By: Susan Knowles
You may recall that I recently wrote an article entitled, “The Thinning of the Military Herd?” It was an article about a number of high-ranking military officers that were dismissed by the Obama administration earlier this year.
After writing that article, I wanted to dig deeper to determine if there are other strategies being put into play by the left to “punish military leaders” or at least to make them wary before carrying out their duties.
Typically, the military is left to carry out its official duties, particularly those not pertaining to wartime functions, without interference from either the White House or Congress. However, when there is an agenda that is being advanced this may not always be the case.
In the re-election campaign, President Obama’s agenda was to vilify the Republicans for what he deemed as the “war on women.” Obama set out to destroy the credibility of the Republican Party with female voters by publicly condemning them for not allowing women to have “free birth control,” among other things.
Obama’s “zero tolerance for sexual assault” in the military appears to have spawned its own agenda. This time, some Democrats may be using Obama’s policy as a means to punish the military for what they hope the American public will see, as the military’s “war on sexual assault victims.”
The message from these Democrats to the military, when it comes to prosecuting sexual assault cases, is make sure you convict all military personnel who have a case brought against them or else you may pay with your career.
In 2012, the Pentagon reported that there were 26,000 troops that had been sexually assaulted and 60 military recruiters and counselors were dismissed because of the allegations against them. The Pentagon further reported that these allegations represented a 35% increase since 2010. Most of the offenses involved incidents from groping to rape.
The military had been prosecuting these cases pursuant to the rules of military justice. However, when two convictions of sexual assault (out of 26,000) were overturned by high-ranking officers in the military, some Democratic Senators (and several Republican Senators) began calling for Congressional hearings.
Senator Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California and member of the Armed Services Committee, jumped into action with other lawmakers and demanded that a hearing be held immediately.
Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat from Missouri, was one of the most outspoken representatives at the hearing. McCaskill called Marine Corps General James Mattis to the hearing before Congress, demanding to know why a Lt. Colonel had his sexual assault conviction dropped after a jury found him guilty. She was referring to Air Force Lt. General Craig Franklin’s decision to overturn the sexual assault conviction of Air Force Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, after Franklin decided that the evidence didn’t warrant a conviction.
General Mattis informed McCaskill essentially that a commander had a right to make such a judgment for “reason.” Mattis was confirming that Lt. General Franklin had acted within his legal authority to overturn the conviction.
Not satisfied with General Mattis’ response, McCaskill wrote to the Air Force Secretary and the Air Force Chief of Staff, stating that Franklin’s decision “shows ignorance, at best, and malfeasance, at worst.” She called for swift action against Franklin. In other words, she wanted him fired. For now, Lt. General Franklin appears to have been spared his job but it’s still early.
Another Air Force Lt. General was not so fortunate. Lt. General Susan Helms has been blocked by Senator Claire McCaskill, for the last six months, from being confirmed as vice commander of Space Command, due to Helms’ decision to overturn a sexual assault conviction of a captain at a California Air Force base in 2012.
Lt. General Helms reported that after studying the conviction record for five weeks, she could not allow the verdict to stand because the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt had not been met.
McCaskill was outraged by the decision and has made it her mission, it appears, to prevent Helms’ promotion. Apparently, since she was unable to have Lt. General Franklin fired, preventing a promotion for Lt. General Helms was the next best thing.
Both Lt. Generals have the legal responsibility in their positions to ensure that justice is served under the rules of the military justice system. A civilian court is also charged with similar responsibilities in ensuring that justice has been served even if that means overturning a conviction for failure to meet the burden of proof, lack of evidence, or a myriad of sanctioned reasons.
Senator McCaskill is sending a clear message to the military that they must get on board with the Democrats’ agenda even if it means disregarding or violating the rule of law. Failure to comply could result in the threat of dismissal or the end of advancement in one’s career, at the very least.
Lt. General Helms had been on a fast track in her exemplary career before her decision to throw out the conviction. She was the first military woman in space, having flown aboard the space shuttle Endeavor and flew on several other space missions, as well. She has logged numerous hours in space and set a world record when she spacewalked for eight hours and fifty six minutes.
Little did Lt. General Helms know that exercising reasonable judgment and obeying the rule of law in our current political climate could be a detriment to her military career. The jury is still out on the outcome of Lt. General Franklin’s future in the military.
Susan Knowles is an author, psychotherapist and former practicing attorney. Her latest book, a political fiction, is entitled, “Freedom’s Fight: A Call to Remember” available on Amazon.com. Her website is susanknowles.com, where this article may also be found.