Petraeus Scandal is Reported with Compelled Veneration of All Things Military

The reverence for the former CIA Director is part of a wider religious-like worship of the national security state.
by Glenn Greenwald

A prime rule of US political culture is that nothing rivets, animates or delights the political media like a sex scandal. From Bill Clinton, Gary Hart, and Eliot Spitzer to John Edwards, Larry Craig and David Vitter, their titillation and joy is palpable as they revel in every last arousing detail. This giddy package is delivered draped in a sanctimonious wrapping: their excitement at reporting on these scandals is matched only by their self-righteous condemnations of the moral failings of the responsible person.

All of these behaviors have long been constant, inevitable features of every political sex scandal - until yesterday. Now, none of these sentiments is permitted because the newest salacious scandal features at its center Gen. David Petraeus, who resigned yesterday as CIA Director, citing an extramarital affair.

It has now been widely reported that the affair was with Paula Broadwell, the author of a truly fawning hagiography of Petraeus entitled "All In", and someone whom Petraeus, in her own words, "mentored" when he sat on her dissertation committee. The FBI discovered the affair when it investigated whether she had attempted to gain access to his emails and other classified information. In an interview about Broadwell's book that she gave to the Daily Show back in January, one that is incredibly fascinating and revealing to watch in retrospect, Jon Stewart identified this as the primary question raised by her biography of Petraeus: "is he awesome, or super-awesome?"

Gen. Petraeus is the single most revered man in the most venerated American institution: the National Security State and, specifically, its military. As a result, all the rules are different. Speaking ill of David Petraeus - or the military or CIA as an institution - is strictly prohibited within our adversarial watchdog press corps. Thus, even as he resigns in disgrace, leading media figures are alternatively mournful and worshipful as they discuss it.

On MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell appeared genuinely grief-stricken when she first reported Petraeus' resignation letter. "This is very painful", she began by announcing, as she wore a profoundly sad face. Her voice quivered with a mix of awe and distress as she read his resignation letter, savoring every word as though she were reciting from the Dead Sea Scrolls. On the Rachel Maddow Show later that night, Mitchell began her appearance by decreeing that "this is a personal tragedy" and said she was particularly sorrowful for "the men and women of the CIA, an agency that has many things to be proud about: many things to be proud about" [emphasis in original].

Christiane Amanpour of CNN and ABC made Mitchell look constrained by comparison as she belted out this paean on Twitter:
"All I know is that one of the greatest military minds in modern American history is now off the battlefield..."

For good measure, she then added:
"... No, make that two, Stanley McChrystal's gone too. At a time when we need them most."

What does all that even mean? From which glorious "battlefield" is the CIA Director now absent, and how and why are we "at a time when we need them most"? But Amanpour is reciting something akin to a prayer here, and it's thus insusceptible to rational inquiry of that sort.

Meanwhile, Michael Hastings - whose Rolling Stone cover story ended Gen. McChrystal's career by including numerous intemperate quotes and, in doing so, revealingly prompted widespread animosity among his media colleagues for the crime of Making a General Look Bad - was on MSNBC yesterday with Martin Bashir. Hastings explained how the media has been devoted to Petraeus' glorification and thus ignored all the substantive reasons why Petraeus should have received far more media scrutiny and criticism in the past. In response, Bashir - who has previously demonstrated his contempt for anyone who speaks ill of a US General - expressed his anger at Hastings ("That's a fairly harsh assessment of a man who is regarded by many in the military as an outstanding four-star general") and then quickly cut him off just over two minutes into the segment.

Then there's the Foreign Policy Community, for which David Petraeus has long been regarded with deity status. Foreign Policy Magazine Managing Editor Blake Hounshell, under the headline "The Tragedy of David Petraeus", gushed that "Petraeus's downfall is a huge loss for the United States," as "not only was he one of the country's top strategic thinkers, he was also one of the few public figures revered by all sides of the political spectrum for his dedication and good judgment." He added: "He salvaged two disastrous wars, for two very different presidents."

Also at Foreign Policy, Thomas Ricks, formerly of the Washington Post, argued that Obama should not have accepted his resignation: "So the surprise to me is that Obama let him go. But the administration's loss may be Princeton's gain." Like most people in the media, Ricks has long been an ardent admirer of Petraeus, even turning his platform over to Paula Broadwell in the past for her to spread her hagiography far and wide.

There are several revealing lessons about this media swooning for Petraeus even as he exits from a scandal that would normally send them into tittering delight. First, military worship is the central religion of America's political and media culture. The military is by far the most respected and beloved institution among the US population - a dangerous fact in any democracy - and, even assuming they wanted to (which they don't), our brave denizens of establishment journalism are petrified of running afoul of that kind of popular sentiment.

Recall the intense controversy that erupted last Memorial Day when MSNBC's Chris Hayes gently pondered whether all soldiers should be considered "heroes". His own network, NBC, quickly assembled a panel on the Today Show to unanimously denounce him in the harshest and most personal terms ("I hope that he doesn't get more viewers as a result of this...this guy is like a – if you've seen him...he looks like a weenie" - "Could you be more inappropriate on Memorial Day?"), and Hayes then subjected himself to the predictable ritual of public apology (though he notably did not retract the substance of his remarks).

Hayes was forced (either overtly or by the rising pressure) to apologize because his comments were blasphemous: of America's true religion. At virtually every major sporting event, some uber-patriotic display of military might is featured as the crowd chants and swoons. It's perfectly reasonable not to hold members of the military responsible for the acts of aggression ordered by US politicians, but that hardly means that the other extreme - compelled reverence - is justifiable either.

Yet US journalists - whose ostensible role is to be adversarial to powerful and secretive political institutions (which includes, first and foremost, the National Security State) - are the most pious high priests of this national religion. John Parker, former military reporter and fellow of the University of Maryland Knight Center for Specialized Journalism-Military Reporting, wrote an extraordinarily good letter (http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/106536/letter-lack-of-wikil...) back in 2010 regarding why leading Pentagon reporters were so angry at WikiLeaks for revealing government secrets: because they identify with the military to the point of uncritical adoration:

"The career trend of too many Pentagon journalists typically arrives at the same vanishing point: Over time they are co-opted by a combination of awe - interacting so closely with the most powerfully romanticized force of violence in the history of humanity - and the admirable and seductive allure of the sharp, amazingly focused demeanor of highly trained military minds. Top military officers have their s*** together and it's personally humbling for reporters who've never served to witness that kind of impeccable competence. These unspoken factors, not to mention the inner pull of reporters' innate patriotism, have lured otherwise smart journalists to abandon – justifiably in their minds – their professional obligation to treat all sources equally and skeptically. . . .

"Pentagon journalists and informed members of the public would benefit from watching 'The Selling of the Pentagon', a 1971 documentary. It details how, in the height of the Vietnam War, the Pentagon sophisticatedly used taxpayer money against taxpayers in an effort to sway their opinions toward the Pentagon's desires for unlimited war. Forty years later, the techniques of shaping public opinion via media has evolved exponentially. It has reached the point where flipping major journalists is a matter of painting in their personal numbers."

That is what makes this media worship of All Things Military not only creepy to behold, but downright dangerous.

Second, it is truly remarkable what ends people's careers in Washington - and what does not end them. As Hastings detailed in that interview, Petraeus has left a string of failures and even scandals behind him: a disastrous Iraqi training program, a worsening of the war in Afghanistan since he ran it, the attempt to convert the CIA into principally a para-military force, the series of misleading statements about the Benghazi attack and the revealed large CIA presence in Libya. To that one could add the constant killing of innocent people in the Muslim world without a whiff of due process, transparency or oversight.

Yet none of those issues provokes the slightest concern from our intrepid press corps. His career and reputation could never be damaged, let alone ended, by any of that. Instead, it takes a sex scandal - a revelation that he had carried on a perfectly legal extramarital affair - to force him from power. That is the warped world of Washington. Of all the heinous things the CIA does, the only one that seems to attract the notice or concern of our media is a banal sex scandal. Listening to media coverage, one would think an extramarital affair is the worst thing the CIA ever did, maybe even the only bad thing it ever did (Andrea Mitchell: "an agency that has many things to be proud about: many things to be proud about").

Third, there is something deeply symbolic and revealing about this whole episode. Broadwell ended up spending substantial time with Petraeus when she, in essence, embedded with him and followed him around Afghanistan in order to write her biography. What ended up being produced was not only the type of propagandistic hagiography such arrangements typically produce, but also deeply personal affection as well.

This is access journalism and the embedding dynamic in its classic form, just a bit more vividly expressed. The very close and inter-dependent relationship between media figures and the political and military officials they cover often produces exactly these same sentiments even if they do not find the full-scale expression as they did in this case. In that regard, the relationship between the now-former CIA Director and his fawning hagiographer should be studied in journalism schools to see the results reliably produced by access journalism and the embedding process. Whatever Broadwell did for Petraeus is what US media figures are routinely doing for political and especially military officials with their "journalism".

© 2012 The Guardian/UK
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/10/petraeus-scandal-med...

Glenn Greenwald is a columnist on civil liberties and US national security issues for the Guardian. A former constitutional lawyer, he was until 2012 a contributing writer at Salon. His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. His other books include: Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics, A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency, and How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.

Pundit Tears for Petraeus’s Fall

Much of Official Washington is in mourning after David Petraeus admitted to an extramarital affair and resigned as head of the CIA. Top pundits were as smitten by the former four-star general as his mistress was.
by Ray McGovern

A day after the surprise announcement that CIA Director David Petraeus was resigning because of marital infidelity, the pundits continue to miss the supreme irony. None other than the head of the CIA (and former bemedaled four-star general) has become the first really big fish netted by the intrusive monitoring of the communications of American citizens implemented after 9/11.

It is unclear whether it is true that, according to initial reports, Petraeus’s alleged mistress and biographer, Paula Broadwell, was caught trying to hack into his e-mail. What does seem clear is that the FBI discovered that she had “unusual access” (to borrow the delicate wording of this morning’s New York Times) to Petraeus during his time as commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan from July 2010 to July 2011. The potential for compromise of sensitive information is equally clear.

Not surprisingly, Establishment pundits are disconsolate that their beloved David Petraeus has been brought down in such a tawdry way. They are already at work trying to salvage his legacy as the implementer of George W. Bush’s much-heralded “successful surge” in Iraq (even though the sacrifice of nearly 1,000 more dead U.S. soldiers did little more than provide a “decent interval” between Bush’s departure from office in 2009 and the final U.S. withdrawal/defeat at the end of 2011).

Among those lionizing/eulogizing Petraeus on the morning after his resignation was Washington Post columnist (and longtime CIA apologist) David Ignatius, who argued that Petraeus “achieved genuinely great things.” Ignatius’s lamented Petraeus’s admission of the extramarital affair with the poignancy you might find in a novel by Leo Tolstoy or Victor Hugo about an admirable but ill-fated hero.

Ignatius, too, was a writer who was embedded with Petraeus and was dazzled by his charm. Ignatius wrote that he “spent nearly three weeks traveling with [Petraeus] during his CENTOM assignment, and saw how he fused the political and military aspects of command, as he met with sheiks and presidents and intelligence chiefs, in a way that should have been captured in a textbook for future commanders.”

But Ignatius inadvertently acknowledged the futility of Petraeus’s approach to Bush’s wars. The Post columnist wrote: “For all Petraeus’s counter-insurgency doctrine, his Afghanistan command often appeared to be the equivalent of building on quicksand. No sooner were the Afghan forces ‘stood up’ than they would begin to slip away, back into the culture that was deeply, stubbornly resistant to outside pressure. In his last month in Kabul, Petraeus had all the tools of victory in hand except one — the Afghan people and institutions.”

So much for Petraeus’s “brilliant” counter-insurgency doctrine. He had all the tools except the Afghan people and institutions, the two requisites for winning a counter-insurgency war!

So What’s the Big Idea?

Ignatius adoringly adduces the following quote from Petraeus as proof of the ex-general’s acute vision: “As I see it, strategic leadership is fundamentally about big ideas, and, in particular, about four tasks connected with big ideas. First, of course, you have to get the big ideas right — you have to determine the right overarching concepts and intellectual underpinnings to accomplish your organization’s mission.

“Second, you have to communicate the big ideas effectively through the breadth and depth of the organization. Third, you have to oversee the implementation of the big ideas. And fourth, and finally, you have to capture lessons from the implementation of the big ideas, so that you can refine the overarching concepts and repeat the overall process.”

Got that? That’s probably right out of Petraeus’s PhD dissertation at Princeton, or from a how-to book that might be called “Management Rhetoric for Dummies.”

If only Petraeus and his colleague generals remembered the smaller – but far more relevant – ideas inculcated in all of us Army officers in Infantry School at Fort Benning in the early Sixties. This is what I recall from memory regarding what an infantry officer needed to do before launching an operation – big or small – division or squad size.

Corny (and gratuitous) as it may sound, we were taught that the absolute requirement was to do an “Estimate of the Situation” that included the following key factors: Enemy strength, numbers and weapons; Enemy disposition, where are they?; Terrain; Weather; and Lines of communication and supply (LOCS). In other words, we were trained to take into account those “little ideas,” like facts and feasibility that, if ignored, could turn the “big ideas” into a March of Folly that would get a lot of people killed for no good reason.

Could it be that they stopped teaching these fundamentals as Petraeus went through West Point and Benning several years later? Did military history no longer include the futile efforts of imperial armies to avoid falling into the “graveyard of empires” in Afghanistan?

What about those LOCS? When you can’t get there from here, is it really a good idea to send troops and armaments the length of Pakistan and then over the Hindu Kush? And does anyone know how much that kind of adventure might end up costing?

To Army officers schooled in the basics, it was VERY hard to understand why the top Army leadership persuaded President Barack Obama to double down, twice, in reinforcing troops for a fool’s errand. And let’s face it, unless you posit that the generals and the neoconservative strategic “experts” at Brookings and AEI were clueless, the doubling down was not only dumb but unconscionable.

Small wonder all the talk about “long war” and Petraeus’s glib prediction that our grandchildren will still be fighting the kind of wars in which he impressed the likes of David Ignatius.

As commander in Afghanistan, Petraeus was able to elbow the substantive intelligence analysts in Washington off to the sidelines. What might those analysts have said about LOCS, or about the key point of training the Afghan army and police? We don’t know for sure, but it is a safe bet those analysts who know something about Afghanistan (and, better still, about Vietnam) would have rolled their eyes and wished Gen. Westmoreland – oops, I mean Petraeus – good luck.

As for winning hearts and minds, it was Petraeus who shocked Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s aides by claiming that Afghan parents might have burned their own children in order to blame the casualties on U.S. military operations.

And the same Petraeus eagerly increased the incredibly myopic drone strikes in Pakistan, killing thousands of civilian “militants” and creating thousands more to contend with in the “long war” now alienating a nuclear-armed country of 185 million people.

Good Riddance

If, by now, you get the idea that I think David Petraeus is a charlatan (and I am not referring to sexual escapades), you would be correct. The next question, however, is his replacement and whether the policies will change.

Mr. President, with the mandate you have just won, you have a golden chance to reverse the March of Folly in Afghanistan. You can select a person with a proven record of integrity and courage to speak truth, without fear or favor, and with savvy and experience in matters of State and Defense.

There are still some very good people with integrity and courage around – former Ambassador Chas Freeman would be an excellent candidate. Go ahead, Mr. President. Show that you can stand up to the Israel lobby that succeeded in getting Freeman ousted on March 10, 2009, after just six hours on the job as Director of the National Intelligence Council.

And there are still some genuine experts around to help you enlist Afghanistan’s neighbors in an effort to ease U.S. troop withdrawal well before the 2014 deadline. The faux experts – the neocon specialists at Brookings, AEI and elsewhere – have had their chance. For God’s sake, take away their White House visiting badges at once.

Create White House badges for genuine experts like former National Intelligence Officer for the Near East Paul Pillar, former State Department Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson, and military historian and practitioner Andrew Bacevich (Lt. Col., USA, ret.). These are straight-shooters; they have no interest in “long wars”; they will tell you the truth; all you need do is listen.

Do NOT listen this time to the likes of your counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, a former CIA functionary who was staff director for CIA Director George “slam-dunk” Tenet. Brennan will probably push for you to nominate Petraeus’s deputy and now Acting CIA Director Michael Morell, who did the same dirty work for Tenet that Brennan did.

Morell is even more likely to take his cues from Brennan and tell you what he and Brennan want you to hear. At best, Morell is likely to let things drift until you move on Petraeus’s replacement. And this is no time for drift.

There is absolutely no reason to prolong the agony in Afghanistan until the end of 2014. Doubling down on Afghanistan might have seemed a smart political move at the time, but you now should face the fact that it was a major blunder. Troops out now!

http://www.commondreams.org/ray-mcgovern

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. During his career as a CIA analyst, he prepared and briefed the President's Daily Brief and chaired National Intelligence Estimates. He is a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

FBI's Abuse of the Surveillance State is the Real Scandal

That the stars of America's national security establishment are being devoured by out-of-control surveillance is a form of sweet justice
by Glenn Greenwald

The Petraeus scandal is receiving intense media scrutiny obviously due to its salacious aspects, leaving one, as always, to fantasize about what a stellar press corps we would have if they devoted a tiny fraction of this energy to dissecting non-sex political scandals (this unintentionally amusing New York Times headline from this morning - "Concern Grows Over Top Military Officers' Ethics" - illustrates that point: with all the crimes committed by the US military over the last decade and long before, it's only adultery that causes "concern" over their "ethics"). Nonetheless, several of the emerging revelations are genuinely valuable, particularly those involving the conduct of the FBI and the reach of the US surveillance state.

As is now widely reported, the FBI investigation began when Jill Kelley - a Tampa socialite friendly with Petraeus (and apparently very friendly with Gen. John Allen, the four-star U.S. commander of the war in Afghanistan) - received a half-dozen or so anonymous emails that she found vaguely threatening. She then informed a friend of hers who was an FBI agent, and a major FBI investigation was then launched that set out to determine the identity of the anonymous emailer.

That is the first disturbing fact: it appears that the FBI not only devoted substantial resources, but also engaged in highly invasive surveillance, for no reason other than to do a personal favor for a friend of one of its agents, to find out who was very mildly harassing her by email. The emails Kelley received were, as the Daily Beast reports, quite banal and clearly not an event that warranted an FBI investigation:

"The emails that Jill Kelley showed an FBI friend near the start of last summer were not jealous lover warnings like 'stay away from my man', a knowledgeable source tells The Daily Beast. . . .

"'More like, 'Who do you think you are? . . .You parade around the base . . . You need to take it down a notch,'" according to the source, who was until recently at the highest levels of the intelligence community and prefers not to be identified by name.

"The source reports that the emails did make one reference to Gen. David Petraeus, but it was oblique and offered no manifest suggestion of a personal relationship or even that he was central to the sender's spite. . . .

"When the FBI friend showed the emails to the cyber squad in the Tampa field office, her fellow agents noted the absence of any overt threats.

"No, 'I'll kill you' or 'I'll burn your house down,'' the source says. 'It doesn't seem really that bad.'

"The squad was not even sure the case was worth pursuing, the source says.

"'What does this mean? There's no threat there. This is against the law?' the agents asked themselves by the source's account.

"At most the messages were harassing. The cyber squad had to consult the statute books in its effort to determine whether there was adequate legal cause to open a case.

"'It was a close call,' the source says.

"What tipped it may have been Kelley's friendship with the agent."

That this deeply personal motive was what spawned the FBI investigation is bolstered by the fact that the initial investigating agent "was barred from taking part in the case over the summer due to superiors' concerns that he was personally involved in the case" - indeed, "supervisors soon became concerned that the initial agent might have grown obsessed with the matter" - and was found to have "allegedly sent shirtless photos" to Kelley, and "is now under investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility, the internal-affairs arm of the FBI".

[The New York Times this morning reports that the FBI claims the emails contained references to parts of Petraeus' schedule that were not publicly disclosed, though as Marcy Wheeler documents, the way the investigation proceeded strongly suggests that at least the initial impetus behind it was a desire to settle personal scores.]

What is most striking is how sweeping, probing and invasive the FBI's investigation then became, all without any evidence of any actual crime - or the need for any search warrant:

"Because the sender's account had been registered anonymously, investigators had to use forensic techniques - including a check of what other e-mail accounts had been accessed from the same computer address - to identify who was writing the e-mails.

"Eventually they identified Ms. Broadwell as a prime suspect and obtained access to her regular e-mail account. In its in-box, they discovered intimate and sexually explicit e-mails from another account that also was not immediately identifiable. Investigators eventually ascertained that it belonged to Mr. Petraeus and studied the possibility that someone had hacked into Mr. Petraeus's account or was posing as him to send the explicit messages."

So all based on a handful of rather unremarkable emails sent to a woman fortunate enough to have a friend at the FBI, the FBI traced all of Broadwell's physical locations, learned of all the accounts she uses, ended up reading all of her emails, investigated the identity of her anonymous lover (who turned out to be Petraeus), and then possibly read his emails as well. They dug around in all of this without any evidence of any real crime - at most, they had a case of "cyber-harassment" more benign than what regularly appears in my email inbox and that of countless of other people - and, in large part, without the need for any warrant from a court.

But that isn't all the FBI learned. It was revealed this morning that they also discovered "alleged inappropriate communication" to Kelley from Gen. Allen, who is not only the top commander in Afghanistan but was also just nominated by President Obama to be the Commander of US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe (a nomination now "on hold"). Here, according to Reuters, is what the snooping FBI agents obtained about that [emphasis added]:

"The U.S. official said the FBI uncovered between 20,000 and 30,000 pages of communications - mostly emails spanning from 2010 to 2012 - between Allen and Jill Kelley . . . .

"Asked whether there was concern about the disclosure of classified information, the official said, on condition of anonymity: 'We are concerned about inappropriate communications. We are not going to speculate as to what is contained in these documents.'"

So not only did the FBI - again, all without any real evidence of a crime - trace the locations and identity of Broadwell and Petreaus, and read through Broadwell's emails (and possibly Petraeus'), but they also got their hands on and read through 20,000-30,000 pages of emails between Gen. Allen and Kelley.

This is a surveillance state run amok. It also highlights how any remnants of internet anonymity have been all but obliterated by the union between the state and technology companies.

But, as unwarranted and invasive as this all is, there is some sweet justice in having the stars of America's national security state destroyed by the very surveillance system which they implemented and over which they preside. As Trevor Timm of the Electronic Frontier Foundation put it this morning: "Who knew the key to stopping the Surveillance State was to just wait until it got so big that it ate itself?"

It is usually the case that abuses of state power become a source for concern and opposition only when they begin to subsume the elites who are responsible for those abuses. Recall how former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman - one of the most outspoken defenders of the illegal Bush National Security Agency (NSA) warrantless eavesdropping program - suddenly began sounding like an irate, life-long ACLU privacy activist when it was revealed that the NSA had eavesdropped on her private communications with a suspected Israeli agent over alleged attempts to intervene on behalf of AIPAC officials accused of espionage. Overnight, one of the Surveillance State's chief assets, the former ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, transformed into a vocal privacy proponent because now it was her activities, rather than those of powerless citizens, which were invaded.

With the private, intimate activities of America's most revered military and intelligence officials being smeared all over newspapers and televisions for no good reason, perhaps similar conversions are possible. Put another way, having the career of the beloved CIA Director and the commanding general in Afghanistan instantly destroyed due to highly invasive and unwarranted electronic surveillance is almost enough to make one believe not only that there is a god, but that he is an ardent civil libertarian.

The US operates a sprawling, unaccountable Surveillance State that - in violent breach of the core guarantees of the Fourth Amendment - monitors and records virtually everything even the most law-abiding citizens do. Just to get a flavor for how pervasive it is, recall that the Washington Post, in its 2010 three-part "Top Secret America" series, reported: "Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications."

Equally vivid is this 2007 chart from Privacy International, a group that monitors the surveillance policies of nations around the world. Each color represents the level of the nation's privacy and surveillance policies, with black being the most invasive and abusive ("Endemic Surveillance Societies") and blue being the least ("Consistently upholds human rights standards"):
http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2012/11/13/135...

And the Obama administration has spent the last four years aggressively seeking to expand that Surveillance State, including by agitating for Congressional action to amend the Patriot Act to include Internet and browsing data among the records obtainable by the FBI without court approval and demanding legislation requiring that all Internet communications contain a government "backdoor" of surveillance.

Based on what is known, what is most disturbing about the whole Petraeus scandal is not the sexual activities that it revealed, but the wildly out-of-control government surveillance powers which enabled these revelations. What requires investigation here is not Petraeus and Allen and their various sexual partners but the FBI and the whole sprawling, unaccountable surveillance system that has been built.

© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/13/petraeus-surveillanc...

Glenn Greenwald is a columnist on civil liberties and US national security issues for the Guardian. A former constitutional lawyer, he was until 2012 a contributing writer at Salon. His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. His other books include: Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics, A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency, and How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.

Sucking Up to the Military Brass

Generals Who Run Amuck, Politicians Who Could Care Less, an “Embedded” Media... And Us
by William Astore

Few things have characterized the post-9/11 American world more than our worshipful embrace of our generals. They’ve become our heroes, our sports stars, and our celebrities all rolled into one. We can’t stop gushing about them. Even after his recent fall from grace, General David Petraeus was still being celebrated by CNN as the best American general since Dwight D. Eisenhower (and let’s not forget that Ike commanded the largest amphibious invasion in history and held a fractious coalition together in a total war against Nazi Germany). Before his fall from grace, Afghan War Commander General Stanley McChrystal was similarly lauded as one tough customer, a sort of superman-saint.

Petraeus and McChrystal crashed and burned for the same underlying reason: hubris. McChrystal became cocky and his staff contemptuous of civilian authority; Petraeus came to think he really could have it all, the super-secret job and the super-sexy mistress. An ideal of selfless service devolved into self-indulgent preening in a wider American culture all-too-eager to raise its star generals into the pantheon of Caesars and Napoleons, and its troops into the halls of Valhalla.

The English used to say of American troops in World War II that they were “overpaid, over-sexed, and over here.” Now we’re overhyped, oversold, and over there, wherever “there” might happen to be in a constantly shifting, perpetual war on terror.

In our particular drama, generals may well be the actors who strut and fret their hour upon the stage, but their directors are the national security complex and associated politicians, their producers the military-industrial complex’s corporate handlers, and their agents a war-junky media. And we, the audience in the cheap seats, must take some responsibility as well. Even when our military adventures spiral down after a promising opening week, the enthusiastic applause the American public has offered to our celebrity military adventurers and the lack of pressure on the politicians who choose to fund them only serve to keep bullets flying and troops dying.

It’s Not That Generals Suck, It’s That We Suck Up to Them

Recent scandals involving some of our top brass have one virtue: they’ve encouraged a smidgeon of debate on things military. The main problem isn’t that our generals suck, though one might indeed come to that conclusion after reading two recent high-profile articles. In the New York Times, Lucian Truscott IV dismissed General Petraeus and similar “strutting military peacocks” as phony heroes in phony wars. What we need, he suggested, is not “imitation generals” like Petraeus, but ruthless nail-spitters like his grandfather, General Lucian K. Truscott Jr., of World War II fame.

Tom Ricks, formerly the Washington Post’s chief military columnist and himself a fan of Petraeus, was more circumspect if no less critical. In a probing article in the Atlantic, based on his new book, The Generals, he argued that the U.S. military has failed to reward virtuosity and punish deficiency. Combine an undiscriminating command structure that gives every general a gold star with their constant rotation in and out of command billets and you have a recipe for “a shocking degree of mediocrity” among the Army’s top leaders.

Such criticism comes as welcome relief after nearly a decade worth of hagiography that marched into our lives alongside Petraeus (once known sardonically among some Army colleagues as “King David” or in the media as the one man who could “save” Iraq) and McChrystal (a “one of a kind,” “battle-hardened” Spartan ascetic, according to a glowing 60 Minutes profile in September 2009). But it doesn’t go nearly far enough.

Generals behaving badly aren’t the heart of the problem, only a symptom of the rot. The recent peccadilloes of Petraeus et al. are a reminder that these men never were the unbesmirched “heroes” so many imagined them to be. They were always the product of a military-industrial complex deeply invested in war, abetted by a media as in bed with them as Paula Broadwell, and a cheerleading citizenry that came to worship all things military even as it went about its otherwise unwarlike business.

Pruning a few bad apples from the upper branches of the military tree is going to do little enough when the rot extends to root and branch. Required is more radical surgery if America is to avoid ongoing debilitating conflicts and the disintegration of our democracy.

Too Many Generals Spoil the Democracy

A simple first step toward radical surgery would certainly involve cutting the number of generals and admirals at least in half.

America’s military is astonishingly top heavy, with 945 generals and admirals on active duty as of March 2012. That’s one flag-rank officer for every 1,500 officers and enlisted personnel. With one general for every 1,000 airmen, the Air Force is the worst offender, but the Navy and Army aren’t far behind. For example, the Army has 10 active-duty divisions -- and 109 major generals to command them. Between September 2001 and April 2011, the military actually added another 93 generals and admirals to its ranks (including 37 of the three- or four-star variety). The glut extends to the ranks of full colonel (or, in the Navy, captain). The Air Force has roughly 100 active-duty combat wings -- and 3,712 colonels to command them. The Navy has 285 ships -- and 3,335 captains to command them. Indeed, today’s Navy has nearly as many admirals (245 as of March 2012) as ships.

Any high-ranking officer worth his or her salt wants to command, but this glut has contributed to their rapid rotation in and out of command -- five Afghan war commanders in five years, for instance -- disrupting any hopes for command continuity. The situation also breeds cutthroat competition for prestige slots and allows patterns of me-first careerism to flourish.

Such a dynamic leads to mediocrity rather than excellence. Yet one area in which the brass does excel is fighting to preserve their bloated slots, despite regular efforts by civilian secretaries of defense to trim them.

Still, such pruning isn’t faintly enough. A 50% cut may seem unkind, but don’t spend your time worrying about demobbed generals queuing up for unemployment checks. Clutching their six-figure pensions, most of them would undoubtedly speed through the Pentagon’s golden revolving door onto the corporate boards of, or into consultancies with, various armaments manufacturers and influence peddlers, as 70% of three- and four-star retirees have in fact done in recent years.

Even a 50% cut would still leave approximately 470 active-duty generals and admirals to cheer on. Perhaps they should be formed into their own beribboned battalion and sent to war. Heck, the Spartans held the Persians off at Thermopylae with a mere 300 fighters. Nearly 500 pissed-off generals and admirals might just be the shock troops needed to “surge” again in Afghanistan.

Of Proconsuls, Imperators, and the End of Democracy

In Roman times, a proconsul was a military ruler of imperial territories, a man with privileges as sweeping as his powers. Today’s four-star generals and admirals -- there are 38 of them -- often have equivalent powers, and the perks to go with them. Executive jets on call. Large retinues. Personal servants. Private chefs.

Such power and privilege corrupts. It leads to General Petraeus, then head of Central Command, being escorted to a private party in Florida by a 28-cop motorcade. It leads to General William Ward, the head of U.S. Africa Command, spending lavishly and so abusing his position that he was demoted and forced into retirement. It leads to generals being so disconnected from their troops that they think nothing of sending a trove of flirtatious emails to a starry-eyed socialite.

Disturbing as their personal behavior may be, the real problem is that America’s four-star proconsuls are far more powerful than our civilian ambassadors and foreign service members. Whether in Afghanistan, Africa, or Washington, the military controls the lion’s share of the money and resources. That, in turn, means its proconsuls end up dictating foreign policy based on a timeless golden rule: “he who has the gold makes the rules.”

Think of those proconsuls as the prodigal sons of a sprawling American empire. In their fiefdoms, vast sums of money can be squandered or simply go missing, as can vast quantities of weapons. Recall those pallets of hundred dollar bills that magically disappeared in Iraq (to the tune of $18 billion). Or the magical disappearance of 190,000 AK-47s and pistols in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, representing 30% of the weapons the U.S. provided to Iraqi security forces. Or the tens of thousands of assault rifles, machine guns, and rocket launchers provided to Afghan security forces that magically disappeared in 2009 and 2010.

Such scandals in U.S. war zones should surprise no one. After all, noting that the Pentagon couldn’t account for $2.3 trillion (yes -- that’s trillion) in spending, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared a war on waste. Good intentions, bad timing. The declaration came on September 10, 2001. A global war on terror followed, further engorging the military-industrial-homeland-security-intelligence complex with nearly a trillion dollars a year for the next decade, while it morphed into the blob that ate Washington.

Whether in money, personnel, or the prestige and power it commands, the Pentagon simply blows away the State Department and similar government agencies. Sheltered within cocoons of compliance (due to the constant stoking of America’s fears) and adulation (due to the widespread militarization of American culture), our proconsuls go unchallenged unless they behave very badly indeed.

Put simply, Americans need to stop genuflecting to our paper Caesars before we actually produce a real one, a man ruthless enough to cross the Rubicon (or the Potomac) and parlay total military adulation into the five stars of absolute political authority.

Unless we wish to salute our very own Imperator, we need to regain a healthy dose of skepticism, shared famously by our Founders, when it comes to evaluating our generals and our wars. Such skepticism may not stop generals and admirals from behaving badly, but it just might help us radically downsize an ever more militarized global mission and hew more closely to our democratic ideals.

© 2012 William Astore
http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175622/tomgram%3A_william_astore%2C_gene...

William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and professor of history, is a TomDispatch regular. He welcomes reader comments at wjastore@gmail.com. To listen to Timothy MacBain's latest TomCast audio interview in which Astore discusses the difficulty of speaking one’s mind in the military, click here:
http://tomdispatch.blogspot.com/2011/02/vow-against-silence.html
Or download it to your iPod here:
http://click.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/click?id=j0SS4Al/iVI&subid=&offerid=...

Post new comment

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer