On Friday, November 9, the head of the CIA in the US, retired General David Petraeus, resigned. His resignation came allegedly due to revelations of an extra marital affair with his biographer, and former fellow army officer, Paula Broadwell. Much was made of the fact that his secret extra-marital affair could potentially be used to blackmail him. But Petraeus’s resignation opens the door to a lot of dirty secrets, including whether there is a lot more to his resignation than his extra marital affair.
The FBI started investigating Petraeus after the received complains from still another woman – who also knew Petraeus – about e mail harassment that she considered to be threatening. They found that Broadwell was the author of these e mails and in the course of the investigation they uncovered two things: First, that Broadwell had some classified documents in her computer; and second that she had been having an affair with Petraeus. Both Broadwell and Petraeus denied that he was the one who gave her the documents, but that doesn’t sound likely; if he didn’t give them to her, then who did?
This sordid little tale involves a lot more than just idle gossip; it opens the door to several potent issues, starting with who David Petraeus is and was.
Counter Intelligence vs. Counter Insurgency
Earlier on in the Obama presidency, there was a struggle carried out over two approaches in Iraq and Afghanistan. One, championed by Vice President Biden, was known as the counter intelligence strategy. This view held that it is impossible to really win wars against terrorist forces. The best to be hoped for is to maintain limited forces on the ground throughout the world to keep tabs on and disrupt as much as possible terrorist forces and groups.
The other strategy is known as counter insurgency, or COIN. This view maintains that what is necessary is to send in massive forces to operate as mixture of a kind of “armed Peace Corps” as an article in Rolling Stone put it back in 2010 and a militarized mafia. This means both military domination and building a government infrastructure from the ground up. Former top General in Afghanistan Stanley McChrystal was a champion of this strategy as was Petraeus.
As put into practice by both McChrystal and Petraeus, counter insurgency involves organizing hit squads, torture of prisoners, and linking up with and supporting some of the most corrupt and brutal political rulers such as Abdul Raziq (or Rizzik) in Afghanistan. Raziq is a warlord, drug trafficker, blackmailer… and a torturer. This is the political infrastructructure that McChrystal, Petraeus and the advocates of counter insurgency are trying to build in countries like Afghanistan.
Military Super Stars
McChrystal was ultimately fired for openly challenging the president – a struct “no-no”. Petraeus took his place as head of the US military in Afghanistan. From there he moved to the CIA. It should be noted that this move did not occur without some friction as the command style of the military is not suited to running the CIA, where everybody apparently thinks they are a genius.
McChrystal’s sin is indicative of a wider issue within the US military – the building up of a series of super-star generals who ultimately become too big for their breeches, as they say. In McChrystal’s case it was the open challenge to the President. In the case of Petraeus, it was his view that he could conduct his personal life in any way he liked, including his undoubted giving of classified documents to his paramour. The US corporate controlled media, which collaborates with the corporate controlled politicians as well as with the brutal police forces in the US, has been central to this. As an article in buzzfeed.com pointed out, “Petraeus’ first biographer, former U.S. News and World Report reporter Linda Robinson, wrote a book about him, then went to CENTCOM (Central Command) to work for him. Yes — a so-called journalist published a book about him, then started getting a paycheck from him soon after. This went largely unremarked upon.
“Another huge supporter was Tom Ricks, a former Washington Post journalist who found a second career as unofficial press agent for the general and his friends. Ricks is the ringleader of what I like to call “the media-military industrial complex,” setting the standard for its incestuous everyday corruption. He not only built Dave (Petraeus) up, he facilitated the disastrous liaison between Broadwell and Petraeus.”
Now, on top of that, it turns out that his biographer was having an affair with him. What kind of objectivity – no less simple honesty – can she be expected to bring to bear?
The story doesn’t end there.
According to a Wall St. Journal article, the US embassy in Benghazi, Libya – the one that was razed and whose ambassador Stevens and two others were killed – was really a CIA headquarters. A previous State Department building in Libya had also been sacked by some Libyan forces. It seems likely to me that they found documents indicating that the embassy was really a spy center and therefore went after it. Whether that is true or not, it would seem that in the end the head of the CIA would have to take the rap for this failure.
Shift Back to Counter Intelligence?
Finally, there is the general strategic debate. Petraeus and McChrystal were the champions of the counter insurgence strategy. They led the political campaign for the troop “surges” in Iraq (under President Bush) and in Afghanistan (under President Obama). In both cases these surges, which were central to the counter insurgency strategy, have been disastrous failures. The withdrawal of most US troops from both these countries amounts to a recognition of this. Given the fact that Petraeus was central to this failed strategy, and given the failure of his agency, the CIA, in Benghazi, it would make complete sense that he would have to go. The fact that by all appearances he gave classified information to his biographer and paramour is just the nail in the coffin.
(NOTE: For further background on the “media-military-industrial complex” see: http://www.buzzfeed.com/mhastings/the-sins-of-general-david-petraeus)