PolySciFi Blog

Thursday, August 11, 2005


On Adultery and the Military

I had more to say than would fit into a comment to this post, and Matt wanted to be told that there was more to the story, so I'm commenting as a post.

First, a little background on adultery in the military.

Adultery has been a dismissable crime in the US military since 1779 when von Steuben wrote "Regulations for the Order and Discipline of Troops of the United States" which was later adopted by Congress as the first version of the UMCJ.

As currently codified (Article 134, paragraph 60) adultery is prosecuted if the following three conditions are satisfied:

(1) That the accused wrongfully had sexual intercourse with a certain person;

(2) That, at the time, the accused or the other person was married to someone else; and

(3) That, under the circumstances, the conduct of the accused was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.

(3) brings a little subjectivity to the situation. Sleeping with a prostitute is permitted (otherwise I doubt we would have a military), but a long term affair with a Private's civilian wife is not. Article 134 also deals with a whole list of subjects that brings dishonor to the military or disrupts good order and discipline from lying to straggling to abusing public animals.

Now, the something more Matt asked for.

The Tribune includes the following line in its writeup of this story:
"Pentagon spokesman Paul Boyce said the now-concluded investigation, conducted by the Army inspector general's office, began several months ago and involved activities at Ft. Monroe."
Ft. Monroe was the base that Byrnes ran and if this affair was carried out on base, then I think it would rise to the level of "conduct ... to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or ... of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces."

Now for the misleading aspects of the WaPo article and the presentation of the article.

First, it is not the "public line" that the Army views prosecuting Byrnes as a way of restoring integrity after being "hurt over the past year by detainee-abuse cases and has been accused of not going after top officers allegedly involved in such abuse."

That Matt draws this conclusion is a result of editorializing by the staff writer (Josh White) who inserts his own opinions in the story (irrelevant opinions at that) [Editorializing, in a straight news story? I though that was what blogs were for. - ed]. If nothing else, the third graph belies the interpretation that this reasoning is the "public line."

"The Army released few details about the decision to relieve one of its 11 four-star generals, with spokesmen saying only that Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, relieved Byrnes of his command on Monday as the result of an investigation by the Defense Department's inspector general. A spokesman said Army officials could find no case of another four-star general being relieved of duty in modern times."

The far more plausible interpretation is that a) adultery has always been a dismissable offense in the military - see the preceding discussion, b) that there's been a movement (since the late 90s) to not differentiate treatment between ranks for adultery charges, and c) there's been some bad sex related activities in the Army recently which the Army feels compelled to show that it is attempting to uphold its integrity.

This view is buttressed by quotes throughout the article, but most directly via these two graphs.
Byrnes's case comes after two prominent Air Force generals [who Josh White also wrote about - at least he remembers his own writing, but not the beat in general - a point I'll come to next] were accused publicly of sexually harassing subordinates, and as the Defense Department is restructuring its sexual harassment policies.

"It must have been the sort of thing where they felt they had no choice, given the recent history of personnel scandals in the Army," said Michael E. O'Hanlon, a defense expert at the Brookings Institution. "They're trying to make it clear that four-stars don't get special treatment. They must feel they have a need to send that message."
I believe that in this context, the "recent history of personnel scandals" refers to such things as the rape of PFC Susan Upchurch and the sex parties and mud wrestling that went on at Camp Bucca.

Second, the article is misleading when it repeatedly harps on the rarity of a 4-star general being dismissed for adultery. While I believe that has not been another case of a four-star Army general being relieved of duty in modern times, this is just one of many cases where prominent members of the military have been dismissed or denied posts because of adultery.

In 1997, Gen Joseph Ralston (himself a 4-star Air Force General) had to withdraw his name from consideration to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff because of an affair with a civilian (it went on 13 years earlier, but adultery is the reason he was denied his post).

Also in 1997, 1st Lt Kelly Flynn, not a general, but the poster girl of the Air Force (she was the first female B-52 pilot), was brought up on charges of adultery with a civilian (and lying and disobeying an order of a superior).1 . There was also lot of criticism of the Flynn case at the time that focused on women being tried for adultery at a higher rate than men. Then it came out that women made up 17% of the airforce, but 10% of the adultery cases [I can't find this number again at the moment], so this criticism morphed into a more intelligent one of unequal treatment of higher ups in the military.

Major General Longhauser [same link as Flynn] was also removed from command of a base for an affair with a civilian.

And these are just the ones I remember [ok, Longhauser I didn't remember, but he showed up with my search for a link for Flynn who I did remember]. Slate says that there were 67 military tried cases of adultery brought the year Flynn was tried (1997) so I'm surmising that similar numbers continue to this day.2

So the takeaway points from this longish post.
  1. Prosecuting adultery in the military is nothing new.
  2. The Trib report implies that Bryne engaged in an affair on the base he commanded.
  3. It is not the "public line" that the Army is prosecuting Bryne to restore integrity lost via the detainee abuse scandals.
  4. High rank/visibility adultery cases occur more frequently than the WaPo article implies.
1. I believe Flynn's case was "ripped from the headlines" to become the subject of episode 159 of Law & Order. Of course some artistic license was taken with the story, like making Flynn a Navy fighter pilot and having her kill her lover, but I'm fairly certain the character is Kelly Flynn.

2. Numbers were lower in the 80s, but there was not as much gender integration then so there was less opportunity for adultery such that "the conduct of the accused was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces."

A completely unrelated aside - I decided to try out Blogger's spell check feature on this post and it didn't know the word "blogs".


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