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Boardman writes: "Press secretary Josh Earnest says he's 'not aware' of any special 'security precautions' the White House may be taking when advisors talk to a man admittedly guilty of committing a totally self-serving security breach that exposed the identities of assets in the field."

David Petraeus. (photo: AP)
David Petraeus. (photo: AP)

Ex-Gen. David Petraeus: New Poster Boy for Government Corruption

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

20 March 15


Will the real David Petraeus please stand up? Probably not.

avid Petraeus, 62, is “the best-known military commander of his generation” and a former CIA director whose polished reputation rests largely on his academic record and on glowing assessments of his commands in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

David Petraeus is a well-known Washington insider who got caught shtupping another man’s wife, Paula Broadwell, and giving her access to highly classified military and intelligence information to help her write a glowing, hagiographic biography of her hero, who has now pleaded guilty to a sweetheart misdemeanor deal that would keep him from serving a day in any prison anywhere, never mind in anything like any of the black sites under his command as a general and CIA director. 

David Petraeus is the newest poster boy for the nexus of corrupt practices that presently pass for representative democratic government in the United States. This is a nexus of corruption that includes an unspoken agreement among its beneficiaries not to talk about it any more than can’t be avoided. A search of the White House archive turns up exactly one reference to David Petraeus since his resignation-to-evade-disgrace in November 2012. That reference, shown below in its entirety, is a nice illustration of the corrupt nexus at work: 

White House Press Briefing, 3/16/2015

Q    And finally, there’s a news report out there [in the New York Times of March 4, 2014] that the White House is getting advice on how to take on the Islamic State from former General David Petraeus. I’m wondering if you can confirm that.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Olivier, obviously, General Petraeus is somebody who served for a number of years in Iraq. He commanded a large number of American military personnel in that country. Over that time, he developed strong relationships with some of his Iraqi counterparts and with some of Iraq’s political leaders. He is, I think, legitimately regarded as an expert when it comes to the security situation in Iraq, so I think it makes a lot of sense for senior administration officials to, on occasion, consult him for advice.

Q    And any particular security precautions that you take in this situation, given his legal entanglement?

MR. EARNEST:  Not that I’m aware of.[emphasis added]

Press secretary Josh Earnest says he’s “not aware” of any special “security precautions” the White House may be taking when advisors talk to a man admittedly guilty of committing a totally self-serving security breach that exposed the identities of assets in the field. Earnest doesn’t even offer to find out about any possible security precautions. The reporter makes no follow-up request for the information. The charade is perfectly played. Everyone seems to understand that there are“good” people who breach security and they get treated well (Petraeus, Leon Panetta, John Brennan, John Deutch, Sandy Berger, et al.).

Then there are the “bad” people who actually share information with the American people (John Kiriakou, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, Jeffrey Sterling, Stephen Kim, Thomas Drake, et al.) and they get justly lynched, according to the dominant paradigm that government belongs only to some people.

The deference to the “good” people is so intense that the reporter at the ritual White House press briefing refers only obliquely to the “legal entanglement” of Petraeus, not his guilty plea or, heaven forbid, his actual guilt. Then the reporter lets the press secretary’s non-answer pass without further inquiry. No wonder some say that “White House news coverage” is an oxymoron. 

And is the White House paying Petraeus for his current “public service”? Earnest doesn’t say. And nobody asks. And they all know it really doesn’t matter because this betrayor of his oath of office already has a golden parachute that includes his fat public pension and a cushy sinecure at the KKR Global Institute, part of the multinational private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co, a pioneer in leverage buyouts. He also has a lucrative public speaking sideline.  

Petraeus presided over the war crimes Chelsea Manning exposed

There is no reason to assume that Petraeus knew or didn’t know of the war crimes committed under his command. There is no reason to assume he cared. But there is every reason to wonder why this general who was ultimately responsible for violations of the Nuremberg principles, including murder and torture, should escape accountability so completely. And there is even more reason to wonder why Manning, who brought war crimes to public attention, should suffer daily destruction in prison while a superior military predator wanders free to seek new prey. The system’s results for Petraeus and Manning are directly inverse to their contributions to the national good. 

The injustice is palpable and takes place at the institutional level: one prosecutor in the U.S. Army decides to punish the whistleblower as much as a military court will tolerate, while another prosecutor in the U.S. Justice Department decides to give the celebrity general a walk in the park. 

“Celebrity general?” A celebrity general is a general who is known primarily for being a celebrity general. The concept of celebrity – someone who is well known for being well known – comes from Daniel Boorstin’s prophetic 1962 book, “The Image, or What Happened to the American Dream.” More than fifty years ago, Boorstin explored the notion that “what dominates American experience today is not reality.” Since then, American experience has had less and less to do with reality, to the point where very real carnage from wars, torture, rape, and other policy choices have little impact on the way the country imagines it lives its life. 

Celebrity general is famous for being famous – war is irrelevant

Celebrity general Petraeus embodies the national unreality with near-perfection. His career is built on good academics and much better image-making. He is a general who is famous for no battle, no war, no great campaign to bring peace to anywhere. He has conquered nothing. The places where he waged war are still immersed in war and none are the better off for his efforts. The signal contribution Petraeus made to Iraq strategy was the “surge,” which consisted largely of bribing Sunni outliers to fight on our side for awhile. Take away the bribes and the same Sunnis ally themselves with the emerging Islamic State. Iraq, for which Petraeus has taken such credit, can’t hold itself together, much less defend itself without yet more help. Whatever impression Petraeus left on Afghanistan is already gone, or will be erased by the resurgent Taliban. The Petraeus legacy in reality comes down to enabling the resurgence of two nasty bands of Islamic hardliners.

But the White House, officially, considers celebrity general Petraeus “an expert when it comes to the security situation in Iraq,” and seeks his counsel to perpetuate the endless spiral of unreality first spun out by the Bush regime in 2002. The Iraq War is a celebrity war, a war best known for being known as a war, but never engaged as a real war by policy makers or the American public (the Iraqi public was fully engaged, but not by choice). The celebrity war would naturally produce one or more celebrity generals who believed their own press clippings celebrating their celebrity victories: victories best known for being known as victories, with no corresponding, lasting victorious reality.

Celebrity general Petraeus has the celebrity’s key attribute: he is well connected. His connectedness is built on his celebrity accomplishments which others, like celebrity president Obama, have a stake in maintaining as a defense against reality. A White House press release of November 9, 2012, a “Statement by President Obama on the Resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus,” illustrates how imagery reinforces celebrity without resort to anything specific, anything with a name, anything real to disturb the fantasy:

David Petraeus has provided extraordinary service to the United States for decades. By any measure, he was one of the outstanding General officers of his generation, helping our military adapt to new challenges, and leading our men and women in uniform through a remarkable period of service in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he helped our nation put those wars on a path to a responsible end. As Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, he has continued to serve with characteristic intellectual rigor, dedication, and patriotism. By any measure, through his lifetime of service David Petraeus has made our country safer and stronger.

Hypocrite, liar, oath-breaker, adulterer, sure – but no whistleblower! 

The president offered that statement while accepting the resignation of Petraeus as CIA director in the midst of his mistress scandal, when the celebrity general was still lying and denying any wrongdoing. The celebrity president was giving the celebrity general a pass on his actual behavior over a period of years. Perhaps the president was not specifically aware of the general’s criminal behavior pattern of illegally retaining and sharing his “Black Books,” eight hand-written 5x8 notebooks with black covers that, as Petraeus admitted in his plea bargain, contained:

… his daily schedule and classified and unclassified notes he took during official meetings, conferences, and briefings…. and collectively contained classified information regarding the identities of covert officers, war strategy, intelligence capabilities and mechanisms, diplomatic discussions, quotes and deliberative discussions from high-level National Security Council meetings, and defendant David Howell Petraeus’s discussions with the President of the United States of America.

The Black Books contained national defense information, including Top Secret/SCI [Sensitive Compartmented Information] and code word information.

Petraeus admitted that he was perfectly aware that, over a period of years, he was illegally retaining and had illegally shared “highly classified” information. 

Petraeus admitted that he lied on several occasions to the Department of Defense, the CIA, and FBI agents about holding and sharing highly classified information. He also acknowledged that “he understood that making false statements to the FBI in the course of a criminal investigation was a crime.” 

Petraeus admitted that his illegal behavior violated at least 30 previously sworn official statements, as well as “his continuing lifelong obligation to the United States to protect the classified information to which he had been granted access.” 

In October 2012, in reference to someone else’s case of leaking classified information, Petraeus commented publicly and patriotically:

Oaths do matter, and there are indeed consequences for those who believe they are above the laws that protect our fellow officers and enable American intelligence agencies to operate with the requisite degree of secrecy.

That case involved former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who served nearly two years in prison for confirming the name of a CIA officer who tortured prisoners. None of the torturers have been charged or punished for any of their crimes. 

Petraeus still faces a sentencing hearing on his plea agreement, but there seems little reason to think that a federal judge in the Western District of North Carolina, Charlotte Division, will do more than rubber stamp the conviction and the sentence of two years’ probation and a $40,000 fine. 

It is not the reality of criminal behavior that matters to the American justice system, it is the bad judgment of revealing that criminality to the public. That betrayal of the government requires serious punishment. Petraeus didn’t go public with his classified information, sharing it only with his mistress (whose own security clearance didn’t qualify her to see it). And she didn’t use it in her wet kiss biography. In other words, Petraeus didn’t betray the government to the people of the United States, he used his classified information solely for personal gain and pleasure. No wonder he’s still a visiting scholar at Harvard University. 

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner
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