Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

The Sinclair sentence: I’ve calmed down enough to assess some of the damage

By Shelly Burgoyne Best Defense guest commenter At first I was just too angry, actually viscerally angry to offer anything helpful, let alone insightful. After a few days I have calmed down a bit. I am still shocked at the judge’s wounding verdict, but I have been able to sift through all the garbage this ...

Davis Turner/Getty Images
Davis Turner/Getty Images
Davis Turner/Getty Images

By Shelly Burgoyne
Best Defense guest commenter

At first I was just too angry, actually viscerally angry to offer anything helpful, let alone insightful.

After a few days I have calmed down a bit. I am still shocked at the judge's wounding verdict, but I have been able to sift through all the garbage this Sinclair case produced and narrow down exactly why I am so affected, and it is what I keep coming back to. It is what haunts me.

By Shelly Burgoyne
Best Defense guest commenter

At first I was just too angry, actually viscerally angry to offer anything helpful, let alone insightful.

After a few days I have calmed down a bit. I am still shocked at the judge’s wounding verdict, but I have been able to sift through all the garbage this Sinclair case produced and narrow down exactly why I am so affected, and it is what I keep coming back to. It is what haunts me.

Gen. Sinclair admitted to serious crimes, crimes he has surely convicted others (enlisted) of. He has surely docked pay from those under his command in aggregate. He has surely convicted soldiers and thrown them in Leavenworth, kicked out soldiers, etc. for crimes far less than his — far less.

He admitted to breaking the law over and over and yet he was deemed honorable by this judge — honorable! It is as if our Army has transformed into some kind of a gang, a completely illegitimate organization. I am humiliated and insulted beyond return.

His family is innocent in this, but that is not a reason to allow this admitted criminal to retire with honor and keep taxpayers’ money, his pension. A military pension is entitled to the servicemember; the pension is his, not his wife’s. I am a military wife, but I also served and the combat veteran in me knows the judge should have taken it. How many families of enlisted soldiers have been left destitute after breaking laws far less severely than Gen. Sinclair?

Finally, the incredible damage that this one criminal has left in his wake of toxicity and dysfunction will change the Army forever. Senators and congressmen on the fence chose a side yesterday and it wasn’t the Army’s side. Congress will proceed to tear apart our laws and our command authority, and I no longer care much that they do.

Ms. Burgoyne is a former Army officer. She served combat tours to Iraq in 2003 and 2005. She was named a Tillman Scholar in 2010 and recently completed her graduate studies at the University of Maryland. She is currently living and writing in the D.C. area, where her work focuses on veterans and women in the military.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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