Friday, November 16, 2012

"Betray-Us" Betrayed

I’m trying to get a grip on this whole Petraeus thing, and I have to admit that it’s a tangled web.  While it’s too early to draw any obvious conclusions (since there aren’t any), a few preliminary comments can at least be offered.

First of all, it’s not about sex.  Never was, never will be.  I mean… can you imagine, a Democratic administration letting someone go for sexual dalliance?  Please.

Second, it’s not about keeping Petraeus from testifying before Congress about Benghazi.  They can call up anyone they want at any time to testify on any subject, no matter if the person is on active duty, retired, a convicted felon, etc.  Surely even the Obama people know that.

Now that that’s settled (and 90% of the commentariat have been answered in the negative), some thoughts about the ever-expanding cast of characters:

Senior generals in the military don’t have delusions of grandeur and omnipotence -- they really are grand and omnipotent.  At least that’s what everyone tells them many times each day.  So is it any wonder they fall prey to the delusions of power, the foremost of which is, invariably, that they can do anything at any time and get away with it?  Plus, military officers tend to have a Puritan streak, mediated by a Southern upbringing and Evangelical faith, so when they fall on their face sex usually has something to do with it.

Another thing to remember is that the military officer corps is a profoundly middle-class institution. Rich men no longer send their sons to war; that stopped with the Kennedys. So we're talking about, if you will, the bourgeoisie in uniform – with all the values that implies, as well as the guilt when those values are violated. (By contrast, the enlisted ranks are a working-class institution, which means they are more fatalistic and have less impulse control, and little or no guilt... but, paradoxically, are more likely to wind up with post-traumatic stress disorder. This is something that invites research.)

Senior generals in the military also tend to attract groupies -- both in and outside the service.  Power is an attractor -- didn’t Henry Kissinger say that?  Power, masculinity, medals… ability to outdo much younger men in push-ups… these qualities have impressed women ever since civilization began.  Consider the outright leanness of guys like Petraeus and Allen -- nothing at all like the pink, squishy appearance of guys like Dick Cheney or, for heaven’s sake, Karl Rove.  When a woman is looking for a real man, as opposed to one with just temporary power, who’s she gonna call?  The nearest 4-star general, o’course.  And, needless to say, the fact of the guy being already married only adds to the savor. To the predatory female, the ultimate game is to get a desirable man away from another woman, not just to get him in the, um, general sense.

So what this means is that even a senior general who is totally faithful to his spouse is going to be probed, on a regular basis, by women who think they’re the ones to make him stray from the righteous path.  And these women will, of course, be in competition with one another, so jealousy and cat fights (including ones via e-mail) will soon follow.

So far I’m explaining, partially at least, the behavior of some of the people involved -- but not all.  And this is where it gets interesting.  For starters, what’s the FBI doing investigating the CIA?  Haven’t they been briefed on the pecking order?  Don’t they realize that the CIA could send in a team of mercenaries and take out FBI headquarters in about ten minutes?  Are these people crazy?

Well… maybe.  But it’s also true -- or so I believe -- that the office of CIA director has become a largely political position, and all the real power in that organization is wielded by the “lifers” -- the unelected, unappointed, anonymous types who have dug deep into the organization.  And in a situation like that, if the lifers don’t like your style, they have ways of getting you to leave -- by persuasion or, if need be, by force.  So when the FBI started knocking on the door, rather than pulling rank I’ll bet the underlings made a deal to hang Petraeus out to dry.  But still -- it was a daring move by the FBI.  I mean, imagine some government agency in Nazi Germany outing the chief of the Gestapo.  Touchy business, to say the least.

So clearly, #1, just being head of the CIA was not enough to protect the general.  But that has less to do with a decline of CIA power than with a lack of Petraeus power.  On any given day, the FBI wouldn’t touch the CIA with a ten-foot pole… and in this case as well, I’m sure that plenty of people were “coordinated with” before things got serious.  If the gang at Langley had told the guys from downtown to cool it, they would have cooled it.

So if Petraeus was hung out to dry, why? -- assuming that the insiders didn’t feel they owed him any loyalty, and he could easily be replaced with another figurehead, and life would go on as always.  But what was the FBI’s interest in hanging him high?  To hurt the CIA?  That’s always possible when it comes to rival intel agencies; everybody wants to be the baddest of the bad.  But, again, they should have known that it wouldn’t work -- that it would cause barely a ripple.  So clearly, Petraeus must have done something that someone didn’t like.

But before we start speculating on that, we need to discuss a few other characters in the cast, the foremost being President Obama.  The line so far is that he knew nothing, and no one should have expected him to know anything.  (Compare, if you will, Nixon vis-a-vis Watergate, or Reagan vis-à-vis Iran Contra.  In each case, their enemies expected them to be omniscient and didn’t accept any other possibility.)  Now… either Obama really and truly knew nothing, as he claims -- or he knew plenty.  If he knew nothing, it only supports my model whereby the president is nothing more than a department store dummy, who has no real “need to know” anything, since he has no real power.  But if he did know, then he had to have given the attack dogs the go-ahead to chase Petraeus up a tree, and then the question returns to “why”?

At this point, we have to entertain a brief diversion called “what liberals think of the military”.  Number one, they hate it.  And they hate guns, and uniforms, and masculinity, and testosterone, and any and all traditional male/warrior traits.  And they especially hate the military when there’s a Republican president, for obvious reasons.  But when there’s a Democrat president, well… then things change a bit.  They become more “nuanced”.  Then the liberals discover that they can use the military for their various schemes -- especially the “wag the dog”-type operations that were so popular in Clinton’s time.  But when a Democrat president is handed a war, or a cluster of wars, on a silver platter, the way Obama was, it becomes an even more different story.  Then there is a flexing of almost-vestigial muscles, and liberals discover that, by gosh, they can fight wars too.  Or send other people to fight them, whatever.

But things get a bit awkward when a Democrat inherits a military “hero” -- like Petraeus -- from a Republican administration.  They have to do something with him, but it’s awkward; he sticks in their craw.  Better to have someone who came up through the ranks in a properly politically-vetted environment – which means, for the Democrats, a totally political animal for whom military victory is an outmoded idea.  So the challenge is to get rid of the offending person without making it look like a blatant case of clash of personalities or philosophy.  And what better means than to use some tacky sexual episode, which will always appeal to Republicans -- guaranteed!  Republicans are nothing if not Puritanical and neurotic about sex.  When they have it (which is rare) they feel guilty and dirty somehow -- totally unlike Democrats, who swim in seas of flesh at every opportunity.  (Didja ever notice that if a sex scandal involves a Republican, there’s always something kind of weird and kinky about it, whereas if it’s a Democrat, it’s just good, clean fun?  At least that‘s what the media always claim.)

But again -- all this trouble just because Petraeus had a bit of residual contamination from the Bush administration?  No sale.  It must have had something to do with his performance (or non-performance) of duty -- and it’s not as if the CIA has been made of Teflon of late.  It’s hard to hide an agency that has its own army with operations in scores of countries around the world; word has to leak out eventually.  And even if he was basically a figurehead, the general had to have had something to do with their current menu of mayhem -- think drone strikes on weddings, schools, picnics, etc.  Or -- maybe the problem is that he was trying to bring the CIA to heel somehow; that would certainly be a fatal error.  Benghazi was certainly a spectacular failure, but surely…

Hold on a minute.  The administration line on Benghazi is not unlike the line on Petraeus -- Obama didn’t know anything, no one knew anything, but they came out with explanations that had nothing to do with reality.  Doesn’t it all have the same flavor -- one of total chaos or incompetence?  But sometimes the appearance of incompetence can be used to hide an agenda that is working perfectly well -- but looking incompetent is preferable to having to reveal what is really going on.  So… what was Benghazi really all about?  It was clearly a CIA operation that got, first, detected and second, neutralized by insurgent forces.  Whose fault was that?  Those kinds of operations are going on all the time; why did this one get singled out?  Is there any chance that it was exposed in some way, and that the attack was, at least in part, a false-flag operation, not unlike 9-11?  By this I mean that it was really done by insurgents, but they were aided and abetted in some way, and for some reason, by others.  And why would that happen?  Anyone notice that, within days of the Benghazi incident, we were sending troops into West Africa in order to, supposedly, chase down those responsible? Oh, you didn't see that story? Not surprising, since it was out for about five minutes before it was suppressed. But take a look at a map of Africa. Between Libya and West Africa is a whole lot of nothing – namely the Sahara Desert. Not exactly the kind of place “terrorists” would be galivanting back and forth across on a daily basis. So no, Benghazi was just an excuse for our getting involved in who knows how many new wars, this time in Africa as opposed to the Middle East. (Obama: “Home at last.”)

So what this implies is that the Benghazi victims may have been set up as sacrificial lambs – through “benign neglect” at the very least. And if so, what would a CIA director's role in all of that have been? Would he have been in on it, or opposed (and yet overridden by others)? Was the conflict, in any case, between him and his subordinates or between him and people elsewhere, e.g. the State Department? Let's face it, there ain't too many people higher up in the pecking order in Washington, D.C. than the head of the CIA – at least on paper. So for someone to be able to bust him down to private for real or imagined offenses... well, that someone has to be even higher up (either on paper or in reality).

So the most immediate question for Congress, should they choose to get involved (since they have nothing better to do), would be – what did Petraeus do wrong, or what did he do right, to reap the wrath of somebody in the administration... and no, developing a zipper problem is not the answer.  And yes, I know that he has made a public confession along those lines -- but when you see that, you can pretty much assume that it was either that or taking the blame for something even worse.  In other words, he was given a choice -- either look like a harmless fool or be nailed as a war criminal, or something.  The tawdry affair thus becomes a cover story; marvelous are the ways of Washington, especially when a criminal cartel is in charge.  And fact that the CIA itself is apparently starting their own investigation provides a clue as to how well he got along with his underlings in Langley, so I suspect that he stepped on some toes there and elsewhere as well. The question remains – whose, and for what reason? It's gonna be interesting.

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