consequence of the sexual revolution, where the stages, escalations, rules, and types of romantic behavior have all been mushed together. That would seem to take a chunk of joy out of life.

Posted by: htom at March 21, 2014 05:20 PM

I'm not arguing any of that, nor that what he did was serious under the military law as it stands today. I'm just questioning the wisdom or practicality or need for a number of his actions to be a criminal military offense.

As I say, I'm willing to be persuaded otherwise. But if you're too worked up over his behavior to discuss my point, that's okay too.

Posted by: Rex at March 21, 2014 05:23 PM

Rex:

Sinclair had a whole range of charges against him - not just adultery. So your opening comment was a bit mystifying:

Women? Plural? Where did that come from? Only one woman as far as I can tell. Did he mildly hit on other women? Yes, but the gravamen of that offense wasn't the hitting, because as far as I can tell, those were isolated instances which he didn't repeat once he was rebuffed, but the fact that the women he hit on were in his chain of command.

A boss - even a civilian boss - pressuring people who work for him to send him nude photos/videos isn't just "mildly hitting on" them. And they weren't isolated instances that - once rebuffed - were stopped. And he didn't (as you said earlier) keep his prowling on the down low - it was so open and obvious that his own people made fun of it at an office party.

I don't buy the 'woman scorned' defense, as it's pretty obvious this guy was out of control. I may be terribly naive, but I'm pretty sure the average guy doesn't have over 8000 pornographic images and over 600 porn videos (with violent, forced oral sex being a common theme) on their PCs. But what do I know? Maybe that's mainstream nowadays and I'm out of touch (oooh... she said... oh, nevermind).

Fortunately for Sinclair, the judge blocked that evidence. FWIW, that was probably appropriate as I'm sure it would have made a graphic (pun fully intended) impression on the jury.

For the record, I'm not convinced adultery ought to be a crime punishable by jail time, but I've seen the havoc it wreaks firsthand and it was seeing the effect on a male Marine that convinced me just how destructive cheating is to people's lives and unit morale. It's far worse when it's a senior officer doing it for a ton of reasons I'm pretty sure I don't need to explain to you. However, not having personal experience with adultery, I have no particular ax to grind on that one.

I do think adultery and fraternization ought to be a firing offense in the military when either involves a senior officer and a subordinate. I expressed just that opinion years ago when Grim brought up an incident where a female officer pretty much single handedly destroyed a command and several people's careers. She should have been fried. Or fired. Or some other combination of those 5 letters.

I tell you what: if you'll stipulate that his conduct went way beyond one-time "mildly hitting" on women, I'll try very hard to contain my raging emotions :p

No promises on that last, though.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 21, 2014 06:31 PM

I expressed just that opinion years ago when Grim brought up an incident where a female officer pretty much single handedly destroyed a command...

She did, but it wasn't through fraternization or adultery. As far as I know, she was clean on those scores. She was just an intensely bad commander and human being. I think every single person in her unit got out of the Army rather than risk having their lives under the thumb of another such officer.

Posted by: Grim at March 21, 2014 11:47 PM

In fact, I'm sure she wasn't fraternizing, because none of her subordinates could stand to be around her one second more than absolutely necessary. She did engage in sexual harassment, though, of the verbal type.

Posted by: Grim at March 22, 2014 12:15 AM

Wow. How did I get that so wrong? Either I totally misunderstood what you were implying back then, or I've "dismembered" it.

D'oh!!!

Posted by: Cassandra at March 22, 2014 09:25 AM

Cass:"...it was a continuous series of deliberate decisions to openly flout (and then keep flouting) the laws governing ALL soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. When your subordinates get the idea it's safe to have skits about general officers getting blow jobs from junior officers, I hope we can agree that something is wrong."

We certainly can, and I wholeheartedly agree that recreational fornication among crew members is utterly corrosive to good order and discipline. It ain't funny in any way. The guy's a jerk, and is getting his just comeuppance.

Having said that, and understanding various nuances around senior/subordinate relationships (Commander Mongo points those out forcefully to me)--I still think that there was voluntary participation by at least one of the female subordinates for an extended period of time. Why? fear? Ambition? Chemistry? All of those?

I cannot imagine this situation taking place between two males or two females, though with the new "rules", I suspect it will happen, and perhaps already has.

It is, as Yul said in "The King and I": "A puzzlement".

Posted by: CAPT Mongo at March 22, 2014 09:43 AM

Having said that, and understanding various nuances around senior/subordinate relationships (Commander Mongo points those out forcefully to me)--I still think that there was voluntary participation by at least one of the female subordinates for an extended period of time. Why? fear? Ambition? Chemistry? All of those?

Oh, I think his accuser knew exactly what she was doing, and though morally I think he's more culpable, that doesn't lessen her responsibility one bit. I don't buy that she was pressured into the relationship; I do think it was off kilter to begin with (age difference, the fact that she worked for him, his being married).

Relationships can be consensual even if there's a power imbalance or an element of coercion present, too. Women in particular seem willing to put up with that nonsense, though I've never understood why. But I was lucky enough to grow up in a house where my Dad treated my Mom (and me) with respect and love. Not everyone is that lucky, and (IMO) there are also women who find that rush that comes with danger/unfamiliarity to be addictive, just as there are men who can't seem to grasp that though they may find that manipulative hot chick exciting, she's not a good long term partner and not someone they can trust.

The accuser here is guilty of adultery under the UCMJ too (as I've already pointed out). She got immunity for testifying against him. The other two female officers are more murky, as it's not clear they welcomed his "attentions". But it's not clear to me why they didn't report him. In fairness, if he was carrying on like this and everyone in the command knew it, they could well have decided reporting him would end their careers and he would get off lightly.

I cannot imagine this situation taking place between two males or two females, though with the new "rules", I suspect it will happen, and perhaps already has.

I can, easily. Gay and lesbian relationships have many of the same dynamics as hetero relationships, and some minority of all three types of relationships are dysfunctional.

I don't feel sorry for the accuser at all. She knew what she was doing was wrong.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 22, 2014 02:37 PM

Cass:

D'Accord

Posted by: CAPT Mongo at March 22, 2014 02:58 PM

"When your subordinates get the idea it's safe to have skits about general officers [CinC] getting blow jobs from junior officers, I hope we can agree that something is wrong."

Hell's Bell's, that is precisely what occurred during Clinton's second term!

Posted by: CAPT Mike at March 22, 2014 04:31 PM

Indeed it did--and there were lots of things WAY wrong during that term.

Posted by: CAPT Mongo at March 22, 2014 06:58 PM

"Ships" here is a pretty darned good metaphor for "organizations" or institutions.

Especially as "ship of state" and "captain of a state" are used explicitly to denote that the content applies to more than just maritime command.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at March 24, 2014 10:27 AM

I posted a HUGE (and undeserved rant) directed at YAG in a different thread, but I'll summarize here excatly why adultery is and ought to be a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Under the "best" of circumstances (i.e. the adulterer is a servicemember, and his or her "accomplice" as you will is a civilian completely untied to his chain of command), it demonstrates a near total lack of character for the accused. To lie in the military is one of the great sins. If your word cannot be trusted in the small scale, then members of their unit cannot trusted on the larger scale. And what are we to think of someone so disloyal to the person they married so as to betray them so completely? It's bad enough for the perpetrator to be your squadmate, but to be the actual commander? You lose respect for him or her as a leader if they are so completely without self-control to cheat on their spouse. And that's under the best circumstance.

If the "accomplice" in the adultery is the spouse of another service member in the chain of command, it's infinitely worse. Now you're talking about causing the WORST kind of hostility between two members of a unit (which is destructive to unit cohesion in a manner which even the most oblivious civilian is sure to understand), and if the adulterer is ranking above or below the service member betrayed by his or her spouse, it's even worse.

And then there's the worst case, which is what Sinclair has been found guilty of. Adultery with a subordinate. This is massively destructive for the morale of a unit. First, you have the suspicion that any perceived benefits the subordinate receives is granted SOLELY due to their sexual relationship with their superior (be it a promotion, an award, or even just lighter duties that the subordinate's peers). That doesn't even begin to scratch the surface though. Because there's also the implication that the way to get ahead in the unit is through sexing up your superiors, or the implication to the superiors that it's open season on their subordinates. If you're a Company Commander in a unit under Sinclair, the message is loud and clear that if you want to pressure a PFC in your command for sex, it's going to be at the LEAST glossed over by the BG, if not approved of.

Adultery is a crime in the UCMJ because it specifically is destructive to good order and discipline within a unit. And frankly, the more ranking the perpetrator, the more destructive it is. Enlisted soldiers have served time for it. The fact that Sinclair is the first flag officer to publicly be caught doing it is not so much an indication that it never happened before. It's an indication that it looks like the perfumed princes may finally be subject to the laws the rest of the Army has been subject to for decades. And to this former enlisted soldier, it's PAST damned time.

Posted by: MikeD at March 24, 2014 11:56 AM

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