By Arab News
By Linda Heard
There’s no fool like an old fool, or so they say. Director of the CIA Gen. David Petraeus had it all. This was the four-star general who devised the troop surge in Iraq and counter-insurgency tactics in Afghanistan. He oversaw multinational forces in Iraq and commanded US forces in Afghanistan. He headed the US Central Command. He was nationally and globally respected for his strategically astute military mind. Like Colin Powell and Gen. Wesley Clark his is almost a household name outside the US.
Petraeus was once the Daily Telegraph’s “Man of the Year” and featured among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential leaders and revolutionaries. It would require an additional column space just to list his honors and medals. And then as soon as he enters civilian life, he goes and mars his entire career, casts a shadow over his home with alleged dalliances that when discovered forced his resignation. All that he’s achieved will now count for little. He will be remembered as a Strauss-Khan-like figure, a person at the pinnacle of his profession toppled by personal indiscretions.
He might have emerged unscathed if it weren’t for the green-eyed monster. A suspected breach of his Gmail account initiated an FBI investigation which revealed that Paula Broadwell, a married West Point graduate and Harvard research associate, meant a lot more to him than just his biographer and longtime friend. Broadwell not only had access to the CIA director’s personal e-mails, she was bold enough to use the account to warn off another married woman, 37-year-old Jill Kelley, she believed was competing for his affections.
Indeed, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Broadwell must have realized that forwarding slightly threatening e-mails from her lover’s account invited negative repercussions. In fact, the recipient was afraid enough to alert the authorities. It’s possible that the powers that be could have turned a blind eye to the affair it not for Broadwell’s knowledge of classified information which may or may not have been gleaned from her intimate association with the CIA boss.
In the mold of US politicians who have been felled like ninepins over their extramarital affairs, Gen. Petraeus has been repentant verbally flagellating himself for “extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair… Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as a leader of an organization such as ours…” And mirroring those who went before him, his contrition was in evidence only after he was prodded out of his job.
That’s the story’s public façade. Some members of Congress are demanding answers. They want to know whether the relationship between Petraeus and Broadwell represents national security concerns and why the “resignation” was sprung on lawmakers at the nth-minute. However, some commentators are attributing something more sinister to the general’s resignation.
A cloud of confusion still hangs over the official account of the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi resulting in the death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three of his diplomatic staff, two of whom were actually former Navy Seal commandoes. Initially, it was thought to have been carried out by protesters disgruntled over “The Innocence of Muslims,” a video made in the US denigrating Islam. The CIA issued a report on Sept. 15 indicating “demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the US Consulate and subsequently its annex.” That information was false. The death of Ambassador and Stevens and his fellow were as a result of a terrorist attack.
Moreover, the Wall Street Journal has reported that the Consulate was a CIA hotbed with 23 out of 30 American officials evacuated subsequent to the attack being CIA employees as were two of the four deceased. Gen. Petraeus broke with tradition by not attending the official reception of the coffins on US soil for fear of exposing the ongoing CIA operations in eastern Libya, the story opined. There is a suggestion that the Consulate was involved in covertly transporting weapons and Libyan fighters to aid Syrian rebels oust Assad. Some speculate the reason why the Consulate was under-protected was to deflect attention from the CIA’s role so that agents could maintain a low profile.
Naturally Congress wants explanations. Petraeus was due to testify before House and Senate committees in his capacity as Director of the CIA just days after his sudden departure. That would have been the hottest seat he’d ever occupied. He would have been forced to appear evasive and uncooperative or, alternatively, he would have been obliged to reveal more than he felt comfortable doing — in particular what the White House and the State Department knew or didn’t know from day one. Unfortunately for him, he may yet be called to give answers which could be explosive now that’s he’s no longer shackled by his position.
The truth will probably remain as veiled as the inner sanctums of the CIA. Did the general orchestrate the blowing of the whistle on his own affair as the lesser of two evils? Or is this just another silly conspiracy theory woven around simple coincidence? You decide.
About the author: Arab News
Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz.
Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).