Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Former CentCom chief says sex scandal can harm respect for military

TAMPA — Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni spent most of his time traveling outside Tampa when he served as chief of U.S. Central Command from 1997 to 2000.

He actually tallied it up when he left CentCom, which is headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base.

"I was gone more than 70 percent of the time," Zinni said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times Friday. "And of course I didn't have the same crisis situations CentCom's been dealing with for the last 12 years."

So when Zinni heard news reports that Gen. John Allen, a former deputy and acting commander at CentCom, may have exchanged hundreds, perhaps even thousands of emails with Tampa socialite Jill Kelley, Zinni was amazed.

"I don't know where the time came to do all of that," Zinni said. "It's a full-time job."

In a telephone interview from his home in Virginia, Zinni said he worried the sex scandal that has engulfed Allen and just-resigned CIA director David Petraeus will harm the military's reputation. He said he was very careful when he served at MacDill to adequately vet invitations to social events and personal meetings with civilians to avoid entanglements like the one that now threatens Allen's career and ended Petraeus'.

Zinni said his staff judge advocate — an office providing legal and policy support to a military commander — screened many of the invitations and meetings that came into his office.

Speaking of Kelley's socializing with MacDill brass, Zinni said, "That's something my staff judge advocate would have been on in a heartbeat."

That isn't to say, he said, that commanders at military bases should avoid contact with the surrounding community. Zinni said local ties benefit both civilians and the military. Military personnel live locally. Everybody has a stake in maintaining good relations, he said.

But top commanders need to proceed cautiously when reaching out, Zinni said.

He said his biggest concern is that the sex scandal will harm the military's reputation. "It chips away at respect," Zinni said.

Zinni, however, said he is withholding judgment until the facts are know. He said he admires and respects both Petraeus and Allen. And he called Allen one of the finest generals in the nation.

Zinni said civilians who love the military often try to get too close and, even though they may have good intentions, they can cause difficulties.

"Sometimes it's hard for them to understand that what they're doing might be inappropriate," Zinni said.

Acknowledging that some of the more aggressive civilians sometimes act like groupies at a Rolling Stones concert, Zinni said with a laugh, "It never happened to me."

Former CentCom chief says sex scandal can harm respect for military 11/16/12 [Last modified: Friday, November 16, 2012 1:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pen makes it way too interesting as Rays hang on for 9-6 win


    A couple of home runs provided the news pegs of the night for the Rays, but it was more topical to talk about what nearly happened as they hung on for a 9-6 win over the Orioles.

    Lucas Duda's three-run homer in the third inning was the Rays' record-breaking 217th of the season, as well as his …

  2. An attempt to project what Rays will look like in 2018

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — We know what the Rays look like this year: a team that had enough talent but too many flaws, in construction and performance, and in the next few days will be officially eliminated from a wild-card race it had a chance to win but let slip away.

    Adeiny Hechavarria, high-fiving Lucas Duda, seems likely to be brought back.
  3. Trump fallout: Bucs' DeSean Jackson to make 'statement' Sunday


    Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson said Saturday that he will make a "statement" before today's game against the Vikings in response to President Donald Trump's comment that owners should "fire" players who kneel in protest during the national anthem.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) makes a catch during the first half of an NFL game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017.
  4. Kriseman invites Steph Curry to St. Pete on Twitter


    Mayor Rick Kriseman is no stranger to tweaking President Donald Trump on social media.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman took to Twitter Saturday evening to wade into President Donald Trump's latest social media scuffle
  5. Death toll, humanitarian crisis grow in Puerto Rico


    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A humanitarian crisis grew Saturday in Puerto Rico as towns were left without fresh water, fuel, power or phone service following Hurricane Maria's devastating passage across the island.

    Crew members assess electrical lines in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on Friday in Puerto Rico. Mobile communications systems are being flown in but “it’s going to take a while.”