Lifetime movie-in-waiting: Petraeus scandal

Brandon Lesko
Assoc. Opinion Editor

I could have written about a multitude of topics this week. There’s what looks like a failed democratic experiment in Egypt, a still-impotent government trying to avoid the fiscal cliff, and to top it all off, those darn Israelis and Palestinians have been at it again. What I’d really like to address though, is the Lifetime movie-in-waiting that is the David Petraeus “scandal”.
What in God’s name happened? I have trouble even getting through one news article about the affair, or affairs as it seems, without smashing my head off the desk in frustration. It is almost impossible to understand exactly what is going on, the story is that complicated.
Apparently, while Paula Broadwell was writing her biography of Petraeus, ironically titled, “All In”, she understandably got to know the then-General in charge of forces in Afghanistan quite well. When Petraeus returned from war in the fall of 2011, retired from the Army and the new head of the CIA, he began his affair with Broadwell. It supposedly ended in the summer of 2012.
Here’s where it gets confusing. The affair was apparently discovered when Broadwell began sending harassing emails to another woman, Jill Kelley, who happened to be good friends with Petraeus, Marine Corps Gen. John Allen (more on him soon), and the rest of the high ranking commanders at Central Command, it would seem.
Kelley, feeling threatened by emails that essentially warned her to “stay away from my man,” decided to write to Gen. John Allen, for some reason, and to tell a friend of hers in the FBI. The FBI then began investigating these emails and eventually it all led to General Petraeus being a naughty boy indeed. Petraeus decided to resign from his post as head of the CIA after news of the scandal and ongoing investigation broke.
Further investigation has uncovered a disturbing picture of life for military elites. It seems that Petraeus may not have been the only one enjoying extramarital activities. There is reason to believe that Jill Kelley and John Allen may have been involved, though any physical contact has not yet been proven. If proof of an affair is established in the future, Allen could face military prosecution since adultery is a violation of military law.
This story is one of the oddest I have encountered in a long time. We probably scratch our heads and wonder, “Why would a guy at the top of his career ruin it all over something as predictable and avoidable as an affair?” The answer to that question is probably the fact that Petraeus thought he could get away with it. The fact of the matter is that affairs at the highest levels of government and military service are not uncommon.
I do not have a problem with the fact that Petraeus had an affair. Though detestable, dishonest, and unbefitting of a man of his courage and intelligence, he did what many men today and throughout history have done. I do have a problem with the fact that he ended up abandoning his post as head of the CIA, however.
During Kennedy’s administration, I wonder if we could even count the number of women he had in the White House. Thought it was probably well-known that he had many affairs, it never threatened his job security. Martin Luther King Jr. had affairs with other women, though nobody ever wants to acknowledge that piece of history, but did that ever make people demand he give up his position as a civil rights leader? Of course not. So why is it different with Petraeus?
Though investigators did find a small amount of classified material in Broadwell’s home, there was no danger of her leaking it and it posed no threat to national security. President Obama came out and said that the affair posed no threat to our security and that no major leak of intelligence had occurred. So there goes the only viable reason to have the man step down.
To believe that our politicians, generals, or intelligence community leaders are above the same vices that every person succumbs to is naive and unrealistic. It is a projection of a fantasy and unrealistic expectations upon those who lead us. The shock, in this case, shouldn’t be over the fact that Petraeus had an affair, it should be over the questionable investigation by the FBI and the possible political plays at work that brought Petraeus down.