The Fall of General Petraeus

Gen. David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a really good sex scandal in Washington, so the one involving Gen. Petraeus comes as a welcome relief after a truly dreary presidential election. Petraeus is accused of having had an affair with his “biographer”, Paula Broadwell. She is the reputed author of an admiring book about Petraeus with the perhaps unfortunate title of All In. (It has also come out that this book was at least partly ghost-written.)

There is more than a little moral hypocrisy in all this. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is chair of the Democratic National Committee, has said: “Disturbing is the word that has come to my mind since all of this has come to light. Really, I think it goes without saying if you’re the director of the CIA, if you are a four-star general in the United States army, that you have to hold yourself to a higher standard. And you can’t put yourself in a compromising position.” Yes, a man who authorizes torture and drone strikes can’t sully himself with extra-marital sex. Schultz, by the way, helped organize last summer’s Democratic convention, at which one of the featured speakers was former president Bill Clinton, who coaxed a White House intern into giving him blow jobs.

It all started when Jill Kelley, a friend of Petraeus’s family, told an FBI agent, with whom she was apparently involved in some way, that she had been receiving harassing e-mails from Broadwell. Even though the FBI normally doesn’t investigate this sort of thing, those intrepid G-Men went to work, eventually examining 20,000 pages of e-mails. (I’m not making this up.) Not only did they discover Broadwell’s affair with Petraeus, but they also discovered that Kelly was having an affair with Gen. David Allen, Petraeus’s successor in the Afghanistan command.

Kelley is an interesting person in her own right. According to the Los Angles Times: “…she has angered some senior officers for what were described as persistent efforts by her to forge close personal ties to successive Central Command four-star officers by deluging them with emails, a former Central Command aide said.” Could there be such a thing as a military groupie? There must be something about a man who bombs villages in Afghanistan.

Some will cite this affair as evidence that the American empire is in decline. This is nonsense. There is, for example, good reason to believe that Eisenhower had an affair with his female chauffeur during World War II. And at one point in his career, MacArthur was demoted when it was discovered that he had a mistress.

The FBI agent who started the investigation – who has so far only been identified as Agent Shirtless – is said to have a “worldview” that is “hostile” to Obama. I think we can guess what that probably means.

Those who live by the media, die by it. When the Iraq war wasn’t going well, the government and the media decided that they needed a hero to distract people. Petraeus, who wears more medals than a Soviet-era bureaucrat, seemed a logical choice. He was given credit for a non-existent victory in Iraq, to hide the fact that Bush had actually cut a deal with Sunni militia groups. Now Petraeus has been undone by one of those who worked hardest create his myth. Shakespeare would have relished this.

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