How Petraeus seduced America

Michael Hastings writes: The fraud that General David Petraeus perpetrated on America started many years before the general seduced Paula Broadwell, a lower-ranking officer 20 years his junior, after meeting her on a campus visit to Harvard.

More so than any other leading military figure, Petraeus’ entire philosophy has been based on hiding the truth, on deception, on building a false image. “Perception” is key, he wrote in his 1987 Princeton dissertation: “What policymakers believe to have taken place in any particular case is what matters — more than what actually occurred.”

Yes, it’s not what actually happens that matters — it’s what you can convince the public it thinks happened.

Until this weekend, Petraeus had been incredibly successful in making the public think he was a man of great integrity and honor, among other things. Most of the stories written about him fall under what we hacks in the media like to call “a blow job.” Vanity Fair. The New Yorker. The New York Times. The Washington Post. Time. Newsweek. In total, all the profiles, stage-managed and controlled by the Pentagon’s multimillion dollar public relations apparatus, built up an unrealistic and superhuman myth around the general that, in the end, did not do Petraeus or the public any favors. Ironically, despite all the media fellating, our esteemed and sex-obsessed press somehow missed the actual blow job.

Before I lay out the Petraeus counter-narrative — a narrative intentionally ignored by most of the Pentagon press and national security reporters, for reasons I’ll soon explain — let me say this about the man once known as King David, General Betray-Us, or P4, by his admirers, his enemies, and his fellow service members, respectively. He’s an impressive guy, a highly motivated individual, a world-class bullshit artist, a fitness addict, and a man who spent more time in shitty places over the past 10 years than almost any other American serving his or her country has. I’ve covered him for seven years now, and he’ll always have my respect and twisted admiration.

So it’s fair to say that P4 probably deserves something a little better than the public humiliation he’s about to endure. Sources who long feared him have already begun to leak salacious details; one told me this weekend that he took Broadwell along with him on a government-funded trip to Paris in July 2011. And questions about his role in the Benghazi debacle are also likely to deepen.

And Broadwell, too, is about to get slandered in a way no woman deserves. She’s the Pentagon’s Monica Lewinksy — and, despite Team Petraeus’ much advertised lip service to courage and integrity, it didn’t take long for his allies to swarm the press with anonymous quotes smearing the West Point graduate and married mother of two: that she wore “tight clothes,” as The Washington Post reported, or that she had her “claws in him.” In other words, how could Old Dave have resisted that slut’s charms?

Pretty shitty behavior, all around. As Petraeus ally and counterinsurgency scholar Dr. Andrew Exum might put it, stay classy! [Continue reading…]

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One thought on “How Petraeus seduced America

  1. delia ruhe

    Yes, Michael Hastings, much as I admire your writings on the foibles and fables of militarism, I would have to say — as someone who served for five years in the Canadian navy — there are no messiahs there. As Frank Rich pointed out tonight (Tavis Smiley) in so many words, the American people are addicted to messiahism, and Petraeus was a perfect target. In over-christianized America, what that means for its chosen Messiahs is sexual purity.

    Doesn’t exist in the military — nor, apparently, in the CIA. Nor, probably, in any testosterone-driven organization.

    You need to understand that Petraeus and Brodwell — from the moment he agreed to work with her — were destined to fall into the sack together. Like middle-aged Clinton and the young Lewinsky, they were merely operating within the norms that govern traditional gender relations.

    No people are stupider about their sexuality than middle-aged men and very young women.

    Girls and women in our culture are conditioned to find power sexy, while boys and men are conditioned to find powerlessness in a woman irresistible. Situations where the guy is at the very top of the professional hierarchy — prez Clinton and 4-star General P — and she is at the bottom — intern Lewinsky, brand new graduate Brodwell — is a mighty turn-on for both of them. The guy gets silly and the girl gets sillier.

    It’s a recipe for disaster in a country like the US.

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