Monday, November 12, 2012

Why was General Petraeus outed?

On Friday, General David Petraeus resigned his position as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. His stated reason was that he had been discovered having an affair, and that his conduct was unbecoming to one who occupied his station.

He was hailed as one of the great generals of our generation, and a man who demonstrated how honorable he was by owning up to his misconduct. As for the actual misconduct – which involved betraying one of the heroines of returning veterans – the networks had the usual amount of hand-wringing about why powerful men cheat on their wives risking their life’s work and reputation to do so. Interspersed with this pabulum were frequent reminders that the FBI had accidentally stumbled on this, security was not compromised and that no actual laws were broken. (Never mind that Uniform Code of Military Justice, Articles 133 and 134 authorize court martial for consensual affairs.)

I am not qualified to comment on his military career, and even less qualified to cast the first stone regarding his personal life. However, there is a story here to be told and it is passing under the radar.

The right-wing infotainment industry is promoting the idea that there must be a conspiracy here because this story was not revealed before the election. Further, they would like us to believe that the demise of Gen. Petraeus is related to the ginned up controversy regarding Benghazi, which the geniuses are calling “Obama’s Watergate.” They speculate that the resignation was necessary to silence the general who was expected to testify in congress next week. They insinuate that the general had been unduly cozy with the Romney campaign and that his humiliation and demise was payback. They point out that not everyone who has an affair is drummed out of the corps.

As Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Eugene Robinson pointed out, General Petraeus was the head of a spy agency, and that makes the story of his affair like a spy novel. Further, there are no coincidences in spy novels. Just the fact that the President didn’t learn of the matter until after the election is enough fodder for plenty of conspiracy theories.

Here’s what we know so far. Members of Congress are shocked that they were not informed earlier about the investigation of General Petraeus. Crazy, no? Imagine! A man who was not suspected of any criminal conduct who was only tangentially connected to an investigation was not exposed for having an affair to the members of Congress. Hardly the stuff of outrage unless, of course, you are a right-wing conspiracy nut in the employ of Fox infotainment buffoons.

In fact, a better question is why Congress was notified at all? People at all levels of government have had affairs and not lost their jobs over it. Remember, nobody alleges that General Petraeus violated any law. He was just a name on a report of an investigation by the agency once headed by J. Edgar Hoover, he of pristine private behavior.

Indeed, the fact that Congress was notified at all is rather remarkable. If one accepts the premise that there are no coincidences in spy novels, especially when sex is involved, the fact that Congress was advised that General Petraeus was cozy with his biographer is the hanging thread that begs to be pulled so that we can see what unravels.

And let’s take a look at the way Congress was notified.  The Washington Post reports that:
An aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says the Virginia congressman first heard about CIA Director David Petraeus’ extramarital affair on Saturday, Oct. 27, from an FBI source he didn’t know.

Communications director Rory Cooper told The Associated Press Monday that Cantor notified the FBI’s chief of staff of the conversation, but did not tell anyone else because he did not know whether the information from an unknown source was credible.
So, as for keeping this story from the electorate for fear that it would derail the President’s re-election campaign we can be fairly certain that if there had been such a conspiracy, the point man would not have been the Republican Majority Leader, and that if he were, he wouldn’t have kept the story under his hat for 9 days, until the election passed.

Far more likely is that someone with a political agenda leaked the story to the leader of the House Republicans. Nearly half of the country wanted the President to lose the election, and it is not unlikely that there is at least one agent in the FBI who is in that group. For his part, Leader Cantor couldn’t see how this story would hurt the President so he filed it away for use later, if needed.

Okay, so far. But that just begs the question, why did the story come out after the election? It’s a good question, and I am open to any reasonable explanation.

The most commonly given answer is that as a philanderer, David Petraeus was vulnerable to blackmail. This is not a reasonable explanation, because if he was going to be exposed, he could have grabbed a microphone, stated that he is taking a 28 day leave of absence to deal with problems in his marriage, and been back on the job within a month, with no vulnerability.

As I have said, the folks a Faux News are pushing the line that Petraeus was canned because his testimony at a hearing about Benghazi would hurt the President. The problem with this theory is that the news of the General’s conduct unbecoming an officer passed out of the usually secure FBI to the Republican power elite, and only then to the wider public. If anyone was trying to silence the Director of Central Intelligence, it was Eric Cantor. But why?

A current Republican talking point is that the mainstream media is suppressing a story that Navy SEALs requested help in defending the consulate in Benghazi, that their requests were denied, and that this failure is condemnable if not indictable.

General Petraeus has emphatically denied that he or anyone else at the CIA refused assistance to the former Navy SEALs on the night of Sep. 11. A week and a half ago, Petraeus went to Tripoli and conducted a personal inquiry into the Benghazi attack, NBC News reported.

On November 2nd, Reuters reported that:
CIA officials on the ground in Libya dispatched security forces to the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi within 25 minutes and made other key decisions about how to respond to the waves of attacks on U.S. installations on September 11, a senior American intelligence official said yesterday.

Officials in Washington monitored events through message traffic and a hovering U.S. military drone but did not interfere with or reject requests for help from officials in the line of fire, the official said.

The information emerged as officials made available a timeline chronicling the U.S. response to the Benghazi attacks in which Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other American officials died. The material appears to refute claims by critics that officials in Washington delayed sending help to the besieged personnel.
Those are the facts, but they run counter to a favorite right-wing narrative, viz., that the heroes were denied assistance, and if it wasn’t Petraeus who held up the help,then it must have been the President.

If Petreaus were to testify next week about Benghazi, he would likely confirm that this right wing story line is as wrong as their predictions of a Romney landslide. Furthermore, it is nearly certain that he will testify, probably in closed session, since his resignation doesn’t make him immune to a subpoena.

But now, when he exonerates the President, he will be a man who despite all his accomplishments will be remembered for being a cheat, while married to the daughter of the Superintendent of West Point. Cui bono? (To whose benefit?)

It is a most remarkable coincidence that the leader of the obstructionist Republicans in the House of Representatives was the first one outside of the FBI to know of General Patraeus’ infidelity, even before the National Security Council of the President, himself.

But there are no coincidences in spy novels. Or in life.

Pay attention, and,

“… tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

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