My name is Petraeus. David Petraeus. Move over, Bond, with your Skyfall; this is the real deal, a certified political/national security blockbuster to end them all.
This is how Hollywood would market it; “He had the nation’s highest security clearance. But above all he was an embedded lady killer.”
Now for the casting. Daniel Craig could easily play The General, although The General would rather teleguide a Hellfire than an Aston Martin, and wear a “fruit salad” (as in myriad decorations) instead of a killer Tom Ford suit. Demi Moore – sultry as ever – could play “Paula”. Assorted Iraqis and Afghans would play “collateral damage”.
Meanwhile, murky does not even begin to describe alleged reality – as in the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, retired Gen David Petraeus, resigning over a bedroom farce only two days after President Barack Obama is re-elected, amid crossfire accusations raging for weeks regarding what the CIA was exactly doing in Libya, that godforsaken land liberated by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and now ruled by a bunch of militias.
As whodunits go, this plot is going nowhere. Nobody knows why this blockbuster was leaked last Friday – by the way only one day after President Obama himself had learned about it (on the other hand attorney general Eric Holder of The Fast and the Furious fame knew about it since “late summer”, according to the proverbial anonymous, “US officials”).
Nobody knows what the Federal Bureau of Investigation was planning to do before all hell broke loose – considering that its four-month investigation had unearthed that Petraeus and his lover, West Point graduate, fitness fanatic, adoring biographer Paula Broadwell, had not breached national security.
Or maybe they had. For starters, The General – possessor of the nation’s highest national security clearance – was using a mere G-mail account to talk dirty to Paula, using what The Washington Post gleefully described as “a tactic of terrorists who are rightly wary of espionage”. And when it was leaked that the FBI found no “major security breaches”, this means there WAS a security breach.
The bedroom farce elements are enough to have Moliere rolling in his tombe. The whole thing started when Floridian Jill Kelley complained about receiving harassing emails from Paula, the adoring co-author (with Washington Post journalist Vernon Loeb) of the full-access biography All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, published in January. Paula and Petraeus had been getting down to the nitty-gritty since November 2011, two months after Obama appointed him as head of the CIA. Talk about an embedded biographer.
So Paula must have thought she was in a sexy quadrangle, not triangle. She obviously didn’t know much about Jill Kelley – the third woman in the farce – the other three sides being Paula and Petraeus’ wife, the now “furious” Holly. The Tampa Bay Times described The General as a grandfather to Kelley’s family.
Kelley also happened to be a critical player; a “social liaison” to the Pentagon’s supreme, shadowy, counterterrorism/killing machine, the Fort Bragg-based Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). It’s crucial to know that it was the JSOC that allegedly led the CIA and the Pentagon into what had happened during the attack against the US consulate in Benghazi in which ambassador Chris Stevens was killed.
None of this obviously mattered to Paula; in the harassing emails that culminated in this bombshell, she bluntly ordered Kelley to “stay away from my guy”.
As for “my guy”, he has multiple questions to answer. First of all; why did the CIA tell the White House that the Benghazi drama was provoked by that stupid “Prophet Muhammad” YouTube video – and not an attack coordinated by previously NATO-enabled Salafi-jihadis?
And then, no less important; why did The General not decide to commit his public seppuku over two weeks ago, when FBI agents talked to him in person about the investigation? Was it his paramount reason the desire not to bomb the Obama administration and practically hand the election over to the Republican Party? Or maybe he was hoping the whole thing would simply be covered up, like a Pashtun wedding party obliterated by a Hellfire missile?
According to The New York Times, the whole thing blew over in late October after an “unidentified” FBI employee – now identified as sending photos of his shirtless torso to Jill Kelley – spilled the beans to Congress Republicans all the way to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Nobody knows what was this FBI’s informer agenda.
In a nutshell, the FBI didn’t manage to keep the investigation secret. Cantor, according to the Times, had a serious meeting with FBI director Robert Mueller III on Halloween; then nobody knows what happened till Election Day, November 6, when the FBI went by the book and told James Clapper Jr, the Director of National Intelligence, about the bedroom farce. To say that Mueller and Cantor also have a few questions to answer is the understatement of the year.
With US corporate media now totally berserk, the master narrative remains that The Samurai General did the honorable thing by resigning. It all goes back to good ol’ American Puritanism. You can be a killing machine, responsible for the death of untold numbers of civilians. But don’t you dare betraying your devoted wife.
The General may be thinking he chose the wrong profession. What an unforgiving environment; James Bond gets to wear fabulous suits, drinks countless martinis, drives an Aston Martin, shoots every bad guy in sight and beds every foxy lady in the universe.
The failed warrior
David Petraeus was more of a PR genius than a samurai to begin with. His cinematic model would be Captain Willard as played by Martin Sheen in Coppola’s Apocalypse Now; the warrior intellectual. Petraeus, who for quite a while actively positioned himself as a possible presidential candidate in 2012, was clever enough to sell to US public opinion – and gullible mainstream media – the notion that he was a winner in both Iraq and Afghanistan. These are two monumental fallacies.
The revolving door ethos in Washington – in this case between the Pentagon and the CIA – reached new heights of absurdity when Petraeus, who adapted his counterinsurgency tactics from Iraq to Afghanistan, as in take, clear, hold and build, was put in charge, as CIA director, of analyzing … the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. The Taliban must be laughing all across the Hind Kush about Petraeus’s counterinsurgency “success” – which, by the way, he imposed, along with other Pentagon generals, on Obama in late 2009.
Petraeus is a product of the Pentagon. He could never, by himself, get rid of the inbuilt logic of Endless War, established by Republican strategists of what French political scientist Alain Joxe has characterized as “war neoliberalism”.
Iraq and Afghanistan were pure manifestations of “war neoliberalism”. Petraeus’s “surge” in Iraq was a sham. When he arrived with his suitcases full of cash to convince Sunni guerrillas to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq, and not American soldiers, the real surge was already being accomplished; this was the surge led by the Iraqi Interior Ministry and Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, which had practically succeeded in the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad and surrounding areas, reverting the population balance to the benefit of Shi’ites. As for the Sunni guerrillas, at least they could pocket American money while biding their time to continue their fight against a Shi’ite-dominated government in Baghdad.
Obama’s foreign policy team certainly thought that Petraeus counterinsurgency mumbo-jumbo would allow Iraq – and later Afghanistan – at least some sort of what could be dubbed inter-communitarian democracy, saving American face in terms of a troop exit that would not replicate the last helicopter leaving a Saigon roof in 1975.
But the fact is Petraeus did not win any hearts and minds in either Iraq or Afghanistan; his take, clear, hold and build tactics ultimately led to nowhere in both cases – and we’re not even talking about serious instances of torture, extrajudicial killings, illegal detentions and widespread shadow war. His “mini-surge” could only have had a shot at succeeding in Afghanistan (and that’s quite a stretch) if it was not mini; if he had had access to hundreds of thousands of troops – something politically unacceptable in the US.
Then there’s Benghazi. What may have really happened is that the US consulate in Benghazi was a sort of CIA safe house/spy house – thus under Petraeus responsibility, not the State Dept. This neatly dovetails with “Paula” casually saying, at the University of Denver on October 26, that “prisoners” were being held at the consulate (the CIA vehemently denied it, so there must be a degree of truth to it).
That the consulate was attacked by Salafi-jihadis is out of the question. The State Department may have been the fall guys – while Petraeus/CIA got away with their incompetence. Well, until the bedroom farce exploded.
It remains to be seen whether anyone in Washington will dare asking the pertinent questions. It remains to be seen whether Petraeus’s relentless, hyper-counterproductive (not to mention collateral damage-laden) drone wars will be reevaluated. It remains to be seen whether Obama 2.0 will decide to practice diplomacy – and not shadow war – in the intersection between Central and South Asia.
The inestimable Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst, suggests Obama should stop listening to ” faux experts – the neocon specialists at Brookings, AEI and elsewhere” and instead go for “genuine experts like former national intelligence officer for the Near East Paul Pillar, former State Department chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson, and military historian and practitioner Andrew Bacevich (Lt Col, USA, ret). These are straight-shooters; they have no interest in ‘long wars’; they will tell you the truth; all you need to do is listen.”
Forget about straight shooters. The Acting CIA Director is now Michael Morell, a puppet of counter-terrorism czar John Brennan. As for The General, what a sorry exit; he gets no fancy car, no martinis, no Tom Ford killer suit, he doesn’t save the world. And in the end he doesn’t even get the girl.