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. See you later, alligator! Reptile captured off Miami Beach (w/video)


    MIAMI BEACH — Police and wildlife officials captured an unwanted visitor on Miami Beach.

    An alligator was spotted swimming in the Atlantic Ocean near the South Pointe Park pier in Miami Beach on July 23, 2017. News outlets quoted viewers who said it took officials about two hours to capture the gator. No one was injured.

  2. Dog dies in hot car while owner cleans Florida condos

    Public Safety

    PANAMA CITY BEACH — Authorities say a 2-year-old Chihuahua died in a hot car while its owner was cleaning condominiums in Florida.

  3. Recipe for Nutty Quinoa Carbonara


    If you've never made carbonara, consider adding it to your weekday dinner lineup. It is a traditional Italian pasta dish in which eggs are mixed with cheese and then swirled into cooked pasta just before serving. The result is a luscious bowl of food you won't believe contains so few ingredients. This recipe swaps …

    Quinoa Carbonara. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
  4. Jared Kushner says he has 'nothing to hide' on Russia (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner is denying that President Donald Trump's campaign colluded with Russia, saying in a statement ahead of congressional interviews that he has "nothing to hide."

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner listens during the "American Leadership in Emerging Technology" event with President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House in Washington on June 22, 2017. [Associated Press]
  5. Forecast: Less stormy weather to start week in Tampa Bay before chances ramp back up


    After some stormy mornings throughout the weekend across Tampa Bay, Monday kicks off pretty quietly with a cloudy, yet mainly dry start.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]