Moral majority forces out US general

Armed forces deputy renounces candidature for top post over affair after fury at perceived double standards in military

The deputy head of the US armed forces, General Joseph Ralston, yesterday bowed to the inevitable and withdrew his candidacy for the top job in the US military after becoming embroiled in controversy over an adulterous affair he had 13 years ago. Gen Ralston, 53, had been the favourite to succeed his superior, General John Shalikashvili, when he retires in September.

With the public debate about sexual relations in the US military still raging and accusations of double standards - tolerance for the elite and no mercy for the rest - being traded to and fro, the general's continued candidacy was widely acknowledged to be politically untenable.

He appeared, however, to have fended off calls for his early retirement. The Defense Secretary, William Cohen, sub- sequently confirmed that the Four-star Air Force General, who was highly decorated for his service in Vietnam, would continue in his present post for the time being.

Gen Ralston's decision to sacrifice his ambition for the sake of survival represented a spectacular reversal of his fortunes. At the end of last week, the defence secretary, William Cohen, expressed his continued support for Gen Ralston's candidacy, describing him as an outstanding leader whose distinguished service "outweighed" his indiscretion.

Having earlier insisted that officers be required to observe "the highest moral standards", he said that he thought it was now time to "draw the line".

These statements, however, turned out to be a major error by the Defense Secretary, hitherto regarded as an astute judge of the political mood and an adroit operator in relations with Congress. The initial outcry, led by a group of Congresswomen, developed into something of an all-out revolt and the few voices initially raised in Mr Cohen's support rapidly faded.

Members of Congress said that their phones had been ringing almost constantly since Mr Cohen first uttered support for Gen Ralston, with angry constituents accusing him of perpetuating double standards in the military and discontented servicemen and women ringing to "inform" on other generals and high-ranking officers they believed had committed adultery with impunity.

The contrast was frequently drawn with Kelly Flinn, the 26-year-old female B-52 pilot, who was forced to accept a general discharge from the Air Force two weeks ago after admitting an affair with a married civilian and lying about it.

Comparisons were also drawn with the early retirements announced last week of two senior military officers, and continuing investigations into others, for past adulterous affairs.

To many, Gen Ralston's successful career epitomised the application of a double standard in the military that extended forgiveness and promotion to members of a charmed elite, while the lower ranks and women were threatened with demotion and even discharges.

The mood was summed up by Representative Carolyn Maloney, from New York City, who said: "If you are a friend of the Secretary of Defense and you've had an affair, you're in. If you are a successful woman who's had an affair, you're out."

Ms Flinn herself threw further fat on the flames yesterday. In an article for Newsweek magazine, she made many of the points about "double standards" that had earlier been made on her behalf. "Ralston is a general officer, a man, and he has a whole network of friends to help him. I was a lieutenant, a woman, without anyone in my chain of command willing to help me."

On Saturday, in a belated attempt to limit the damage, the Pentagon called a highly unusual weekend press conference to announce that Mr Cohen was setting up two panels, one to examine the "clarity" of existing regulations on adultery in the military, the other - made up of civilians - to consider the issues raised by mixed-sex training.

This, however, could not quell the uproar. Gen Ralston had to cut short his tour of the Central Asian republics. By yesterday, closeted with Gen. Shalikashvili, whom he had hoped to succeed in September, and Mr Cohen, it was no longer his promotion that was in question, but his career.

News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
art

The Sistine Chapel is set to be illuminated with thousands of LEDs

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Sport
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission, 1st yr OTE £30-£40k : SThree:...

Middleware Support Analyst

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Senior Java Developer/Designer

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: My client are looking fo...

Domino Developer and Administrator

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Domino ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?