I have a terrible confession to make: When the news of the Petraeus sex scandal broke this past week, my first reaction was to chuckle. Not in the usual “ha ha, another cheatypants got caught, serves him right” sense (although there was no small amount of Schadenfreude there, either); it was more out of a sardonic sense of irresistible metaphor. It was all about an irony that had been hiding, as all such ironies do, in very plain sight.
And yes, I have to admit, the embarrassment of it all tickled me, too. Aren’t intelligence agents constantly being warned about the dangers of seduction, when they’re not being instructed to use it to gain information they can’t get any other way? How delicious, then, to see the head of the world’s most feared and hated spy agency caught in the same trap his covert agents have set repeatedly, all over the world. And how hilariously ironic that the same terrorist traps the FBI keeps setting in vain, under the auspices of the so-called Patriot Act, ended up catching not some obscure cell with nefarious world-takeover plans, but a four-star general who’d at one point led the war against precisely such insurgencies. Or so we’re told by our lovely presstitutes.
After all, the former general and CIA director wasn’t just boinking some boring little bottle-blonde secretary; the Other Woman was his chief hagiographer. She was a military veteran and West Point grad herself. Just like him, she was in the business of selling neoconservatism, bad ideologies, and wars that cost a fucking fortune in every conceivable sense. She did not keep a low profile, as Other Women are wont to do. She was constantly thrusting herself into the spotlight to sing his praises (and promote her magnum opus). She was the person who spit-shined his medals to a high gloss in a “biography” that seemed to be written, at times, from straight inside his pants. There was no pretense of objectivity, only a constant, unremitting effort to elevate David Petraeus to divinity. A divinity which, even then, we peaceniks and Dirty Fucking Hippies knew he did not deserve.
But the media brushed right past us. It ignored what the former intelligence professionals were saying, too, about the BushCo wars being unwinnable. They hopped right on the pro-war bandwagon. They praised the “brilliant” strategy and lost sight of the reality on the ground. Gosh oh golly gee wow, isn’t David Petraeus wonderful? Yeah, that Iraq surge went great. So great that Iraq is now permanently fucked. Petraeus made that.
And that’s not all he made. He damn near dragged the Obama administration into yet another unwinnable neo-con war, this one with Iran. And on the flimsiest and dumbest of pretexts, too:
One person familiar with the Obama administration’s thinking said President Obama was never close to Petraeus, who was viewed as a favorite of the neoconservatives and someone who had undercut a possible solution to Iran’s nuclear program in 2011 by pushing a bizarre claim that Iranian intelligence was behind an assassination plot aimed at the Saudi ambassador to Washington.
As that case initially evolved, the White House and Justice Department were skeptical that the plot traced back to the Iranian government, but Petraeus pushed the alleged connection which was then made public in a high-profile indictment. The charges further strained relations with Iran, making a possible military confrontation more likely.
At the time, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, a favored recipient of official CIA leaks, reported that “one big reason [top U.S. officials became convinced the plot was real] is that CIA and other intelligence agencies gathered information corroborating the informant’s juicy allegations and showing that the plot had support from the top leadership of the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the covert action arm of the Iranian government.”
Ignatius added that, “it was this intelligence collected in Iran” that swung the balance. But Ignatius offered no examples of what that intelligence was. Nor did Ignatius show any skepticism regarding Petraeus’s well-known hostility toward Iran and how that might have influenced the CIA’s judgment.
As it turned out, the case was based primarily on statements from an Iranian-American car dealer Mansour Arbabsiar, who clumsily tried to hire drug dealers to murder Saudi Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir, though Arbabsiar was actually talking to a Drug Enforcement Agency informant. Arbabsiar pled guilty last month as his lawyers argued that their client suffers from a bipolar disorder. In other words, Petraeus and his CIA escalated an international crisis largely on the word of a person diagnosed by doctors of his own defense team as having a severe psychiatric disorder.
Despite the implausibility of the assassination story and the unreliability of the key source, the Washington press corps quickly accepted the Iranian assassination plot as real. That assessment reflected the continued influence of neoconservatives in Official Washington and Petraeus’s out-sized reputation among journalists.
The neocons, who directed much of President George W. Bush’s disastrous foreign policy and filled the ranks of Mitt Romney’s national security team, have favored a heightened confrontation with Iran in line with the hardline position of Israel’s Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In the post-election period, it is a top neocon goal to derail Obama’s efforts to work out a peaceful settlement of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. The neocons favor “regime change.”
If ever there was a reason to be glad Mitt Romney lost the election, there it is. One more foreign policy disaster. Brought to you by the same PNAC/Likud faction that brought you the Afghan and Iraq catastrophes. Let’s not forget that Iran was always on the keeker; it was part of the “Axis of Evil”, remember?
Thankfully Barack Obama wasn’t dumb enough to fall for that flimsy tale. (You can see now why he was wise to end the Iraq invasion, too, can’t you? We’ll talk more about Afghanistan when he realizes it’s past time to shut that one down, too. Maybe now he’ll finally start firing all those BushCo leftovers on his team and start fresh with sane people. Hope ‘n’ change, people — get the fuck ON with it.)
Meanwhile, the same media imbeciles who were so busy promoting every highly-polished Petraeus turd that they couldn’t even look up for an instant, are in mourning. The same David Ignatius who took the Iranian lunatic’s lie and ran with it is now weeping tears of blood. Too bad he forgot something:
Ignatius adoringly adduces the following quote from Petraeus as proof of the ex-general’s acute vision: “As I see it, strategic leadership is fundamentally about big ideas, and, in particular, about four tasks connected with big ideas. First, of course, you have to get the big ideas right — you have to determine the right overarching concepts and intellectual underpinnings to accomplish your organization’s mission.
“Second, you have to communicate the big ideas effectively through the breadth and depth of the organization. Third, you have to oversee the implementation of the big ideas. And fourth, and finally, you have to capture lessons from the implementation of the big ideas, so that you can refine the overarching concepts and repeat the overall process.”
Got that? That’s probably right out of Petraeus’s PhD dissertation at Princeton, or from a how-to book that might be called “Management Rhetoric for Dummies.”
If only Petraeus and his colleague generals remembered the smaller – but far more relevant – ideas inculcated in all of us Army officers in Infantry School at Fort Benning in the early Sixties. This is what I recall from memory regarding what an infantry officer needed to do before launching an operation – big or small – division or squad size.
Corny (and gratuitous) as it may sound, we were taught that the absolute requirement was to do an “Estimate of the Situation” that included the following key factors: Enemy strength, numbers and weapons; Enemy disposition, where are they?; Terrain; Weather; and Lines of communication and supply (LOCS). In other words, we were trained to take into account those “little ideas,” like facts and feasibility that, if ignored, could turn the “big ideas” into a March of Folly that would get a lot of people killed for no good reason.
Could it be that they stopped teaching these fundamentals as Petraeus went through West Point and Benning several years later? Did military history no longer include the futile efforts of imperial armies to avoid falling into the “graveyard of empires” in Afghanistan?
What about those LOCS? When you can’t get there from here, is it really a good idea to send troops and armaments the length of Pakistan and then over the Hindu Kush? And does anyone know how much that kind of adventure might end up costing?
To Army officers schooled in the basics, it was VERY hard to understand why the top Army leadership persuaded President Barack Obama to double down, twice, in reinforcing troops for a fool’s errand. And let’s face it, unless you posit that the generals and the neoconservative strategic “experts” at Brookings and AEI were clueless, the doubling down was not only dumb but unconscionable.
Small wonder all the talk about “long war” and Petraeus’s glib prediction that our grandchildren will still be fighting the kind of wars in which he impressed the likes of David Ignatius.
Ike Eisenhower wasn’t kidding when he talked about the Military-Industrial Complex. And Smedley Butler wasn’t talking out his hat either when he said that war was a racket. What Ray McGovern, the veteran intel pro who opposed these wars from the outset, understands that the media doesn’t, is that wars are not won or lost on the basis of who’s got the “big ideas” and “overarching concepts”. The people on the ground don’t give a shit for those. And the locals will only see foreign invaders and oppressors, NOT Big Ideas And Overarching Concepts. They’re not stupid; they know what a foreign uniform and gun mean. Their hearts and minds are not winnable with big talk; you might as well be tossing cluster bombs to their kids as candy from the tank turrets.
The salesmanlike bullshit of Petraeus ought to be apparent even to those of us who don’t have the privilege of a West Point officer-training course. If you’ve heard similar things from some civilian in a cheap suit and dismissed it accordingly (and I have, and I bet you have too), why buy it when it comes courtesy of some big-brass guy with a folksy-shucksy grin and a chestful of medals?
Oh yeah, that’s right: the only bright spot, if you can call it that, in the Bush Recession, was that there were plenty of job opportunities for young, poor, barely-educated cannon fodder. It’s the economy, stupid! At a time when well-paying manufacturing jobs are being cut and shipped overseas to where labor is so cheap that at times it amounts to outright slavery, what’s left at home? The so-called service economy. Which is also so poorly paid that it might as well be slavery. You can’t afford rent, much less a starter home, on a McJob paycheque. So when the handsome young guys in the spiffy uniforms approach you, ever so personably, at the mall, trying to interest you in the Army/Navy/Air Force/Marines, and tell you you can get your college education and better job opportunities that way, you start to think of entering a different kind of service opportunity, one that will glorify you some day as a Veteran. Assuming that you come out alive. Would you like fries with that?
So yeah, the snickering from my corner is full of a sense of vindication. What has the whole neo-con project been, if not a vast international fuckfest replete with lies, deception, doubletalk and crapaganda? One in which the media whores focused with lover-like intensity on the well-polished turds falling from the lips of “institute” hacks and four-star generals alike, while troops on the ground were killing and dying for, well, nothing?
Ah, maybe I shouldn’t say nothing. They killed and died, committed atrocities and fell victim to atrocities, for something, all right.
They did it all for bullshit.