WASHINGTON -- Who says the Army plays favorites when it comes to rank -- that field latrines are double decked with the officers on top? That's just pure myth and if one doesn't believe that, the top brass just set out to prove it by sacrificing one of their own and not just a junior member of the club either.
They summarily relieved of duty a four-star general with an impeccable record and are still considering what else they might do to him, like reduce his retirement rank and, therefore, the amount of his pension or even subject him to a court martial.
By golly! What did he do? Did he have command of those bad guys who mistreated prisoners in Iraq or at Guantanamo? It's about time that someone above the rank of sergeant paid for the embarrassment those atrocities caused. It's a relief to know that American soldiers don't actually operate in a vacuum and that there are people above them who have some responsibility over what they do.
What's that you say? It didn't involve Abu Ghraib or one of those places? It wasn't about all those horrible interrogation tactics? How about failing to make the right decisions when it came to ordering armor for our troops? Somebody in the Pentagon, maybe even a civilian, should be held accountable for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan who don't have the proper equipment. It's about time the Army took care of that situation. Good for them.
You say it didn't involve any of that? It must have been far more horrendous in the eyes of the Army then. Well, four-star general officers like Kevin Byrnes don't get mauled without good reason, especially if they have only three months or so before they're slated to retire. In fact, no one still alive can remember the last time that happened if it ever has.
Was it murder? No, adultery. Oh my goodness. Was it with another officer's wife? No? Then it must have been with some subordinate and his own wife found out. No? It must have been with a spy for Al-Qaida or maybe Israel. Several of those guys have been caught lately. You're telling me it was with a civilian who had no connection to the military or the government? Was it after he already had separated from his wife? You think so but aren't sure? But the divorce wasn't final? That is a major offense in the Code of Military Justice, which was drafted, some say, by George Washington after he caught Alexander Hamilton, his aide-de-camp, winking at Benedict Arnold's beautiful actress wife, Peggy.
Didn't they warn him? Oh, they did. You say the chief of staff of the Army, also a four-star guy, told him to knock it off and not have any more contact with the woman and he called her anyway. My, my, my! He disobeyed an order out of love? Have they lined up the firing squad yet? Maybe they should torture him. He might give them some really juicy details. That would be OK but most of the certified torturers are in the stockade now, at least the enlisted ones.
Wait a minute. There has to be something you're not telling me here. This guy gets his plug pulled after serving with distinction and earning the highest rank one can get in this man's Army because of an affair? Wow! Is this 2005? Haven't several commanders-in-chief of the entire military of the United States of America done worse than that? What about Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson? Oh yeah. What about this guy Dwight Eisenhower who was our commander in Europe in World War II and sort of liked his driver, Kay Summersby? What about the general I worked for who had a new babe every weekend?
Don't get caught
How do you explain all that? Oh, right. I forgot. The rule is just don't get caught. If you do make sure you're office is oval and you disguise yourself by not wearing a uniform or you have an aide willing to take the blame.
Has anyone tried to help, like suggesting maybe they just let him go quietly into the sunset seeing that it's such a short time away? Example? I understand. No one wants to defend adultery, even the technical kind. They'll vote for adulterers, just not defend them.
But doesn't the Army have more to do than waste time and money on this kind of investigation? Sorry. I forgot. What can be more important than showing the Army doesn't play favorites?
X Dan K. Thomasson is former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.