Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Unbecoming Conduct



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Thomas Fiscus, judge advocate general of the Air Force, opposed the harsh interrogation techniques approved and later rescinded by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for use on Guantanamo prisoners.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 proceedings.

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 US military thinks abstinence is a requirement of general officers, with sexual license left to the Dominitrix of Abu Ghraib.

Punishing a general for sex is inconsistent with the macho “burn, kill and destroy” image being cultivated by the US military in Iraq. Can an imperial 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, it 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 US military, which abandoned the Geneva Conventions against prisoner torture and the US 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 US 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, VP Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz lied about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction and being involved with the September 11 terrorist attack on the US. The consequences of these lies: tens of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians and countless others wounded, Iraq’s infrastructure in ruins, 1,325 dead US troops and another 21,000 maimed and wounded and the toll is mounting, 150,000 US troops tied down by a few thousand ragtag insurgents, US 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?

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.



Paul Craig Roberts is a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. Roberts’ How the Economy Was Lost is now available from CounterPunch in electronic format. His latest book is The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Tom Clifford
Duterte’s Gambit: the Philippines’s Pivot to China
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Reyes Mata III
Scaling Camelot’s Walls: an Essay Regarding Donald Trump
Raouf Halaby
Away from the Fray: From Election Frenzy to an Interlude in Paradise
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
David Yearsley
Trump and Hitchcock in the Age of Conspiracies
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”