The trial of Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair is set to begin on Tuesday, but this case of sexual abuse in the military is much bigger than him. If convicted of a laundry list of charges, including forcible sodomy, Sinclair's case will signal how America does — or doesn't — tackle its troubling history of military misconduct.
In the last few months, it seems like those associated with the case are torn, even the lead prosecutor resigned because he doubted if the General's main accuser was telling the truth. Ultimately, army officials seem to fall into two camps, we must change or please leave us alone.
Proponents of military justice reform say the case underscores broader problems with the U.S. armed forces' approach to sexual assault prosecutions and shows the need for an overhaul as such crime reports increase.
A chief concern, reform advocates say, is that the current system gives military commanders without legal training control over prosecutions, prompting accusations of partiality.
However those in the armed forces are strongly against allowing outsiders to preside over trials like that of Sinclair because they aim to stay "apolitical," writes Reuters. Is that even possible? And while that idea may have merit — other military personnel can certainly relate to Sinclair’s professional experience in a war zone — it’s unclear whether that "apolitical" practice is helping or hindering the Army. Common sense says that the branch's inner circle method of decision-making has led to the military's current problems of staggering sexual abuse claims, which only rose in 2013.
Also, the fact that Sinclair’s defense is basically, ‘Guys, if this had happened 10 years ago, it wouldn’t be such a big deal’ suggests that if there was no pressure from President Obama’s anti-sexual assault focus, then the General would’ve just been slapped on the wrist and pushed along, if he were even reprimanded at all.
Who knows what tomorrow’s proceedings may bring, but America will be watching.
Image via Zimand/Shutterstock.