Petraeus, Obama, Extramarital Affairs, And Extra-Judicial Killings – OpEd


Readers here might wonder why, up until now, I have posted nothing on the Petraeus affair. After all, it’s the story now gripping Washington.

The sudden departure of the director of the CIA in such ignominious circumstances marks not only the apparent end of a much celebrated career but likewise the end of speculation that Petraeus might be a latter-day Eisenhower and a future president.

In many ways the story appears utterly mundane. A middle-aged man succumbs to the irresistible attraction of a younger woman who apparently had an insatiable appetite for listening to the general talk about himself. Vanity heralds foolishness.

But there’s another story much more compelling yet which most likely will never be told. In the same week that Petraeus tendered his resignation and President Obama took 24 hours to respond, both men were involved in a decision of much greater magnitude: the issuing of orders to kill three Al Qaeda suspects. In a drone attack just outside the capital of Yemen on Wednesday morning, Adnan al-Qadhi, Rabeaa Lahib and Radwan al-Hashdhi were killed and others were injured including a boy.

It seems reasonable to assume that President Obama’s decision to authorize a drone strike in Yemen this week weighed much less heavily on his mind than the departure of the CIA chief. The incineration of Adnan al-Qadhi and his associates was simply of less consequence than the relationship between General Petraeus and Paula Broadwell.

Washington becomes ever more like The Sopranos, where casual killings provoke less anguish than fraught family relations.

The Washington Post reports:

Petraeus, who retired from the military last year, is still subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which classifies adultery as a crime.

Practically speaking, however, the odds are extremely low that the military would prosecute a retired officer for having an affair, said Eugene R. Fidell, a prominent military law expert who teaches at Yale University.

“They’re as close to zero as you can get,” Fidell said. “It would have to be a grave matter before the executive branch would prosecute a retiree.”

Petraeus married Holly two months after graduating from West Point. His courtship was seen as audacious because of her father’s rank at the elite military academy. They have two children, Stephen, who became an Army officer, and Anne.

Petraeus has frequently praised his wife in public appearances for her sacrifices and contributions to his career, and he characterized his return to Washington as an opportunity for them to be closer after his years-long assignments overseas.

Paul Woodward - War in Context

Paul Woodward describes himself by nature if not profession, as a bricoleur. A dictionary of obscure words defines a bricoleur as “someone who continually invents his own strategies for comprehending reality.” Woodward has at various times been an editor, designer, software knowledge architect, and Buddhist monk, while living in England, France, India, and for the last twenty years the United States. He currently lives frugally in the Southern Appalachians with his wife, Monica, two cats and a dog Woodward maintains the popular website/blog, War in Context (, which "from its inception, has been an effort to apply critical intelligence in an arena where political judgment has repeatedly been twisted by blind emotions. It presupposes that a world out of balance will inevitably be a world in conflict."

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