Petraeus

Obama is sure as hell not Harry Truman, but neither is Big Mouth Stan McChrystal any kind of “Fade Away” Doug MacArthur.

General Petraeus is no Doug MacArthur either, and that’s a good thing. He’s not likely to repeat the insubordinate nonsense that brought down Stan. On the other hand, I’m concerned about his health. A week ago he collapsed in front of the Senate. What caused it? Dehydration? Stress? Did he have some foreshadowing of the fate that would soon befall his subordinate? If so, was he stressing about the demotion he would have to take in order to set things right?

Three years ago MoveOn sponsored a controversial ad regarding Petraeus’ performance in Iraq. The ad said,

General Petraeus is a military man constantly at war with the facts. In 2004, just before the election, he said there was “tangible progress” in Iraq and that “Iraqi leaders are stepping forward.” And last week Petraeus, the architect of the escalation of troops in Iraq, said, “We say we have achieved progress, and we are obviously going to do everything we can to build on that progress.”
Every independent report on the ground situation in Iraq shows that the surge strategy has failed. Yet the General claims a reduction in violence. That’s because, according to the New York Times, the Pentagon has adopted a bizarre formula for keeping tabs on violence. For example, deaths by car bombs don’t count. The Washington Post reported that assassinations only count if you’re shot in the back of the head — not the front. According to the Associated Press, there have been more civilian deaths and more American soldier deaths in the past three months than in any other summer we’ve been there. We’ll hear of neighborhoods where violence has decreased. But we won’t hear that those neighborhoods have been ethnically cleansed. Most importantly, General Petraeus will not admit what everyone knows: Iraq is mired in an unwinnable religious civil war. We may hear of a plan to withdraw a few thousand American troops. But we won’t hear what Americans are desperate to hear: a timetable for withdrawing all our troops. General Petraeus has actually said American troops will need to stay in Iraq for as long as ten years.

The substance of the ad was never questioned, but the appropriateness brought a world of hurt down on MoveOn. Someone in the MoveOn camp discovered the unfortunate rhyme of “Petraeus” with “betray us,” and, with McChrystal-like adolescent glee, MoveOn hooked their criticism to that silly rhyme and lost the power of the argument.

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8 comments on “Petraeus
  1. Peter Hoff says:

    Was I the only one who puzzled over the canonization of Petraeus that took place during the 2008 presidential campaign. Not only was it the third rail of the campaign to speak ill of him (no one came close, as I recall), but apparently a law was passed at the time requiring all candidates to genuflect whenever they mentioned his name.

    This new assignment may prove to be his Waterloo. Shoulda faded away when he had the chance, I suspect.

    • I think he symbolized the Iraq war, and since Americans–most people, probably–can’t question a war in progress lest they be deemed unpatriotic and cast out of the stockade to fend for themselves, Petraeus was immune to criticism. The uniform itself is Teflon. It takes a lot of abrasiveness to penetrate that non-stick coating, witness Big Mouth Stan McChrystal.

      • Peter Hoff says:

        Right. But with Petraeus, it was obligatory for the candidate to insert a phrase like “Great American Hero” before the general’s name whenever mentioning him in a speech, and then wait for applause before continuing.

        • Petraeus was the hero who sold the Surge. Not sure if that’s a Proctor and Gamble detergent or what.

          I recall that General Westmoreland, playing the same kind of marketing role, was recognized as a liar during the Vietnam war (see Mike Wallace libel case, etc.) None of the wars between Vietnam and the Rove/Cheney/Bush wars of the last decade had much public exposure. None of themk lasted long enough.

          –Tehran: a failure, Jimmy Carter fronted for General “Shy” Meyer, I think but it’s hard to tell who “lost it” militarily;
          –Grenada, not sure who gets the credit for this victory, probably Clint Eastwood;
          –Beirut 1983, according to the official score book, Saint Ronald himself gets credit for this initial defeat in the US war on terror;
          –Panama, not sure who in the military gets credit for the victory, but Bush senior presided;
          –Gulf War, Bush senior;
          –Somalia, Clinton;
          –Yugoslavia, Clinton.

          None of the wars since Korea had military heroes identified for public adulation. WW2 and Korea of course had oodles, including: MacArthur whose head got a little too large for his Field Marshall’s bonnet, Patton (by some accounts a nut case), Bradley, and Ike.

          All this is by way of noting that the 9/11 conflict has been marketed as a “save our way of life” effort like WW2 and it’s gone on forever. The public needs a connection to a military hero as part of the process of accepting and internalizing (patriotic) responsibility for the death and destruction. Petraeus was just lucky, I guess. I think he should identify an Alvin York or an Audie Murphy to stand in for him, hero-wise. Generals who don’t keep a low profile are particularly vulnerable.

  2. Don Harvey says:

    The boys already lost their Audie Murphy Frank. His name was Pat Tillman. Hi Pete.

    • Pat Tillman. How easy it is to forget any specific thread in the fabric of greed and deceit. Here’s a link that ties Tillman to McChrystal and vice versa… http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2010/06/24/mcchrystal-pat-tillman-bar-lev/

      Note that this story is from the entertainment section of Fox news. It’s a story about Bar Lev’s movie. A quote from the story:

      In his new documentary, “The Tillman Story,” filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev explores these controversies and the roles numerous high-powered political and military figures played in falsely reporting how Tillman died and turning his killing into what his mother, Dannie Tillman, called a “recruiting” tool for the U.S Army.

      One of the high-powered figures highlighted in the film for his alleged deception is Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was relieved of his military duties in Afghanistan on Wednesday.

  3. Don Harvey says:

    Once again, I open the Sunday NY Times to find you’ve been channelling Frank Rich. Personally, I find Camille Paglia’s piece the more informative. But that’s me.

  4. Poor Camille… no little blue pills on the horizon for her and her post-menopausal ilk. I’ve long admired her for her passionate if somewhat outre engagement with popular culture and leftish politics, but sadly in this week’s column she seems a desiccated shell of her 80s self.

    I wish she had elaborated further on the “…nature-keyed Asian practices ” that have “preserved the radical vision of the modern sexual revolution.” Can I have a side order of brown rice with that?

    Anyway, here’s something more substantial than Camille’s bullshit… sort of an extension of the Mississippi delta blues thing she was going on about, only more real:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfmIXK4VG-8

    (And Jenny B. is of course covering this sixties Stax recording–sort of a Montgomery, Alabama goes to Motown kind of thing…)

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