Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Army's latest solution for detainee abuse

The Defense Department could respond to widespread abuse of its detainees by putting a stop to torture and holding the brass who enable it accountable. Instead, it's decided the way to go is to crack down on adulterers.

What else to make of the strange case of Gen. Kevin P. Byrnes, whom the Army pulled from duty because he had an extramarital affair with a civilian:

Having an extramarital affair can be deemed adultery and a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. But such cases rarely go to court-martial and usually end in administrative punishment such as a letter of reprimand, according to military lawyers. Relieving a general of his command amid such allegations is extremely unusual, especially given that he was about to retire.

The Army has been hurt over the past year by detainee-abuse cases and has been accused of not going after top officers allegedly involved in such abuse. Army officials said relieving Byrnes was meant to show the public that the service takes issues of integrity seriously.

"We all swear to serve by the highest ideals, and no matter what rank, when you violate them, you are dealt with appropriately," said one Army officer familiar with the case. "Relief of command is a huge consequence. He's had an extraordinary career, but at the end of the day, the Army has to hold people accountable for their conduct."

Update: Here's one theory on why Byrnes has been canned - bureaucratic infighting over an IT project. How prosaic.

More reaction/speculation here, including some from my fellow koan-blog, One Hand Clapping.