ATOP THE PETRAEUS FLAGPOLE
by Andy Weddington
Monday, 12 November 2012
"I see that old flagpole still stands. Have your troops hoist the colors to its peak, and let no enemy ever haul them down." Douglas MacArthur
Today's comment was nearly finished when an email from a friend arrived late last evening. I answered. And after some sleep was awakened with an idea for a better opening, and so will.
I'll not quote the note. The sender admitted to being riveted by the Petraeus scandal and was interested in my take. There was comment about a disciplined, capable guy falling from grace and perhaps, in some sense, he may have wanted to get caught.
I replied, "My comment, now being polished and requiring a good night's sleep, will be posted in the morning - I do not want to pollute the 237th Birthday of the Marine Corps and Veterans Day (if you have time, and have not yet read, recommend reading last Friday's and today's comment before tomorrow's - for stage-setting). I am angry. I am disappointed. And will fall well short of being able to express with gentlemanly ferocity the many prisms as to why - which extend well beyond the general. But, I will adhere to the dictum of my forum - civility."
So begins today's comment, at the original starting point...
There's a saying in the military that goes along the lines of 'the further from the flagpole the better.' Meaning, simply, the more removed from the flag officer (admiral or general) in command the less hectic daily operations. Life is simpler, out of sight out of mind. Then there's the opposing thought that the closer to and higher one climbs the flagpole the more the derriere shines. Never mind that flagpoles are slipperier than slippery slopes.
That opening serves a purpose, keep in mind.
The United States Military Academy at West Point has a one sentence honor code...
"A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do."
That is the standard of personal conduct expected, demanded, of cadets upon arrival through graduation four years later. And that is the expected, demanded, conduct of a military officer - whether Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard and rank not withstanding. As to personal conduct, RHIP - Rank Has Its Privileges - does not apply. In fact, the higher the rank the greater the expectations of exemplary personal conduct - that of unimpeachable moral and ethical behavior in all things said and done.
That standard of civility reminds me of a friend who told me his father sat him down when a young teenager and advised, "Son, in all things be a gentleman." His father is no longer alive and that young teen, now a father of a young teen, confessed it remains the most demanding standard to strive for in life, and sometimes he fails. Don't we all.
General David Petraeus, U. S. Army, is a graduate of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point - class of 1974.
Paula Broadwell, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, is a graduate of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point - class of 1995.
Last Friday America learned that General Petraeus, Director, CIA, and Paula Broadwell, his biographer, had an extramarital affair - admitted by the general and cause for his resignation.
The general and Paula Broadwell are married - to other people. So not only did their infidelity violate the code of conduct ingrained in them at West Point, it ran afoul marriage vows and was a serious offense (adultery) under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (their relationship apparently ongoing while the general was on active duty).
Their relationship is one matter.
A more serious matter is how their relationship calculates into play regarding America's national security and the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, two months ago - that resulted in the murders of four Americans, one an ambassador, on duty serving our country. And who knows what else.
In short, the FBI, on a tip, started an investigation that included monitoring the email of General Petraeus (while Director, CIA, and perhaps while still on active duty). The general's affair was compromised. The revelation, but not public exposure, happened well before the election. So the timing of the general acting honorably, submitting resignation to the president, peculiar - to say the least.
Does anyone believe there are secrets - official capacity or on the cocktail circuit - inside the Washington, D.C. beltway? So, the questions are many. As to the affair, who knew and when and what did they do with the information? When did Attorney General Holder know and whom did he tell? When was President Obama informed? Was Valerie Jarrett told? Did the Secretary of State know? Did the Director, National Intelligence know? Did the National Security Advisor know? Did the Secretary of Defense know? Did the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff know? Whom among staff underlings knew and who else might have known and, though with duty to report, said nothing? Did anyone in the media, protective of the president, know? Was this information somehow used as leverage - how, what, when, where, and why? Thorough detective work, sworn statements, and careful analysis will answer those questions.
Another question - Why did the CIA release a public statement a few days after the Benghazi attack supportive of the White House's knowingly false story of the attack being a spontaneous one sparked by a video that triggered riots and an attack on the U. S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt? And the questions go on and on and on.
Does the misconduct of General Petraeus come as a surprise? No.
A disappointment? Yes.
Did he serve America remarkably well - especially during war? Yes.
Does his distinguished service absolve him from responsibility for poor decision-making and misconduct? No.
Are there others who could have as competently carried out the duties entrusted to General Petraeus - as a four-star general and Director, CIA? Yes. No one is irreplaceable.
In an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News aired on Sunday, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D, CA) said there was no connection between the general's affair and Benghazi. Her comment remarkable, literally stunning, considering on-going investigations, and as there are certainly logical inferences to be drawn for not treating the matters as mutually exclusive. And those logical inferences, due to obvious cover-up, lead to gravely serious questions about national security tracing back, via electronic and digital breadcrumbs, to the president.
The Congress has a duty to vigorously and exhaustively investigate. There's a lot of string-pulling and dot-connecting to be done. And media, all of it, has a duty to engage and keep the public informed - truthfully.
This is no Watergate that resulted in a corrupt and paranoid President Richard Nixon resigning from office.
This is no Lewinsky scandal that resulted in a sexually reckless President Bill Clinton being impeached by the House of Representatives for lying under oath.
The scandal and sloppy cover-up of Benghazi is different. It's much different. Four Americans serving our country abroad were murdered. They are dead. And the murders, in all likelihood, could have been prevented. Who knew what when and failed to act? What, exactly, was President Barack Obama's play? And will his fate be that of Nixon or Clinton or worse?
And what a great big mess because someone, someone who knew better, got too close to, shimmied atop, the flagpole. And master of the flagpole knew better, too, than to let it happen. And there's news of at least one other woman (assumed vying for the general's affections to the chagrin of Paula Broadwell who sent her threatening emails), not his wife, involved with the general. That too, according to Senator Feinstein, is under investigation. If there's two women, is there three or four or five or more? And how long has the philandering been going on - known but safeguarded? The general cited more than 37 years of marriage in his resignation letter. Of course his wife knew.
But stars are lofty things - sparkly in the night sky and likewise when pinned to military uniform epaulets and collars. Shooting stars are spectacular. Stained stars do not shine. And some choose to wish upon, to cling to, falling stars.
Colors and standards belong atop flagpoles. That's it. Climbing atop flagpoles is risky.
The stench of this whole affair - from flagpole to Pentagon to Oval Office to Benghazi - reeks. Conspiracy? When there's no truth forthcoming, what else is a sane, rational, seasoned mind to surmise?
To prematurely conclude there is no connection between the extramarital affair(s), Benghazi terrorist attack and murders, incongruous time lines, dopey references to a video as culprit, and the untimely but convenient post-election resignation of General Petraeus would be not only naive but irresponsible and criminal. And stupid.
This is about country and national security. Americans, whatever their political sentiments and allegiances, should be outraged and demand the truth. This nonsense should unite us. And let law and order and due process work.
Then if others, regardless of office held, fall then so be it. No man or woman is irreplaceable.
Pity not the general who self-destructed nor his mistress(es), intelligent, educated humans who made unwise choices, but the innocent - the betrayed spouses and children who suffer the brunt of deep ache and embarrassment and hurt for life. And for what?
None of this is good but for the good of America it's absolutely necessary that truth and justice prevail. It's time to do what's right! Time to cleanse and heal.
Leadership void integrity renders catastrophe. And here we are.
Surprised? I'm not. But sure disappointed. And fearful. Is it possible this whole mess is not as big and ugly as it now appears? It's possible but doubtful. Most likely it's bigger and uglier.
Goodness, two days ago America celebrated the 237th Birthday of the U. S. Marine Corps. The next day Veterans Day. There's been great sacrifice and enormous rivers of blood spilled through generations for what we are as a country. To standby and watch death, as our leadership did of four Americans fighting for their lives in Benghazi while their calls for help went ignored, is pure cowardice.
Look, damn it, take a peek, an enemy is trying to haul down our colors from that old flagpole that still stands. General MacArthur would be aghast. So would the flagraisers, and everyone they represent, of Iwo Jima. Anger is in order. But remember, 'in all things be a gentleman (or lady)', or at least try. Extenuation and mitigation offered in defense of breaches for worthy causes - say patriotism and allegiance to country - rubber stamped 'Approved'.
Engage with your Representative and Senator. The outgoing Congress has work to do. And the new Congress is going to be busier than expected.
Without question, that only scratches the surface - a paint chip or two off the old flagpole. But it's enough for now.
You have my take, dear friend. See you soon.
Keep the faith!
With nearly four years experience as a base inspector and having investigated personal misconduct, including sexual, involving senior officers, there's no doubt in my mind this Benghazi matter is going to get uglier than ugly. There are ample Irish pennants to pull and they'll unravel others - unexpected others that may prove the critical missing piece(s) to the complex puzzle. That's why it's impossible, at this point, for anyone (e.g., Senator Feinstein) to be drawing definitive conclusions about anything. Who knows whom and what may end up being connected.
Rest assured plenty of people, in important positions defending America, know something, are troubled, restless, and are losing sleep - maybe even some without a conscience. And so are the investigators restless, sleepless. But know the dance partners, tangling not tangoing, suffer the same physiological disruptions for opposite reasons.
And what is further disturbing is thinking about the officers and enlisted, who either directly or indirectly served under General Petraeus's command, caught for like misconduct and were disciplined and punished. Most likely some careers ended - though not dismissing such as appropriate. But such hypocrisy negates leadership and is destructive. I have witnessed, sadly. And the wives knew all along.