When Gunter Kiessling died in 2009, obituaries repeatedly referred to him as being the cause of a ‘sex scandal’ in NATO in 1983. Call me naive, but I always thought the defining element of a sex scandal would be sex.
In the case of Gunter Kiessling this didn’t seem to be the case: the ‘scandal’ revolved entirely around allegations that he was gay. And the allegations, in turn, revolved around him being unmarried and claims by German military intelligence that he was a regular customer at gay bars in Cologne.
No concrete evidence – photographs, witnesses, alleged sexual partners etc – was ever presented to substantiate the claim. Yet the allegations were, according to the Independent newspaper, enough to ‘send shock waves through NATO and the German military and political establishments’ and threaten the political stability of Helmut Kohl’s government.
Kiessling was one of two deputies to NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe so it was inevitable that he had to be sacked – which he was. More precisely, he was ‘prematurely retired’. When the allegations were proven to be false he was ‘rehabilitated’, before retiring ‘properly’ shortly afterwards.
Of course, at no point in the proceedings did anyone stop to ask what it was about his alleged homosexuality that constituted a threat. And that’s the real sex scandal!