Home > Uncategorized > David Petraeus: From Extrajudicial to Extramarital

David Petraeus: From Extrajudicial to Extramarital

The News International
November 17, 2012

Extrajudicial to extramarital
Mir Adnan Aziz

Theodore Westhusing was a colonel in the United States army. A professor at West Point, he was armed with an Emory University doctorate in philosophy. His 352-page PhD dissertation discussed the ethics of war. It also focused on examples of military honour. The opening pages read, ‘Born to be a warrior, I desire these answers not just for philosophical reasons, but for self-knowledge’.

A devout Catholic, Westhusing was a devoted husband and a doting father of three young children. One other trait that he possessed, an asset for humans’ military and non-military alike, was a profound spirit that sought to differentiate right from wrong. He was given a guaranteed lifetime teaching position at West Point. However, in the autumn of 2004 Westhusing, beguiled by Washington’s war propaganda machine, chose to volunteer for the Iraq war. His premise, that serving in ‘Operation Iraqi freedom’ would help him teach his military students better.

At the war zone in Iraq, Westhusing worked as head of counterterrorism and special operations under General Petraeus. He also oversaw the training of the Iraqi security forces. It only took a few months for Westhusing to conclude that the war perpetrated on Iraq was a farce to enrich private contractors that has become the face of Washington’s war-machine. On June 5, 2005, his mother’s birthday and a month before going back home, Colonel Westhusing ended his life with a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. His body was found in a trailer at the Camp Dublin military base near Baghdad airport. At that time, he was the highest-ranking officer to die in Iraq.

The suicide would have been just another statistic in an unjust war, had not a four page suicide note, an epitaph to Washington’s military forays, been found near the body. The note addressed to Gen Petraeus read: ‘I cannot support a mission that leads to corruption, human right abuses and liars. I am sullied – no more. I didn’t volunteer to support corrupt, money-grubbing contractors, nor work for commanders only interested in themselves. I came to serve honorably and feel dishonored. All my love to my family, my wife and my precious children. I love you and trust you only; death before being dishonored any more. Why serve when you cannot accomplish the mission, when you no longer believe in the cause? No more. Re-evaluate yourselves, commanders. You are not what you think you are and I know it’.

Westhusing volunteered, believing he was helping free a country in bondage and keeping his own safe from the weapons of mass destruction the world was falsely led to believe Iraq possessed. ‘War is the hardest place to make moral judgments’, wrote Westhusing in the Journal of Military Ethics. The truth that dawned on him in Iraq was that he was fighting, as were other fellow young men and women, to perpetuate a lie. When Westhusing’s body was flown back to Delaware’s Dover Air Force Base, at hand were family and friends to receive the star and stripes-draped coffin. A close friend asked Michelle, Westhusing’s wife, what had happened. Her one word answer was ‘Iraq’.

General David Petraeus was a 1974 honour graduate from the US Military Academy. He was an award winner and top graduate (1983) of the US Army Command and General Staff College. In 1985 he got his MPA degree and in 1987 a PhD in International Relations from Princeton University. Petraeus’s 343-page PhD dissertation was captioned ‘The American Military and Lessons from Vietnam – A Study of American Influence and the Use of Force in the Post-Vietnam Era’.

A portion read about the ‘impact of America’s longest (Vietnam) war and its fallout’. Not a single word was devoted to the Vietnamese civilians who had borne the agonising brunt of that brutal war. Not a single word mentioned the sufferings of those who saw their loved ones blown to pieces or the very skin and flesh peeling away by incendiary bombs. What Petraeus found was that ‘the psychic scars of the war may be deepest among the army and marine corps leadership’.

Ironically, it was an extramarital affair and not the committed purge that brought about the downfall of the surge ‘hero’ and engineer of the counter-insurgency (COIN) strategy. In his terse resignation letter Petraeus wrote, ‘I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organisation such as ours’.

His affair with Paula Broadwell would not have merited a single word here, had it not been about someone who oversaw the death of millions of (non-combatant) men, women and children in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is the ignominious end of a commander who frolicked in Afghanistan, whilst espousing his troops to lay down their lives for an unjust and convoluted cause. For many in the US it is an indiscretion on the part of a much storied general, for those who bore his brunt in this part of the world; it is only a journey from extrajudicial to extramarital.

Paula Broadwell was the star of her high school class, homecoming queen and a fitness champion at West Point. She graduated from Harvard and was yet again a PhD student at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. She also co-wrote Petraeus’s biography titled, ‘All In: The Education of General David Petraeus’. She had more access to Petraeus than the likes of Colonel Westhusing or even more senior commanders. As she ran six-minute miles with Petraeus, and more, in war-ravaged Afghanistan, civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan kept on losing their lives.

The affair gets murkier as reports allege that the present US military commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, is under investigation for ‘inappropriate’ emails to Jill Kelly, a Florida socialite, who brought about the Petraeus downfall. Kelly has hired attorney Abbe Lowell and crisis manager Judy Smith, who represented Monica Lewinsky during the Clinton era. A Pentagon official said that the FBI was investigating a trove of 30,000 (!) pages of mail with hundreds between Allen and Kelley. Despite this soap-opera of salacious Casanovas and jilted lovers, Pakistan is held responsible for all that went wrong in Afghanistan.

A photo captioned ‘Four more years’ showed an eyes-closed and smiling re-elected President Obama embracing his wife. It shattered the world record for the most popular tweet ever. Hours after he won the second term, President Obama broke into tears while addressing supporters at his Chicago campaign headquarters. He termed the gathering as ‘the source of my hope, my strength and my inspiration’. Those who voted him to victory would see the moment as tender and soulful, the words those of an inspirational leader. Conversely many here only saw the dichotomy.

Countless images of the dead and crippled – men, women and children alike – the source of hope, strength and inspiration for a multitude in this part of the world, is maybe something too mundane to bring about the promised change, set any sort of viewership record or make the tear glands work. This holds equally true for our very own, those who look forward to yet ‘five more years’ of callous indifference.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Hoarsewhisperer
    November 17, 2012 at 5:43 am

    Nice turn of phrase in the title.
    Remember the Good Old Days – when perks and (hidden) ‘extra’s’ were benchmarks of vocational success?

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