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One was accused of sodomy and rape; the other, misuse of government services, violating joint ethics regulations, and engaging in an "improper relationship" with the wife of an enlisted soldier.

Both were bird colonels and both got off with a "slap on the wrist." So what else is new?

Few things are more destructive to morale in the military than the "top brass" getting favored treatment. But it happens all the time.

Enlisted members, noncoms, and even officers up to the rank of light colonel are "dead meat" when hit with the charges above. But if you're an 0-6 - especially a "ring-knocker," or, if you have pals and classmates who are flag officers - you'll never see the inside of Leavenworth DB, and rarely will you lose your pension.

Case in point. COL William Haass, a reservist from San Antonio, Texas. He was former "top-dog" at Area Support Group-Eagle in Bosnia. He took over August 1 and was relieved by BG Robley Rigdon, acting commander of Multinational Division North, just 17days later. The official story was, Haass engaged in "sexual misconduct."

Yeah. That's like saying he was only a "naughty boy." In civilian life, folks charged with sodomy and rape, if convicted, go to jail. Haass got kid glove treatment. He accepted "nonjudicial punishment" under that misnomer, the "Uniform Code of Military Justice." Haass didn't even have to resign his commission! All he got was an Article 15.

But his "career is as good as over," a senior official tried to "spin" STARS & STRIPES. As if Haass was next in line to make general. Sure! The colonel got off EASY, and he knows it. So do the troops that were under his command, and they are NOT amused.

[ This isn't the first time a senior officer "skated" after getting in trouble in Bosnia. In 1997, a two-star general, under investigation for adultery with a married member of his command, was "hidden out" at Carlisle Barracks during the SMA Gene McKinney Article 32 hearing and court-martial, to save the Army embarrassment. An old pal of then-Army Chief-of-Staff Gen. Dennis Reimer, this "playboy general" was treated like royalty by another "insider," the Commandant, then-Maj. General Richard J. Chilcoat - known in some quarters (sarcastically) as the "Hero of Grenada."

While McKinney faced up to 50 years at the DB and a dishonorable discharge, Reimer's "buddy" clinked glasses at cocktail parties on post until such time as he could be "quietly retired" with full pension and benefits. The "cover story" put out at Carlisle Barracks was, the two-star had been "transferred" to Fort Riley, Kansas. ]

The other full bird who got a mild rap on the knuckles, was former Camp Zama, Japan commander COL Sammy G. Wiglesworth. He too avoided court-martial and got "non-judicial punishment." Wiglesworth was relieved of command and ordered to forfeit $3,000 in pay for two months.

That must be a "real comfort," we're sure, to the thousands of low-ranking enlisted members still on food stamps. They can really "identify" with the colonel, who pulls down only $7,000 a month!

When is the military going to get real about EQUAL treatment under the law, even under a flawed system such as the UCMJ? Not until the public lets the politicians in Washington know their sons and daughters, husbands and wives, should not be punished according to their rank, but by what they have done.

The Secretary of the Army needs to take a long, hard look at a corrupt system where the IG (inspector generals) are regarded by the troops, not as arbitrators of justice, but "cover-up" artists who favor the brass. It may be a cold day in hell when military "defense attorneys" are free from command influence and dare to defend their "clients" without thinking about the impact on their next promotion.

But we at intend to hammer away at this insidious DOUBLE-STANDARD at every opportunity. We will shine the spotlight of exposure on "favorable treatment" of the brass. We will embarrass and humiliate those responsible for this injustice. We will never let up in our effort to reform a rotten system that is an insult to equal rights and the Constitution we have sworn to defend and protect.

MAJ Glenn MacDonald, USAR (Ret)
Phoenix, Arizona

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