The Sins Of Gen. Petraeus & The Military-Media Complex

Illustration by WILLIAM BANZAI7


BUZZFEED: The warning signs about Petreaus’s core dishonesty have been around for years. A brief summary: we can start with the persistent questions critics have raised about his Bronze Star for Valor. Or, that in 2004, during the middle of a presidential election, Petraeus wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post, supporting President Bush and saying that the Iraq policy was working. The policy wasn’t working, but Bush repaid the general’s political advocacy by giving him the top job in the war three years later.

There’s his war record in Iraq, starting when he headed up the Iraqi security force training program in 2004. He’s more or less skated on that, including all the weapons he lost, the insane corruption and the fact that he essentially armed and trained what later became known as “Iraqi death squads.” On his final Iraq tour, during the so-called Surge, he pulled off what is perhaps the most impressive con job in recent American history. He convinced the entire Washington establishment that we won the war.

He did it by papering over what The Surge actually was: we took the Shiites’ side in a civil war, armed them to the teeth, and suckered the Sunnis into thinking we’d help them out, too. It was a brutal enterprise—over 800 Americans died during The Surge, while hundreds of thousands of Iraqis lost their lives during a sectarian conflict that Petraeus’s policies fueled. Then, he popped smoke, and left the members of the Sunni Awakening to fend for themselves. A journalist friend told me a story of an Awakening member, exiled in Amman, whom Petraeus personally assured he would never abandon. The former insurgent had a picture of the Petraeus on his wall, but was a little hurt that the general no longer returned his calls. MORE

ALSO: How did Petraeus get away with all this for so long? Well, his first affair—and one that matters so much more than the fact that he was sleeping with a female or two—was with the media. Petraeus’s first biographer, former U.S. News and World Report reporter Linda Robinson, wrote a book about him, then went to CENTCOM to work for him. Yes—a so-called journalist published a book about him, then started getting a paycheck from him soon after. This went largely unremarked upon.

Another huge supporter was Tom Ricks, a former Washington Post journalist who found a second career as unofficial press agent for the general and his friends. Ricks is the ring leader of what I like to call “the media-military industrial complex,” setting the standard for its incestuous-every-day-corruption. He not only built Dave up, he facilitated the disastrous liaison between Broadwell and Petraeus. Ricks helped get Broadwell a literary agent, a six figure book deal, and a publisher. […] Ricks wasn’t the only offender, of course—Petraeus more or less had journalists from many major media outlets slurping from the Pentagon’s gravy train. The typical route was to have all the cash and favors funneled through a third party like the Center For A New American Security.

CNAS was a Petraeus-inspired operation from its inception in 2007, and it made its reputation promoting Petraeus’s counterinsurgency plans. No problem, right? Except that it put the journalists who were covering those same plans and policies on its payroll. For instance, New York Times Pentagon correspondent Thom Shanker took money and a position from CNAS and still covered the Pentagon; Robert Kaplan, David Cloud from the Los Angeles Times, and others produced a small library’s worth of hagiographies while sharing office space at CNAS with retired generals whom they’d regularly quote in their stories. MORE

ROLLING STONE: The genius of David Petraeus has always been his masterful manipulation of the media. But after reading the new biography about him – All In: The Education of David Petraeus, by former Army officer Paula Broadwell – I’ve started to wonder if he’s losing his touch. The best spinsters never make their handiwork too obvious; they allow all parties to retain a semblance of dignity. Yet the Petraeus-approved All In is such blatant, unabashed propaganda, it’s as if the general has given up pretending there’s a difference between the press and his own public relations team. As Gen. John Galvin, an early mentor, explains to a young David in one of the book’s few revealing moments, “Through your mythology people create you…. You become part of the legend.” All In is best understood as the latest – and least artful – contribution to the Petraeus legend.

For P4, as Petraeus is known in military circles, this is about the fourth high-profile book he has collaborated on. He debuted on the literary scene as a young general “coming of age” during the 2003 invasion of Iraq in Rick Atkinson’s In The Company of Soldiers. (“Petraeus kept me at his elbow virtually all day, every day,” writes Atkinson.) He reappeared as a brilliant strategist in a 2008 snoozer called Tell Me How This Ends by Linda Robinson. (Soon after publishing the book, Robinson, a reporter for U.S. News and World Report, went on to take a job working for Petraeus as an analyst at the U.S. Central Command.) Then, retired journalist turned military blogger Tom Ricks thoroughly lionized him in the highly readable and on-the-knees-admiring The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, which credits the general’s “surge” strategy with turning that war around. Three for three.

Broadwell’s contribution to the genre started brewing after she met Petraeus at the Harvard Kennedy School of government in 2006, while getting her master’s degree. As she recalls in her book’s preface, the two hit it off, the general viewing Broadwell as “an aspiring soldier-scholar.”  Both were West Point grads, sharing interests in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. They soon started emailing. “I took full advantage of his open-door policy to seek insight and share perspectives,” she writes. In 2008, Broadwell began her doctoral dissertation, “a case study of General Petraeus’s leadership.” After President Obama picked Petraeus, in June 2010, to take over the war in Afghanistan, she decided to turn the dissertation into a book. Petraeus invited her to Kabul, where she would spend several months “observing Petraeus and his team” and conducting “numerous interviews and email exchanges with Petraeus and his inner circle.”  The result is a work of fan fiction so fawning that not even Max Boot – a Petraeus buddy and Pentagon sock puppet – could bring himself to rave about it, grouching in The Wall Street Journal about All In’s “lack of independent perspective” and the authors’ tendency to skirt conflict. (Boot, the hackiest of the neocon hacks, is now an advisor to Mitt Romney.) MORE

NEW YORKER: The Times uses the word “murky” to describe what happened next, and there are many puzzling aspects. But according to the Times, at the end of October, a week or so after the F.B.I. investigators confronted Petraeus, an unidentified F.B.I. employee took the matter into his own hands. Evidently without authorization, he went to the Republicans in Congress. First he informed a Republican congressman, Dave Reichert of Washington state. According to the Times, Reichert advised this F.B.I. employee to go to the Republican leadership in the House. The F.B.I. employee then told what he knew about the investigation to Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader. Cantor released a statement to the Times confirming that he had spoken to the F.B.I. informant, whom his staff described as a “whistleblower.” Cantor said, “I was contacted by an F.B.I. employee who was concerned that sensitive, classified information might have been compromised.” But what, exactly, was this F.B.I. employee trying to expose? Was he blowing the whistle on his bosses? If so, why? Was he dissatisfied with their apparent exoneration of Petraeus? Given that this drama was playing out in the final days of a very heated Presidential campaign, and he was taking a potentially scandalous story to the Republican leadership in Congress, was there a political motive? MORE

FOREIGN POLICY: Paula Broadwell, the biographer revealed as the woman having a secret affair with the now-former CIA director, gave a talk at the University of Denver on Oct. 26 in which she appeared to reveal sensitive, maybe even classified, information about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. The most interesting revelation is her claim that the CIA was holding several Libyan militia members prisoner, which may have prompted the attack. (Though she also sought to explain the Obama administration’s initial view that the attack was linked to the YouTube video Innocence of Muslims, an anti-Islam polemic that sparked riots across the Muslim world.) [UPDATE: The CIA has denied holding prisoners at the annex, according to the DailyBeast‘s Eli Lake. The Washington Post‘s Greg Miller adds in a tweet, “CIA adamant that Broadwell claims about agency holding prisoners at Benghazi are not true.”] […] In any case, Broadwell’s remarks, which were first reported by Arutz Sheva, are very interesting in light of this week’s big news, as well as the Wall Street Journal‘s revelation that the FBI found that Broadwell was in possession of classified documents (though she was never charged with any crime). MORE

RELATED: What I find significant about this is he is yet another ReBiblican…a Christian Dominionist. Another sanctimonious man-of-God who touts that he, as the “right kind of Christian,” is entitled to claim proprietary ownership to the keys of morality. And, in addition to powerful military positions, until his resignation today Petraeus was the Director of the CIA. He actually supported Sarah Palin in 2008; was considered a potential running mate with her for the future; and discussed as a VP possibility with Mitt. MORE

RELATED: Look, there is simply no other way to say it but to speak the absolute brutal truth here. General Petraeus has shockingly abrogated and noxiously defiled the sacred oath he took to protect and preserve, support and defend, NOT a parochial biblical worldview of the New Testament’s Gospel of Jesus Christ, but the United States Constitution; which includes a specific beacon provision which boldly proclaims absolutely ‘no religious test’ in Clause 3, Article 6. By so very prominently and universally endorsing Chaplain McCoy’s book, with its unadulterated promotion of Christian religious supremacy and concomitant excoriating and denigrating of the veracity, integrity, and character of the hundreds of thousands of United States military personnel who freely elect to follow no religious path, Petraeus unlawfully fashions his own de facto ‘religion test’ in direct contravention of America’s most cherished and beloved governing document. His command leadership role thus has become terminally freighted and compromised with this disgusting, vile, unconstitutional Christian religious tyranny and exceptionalism at precisely the same time we are at war with Islamic fundamentalists framing America’s Iraq and Afghanistan combat efforts as a ‘modern day Crusade.’ The monumentally detrimental national security risks attendant to Petraeus’s actions of Constitutional defiance justify the swift forfeiture of his titular position of military command and, further, cry out for his immediate punishment by General Courts Martial under Article 134.  MORE

HUFFINGTON POST: Vernon Loeb, [former assistant managing editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer and currently] a high-ranking Washington Post editor who served as Paula Broadwell’s co-author for a favorable 2012 biography of Gen. David Petraeus, would presumably know something about her reporting on the now-former CIA director. The Post just hasn’t appeared to ask. On Sunday, the Post published a front-page story on Broadwell’s unusually close access to Petraeus while reporting for the biography, which doesn’t quote Loeb. Instead, the Post quotes several anonymous sources who describe her role as a biographer and say how Petraeus seemed “eager to throw his own rulebook out the window” in dealing with Broadwell. […] Loeb did not respond to a request from The Huffington Post on working with Broadwell, but spoke favorably in January about his co-author’s reporting skills and how the two teamed up on a biography that grew out of her Harvard University dissertation.

In June 2010, when President Barack Obama tapped him to take charge in Afghanistan for what would become Petraeus’ final command, Broadwell knew the time was right to parlay her dissertation into a biography.Soon, she had an agent and a contract from Penguin Press. To help organize and write the book, she teamed with The Washington Post’s Vernon Loeb. Broadwell proved to be an “absolutely intrepid” reporter, Loeb says, dictating from airports, filling up his email inbox and delivering “this fire hose of information.”

Loeb suspects the media’s interest in their book stems at least a bit from Broadwell herself. It’s audacious, he says, “that she even attempted this. Here she has two young kids, a husband who’s a doctor, and yet … she’s writing a book of this magnitude and hardly breaking a sweat.”

In the acknowledgement to the book, All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, Broadwell wrote that veteran military reporter Tom Ricks — who authored The Gamble, a book on focused on Petraeus’ leadership in Iraq — introduced her to Wylie book agent Scott Moyers. (Incidentally, the Post interviewed Ricks for the Sunday article). It was Ricks and Moyers who led Broadwell to Loeb. In the All In acknowledgements, Broadwell describes Loeb as “my writing partner and coach.” “Vernon has been an exceptional partner, helping to craft a vision for the story line and the design for how to nest my dissertation into a book,” Broadwell wrote. “His constant enthusiasm for the project gave me energy to keep the pace.”

Loeb, a former deputy managing editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer and currently the local editor at the Post, has been involved in a media controversy before. In 2003, he co-wrote a front page article about Iraq War soldier Jessica Lynch, the details of which were quickly called into question. The Lynch story is widely seen as an attempt by the government to spin a positive story of battlefield heroism as public support for the war began to wane. The Post’s ombudsman took aim at Loeb at the time, writing that the Lynch story was “based on pretty flimsy sourcing.” MORE

AMERICAN JOURNALISM REVIEW: On April 3, Pfc. Jessica Lynch was G.I. Jane come to life, a soldier refusing to be taken alive by Iraqi forces that ambushed her unit as she squeezed every last round out of her weapon and into the enemy. Just when the war in Iraq seemed to drag and was losing public support, there was America’s heroine on the front page of the Washington Post. “She was fighting to the death,” the headline proclaimed over an exclusive story of bravery that immediately circulated all over the world. It was the perfect story at the perfect time. And, in the end, it turned out to be too perfect. Less than three months later, the Post would run another front-page story on Lynch, this time noting that the intelligence reports that had cast her as a hero–and formed the basis for the April piece–were wrong. Michael Getler, the Post’s ombudsman–and arguably its harshest critic–says the April story was “based on pretty flimsy sourcing,” much of it anonymous, and “should have been written more cautiously.”

Vernon Loeb, who wrote the story with another reporter, Susan Schmidt, calls their sourcing solid. He concedes, however, that the tale could have benefited from stronger and more prominent caveats about the sketchiness of intelligence reports. “My lesson learned is I should have been more cautious in the way I wrote this story,” he says. “But, having said that, I would have written the story anyway.” Ellen Shearer, who runs Northwestern University’s Medill News Service in Washington, D.C., says this should serve as a cautionary tale to any news organization coping with the challenges of wartime reporting. “It was a great story,” she says. “The Post has great editors and reporters and if this could happen to them, I think this shows how very skeptical we all have to be.”

The day after the Post’s blowout on Lynch appeared, it started unraveling. Although the second paragraph of the story reported that Lynch had “continued firing at the Iraqis even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds,” on April 4 the commander of an army hospital in Germany where Lynch was being treated told the Associated Press that the 19-year-old hadn’t been shot or stabbed. The Post included the AP’s information in a story that ran on Page A27, though readers who did not read halfway into it might have easily overlooked it. “That should have been the first red flag that something was wrong and should have produced a lot of follow-up reporting,” says Getler, adding that the Post didn’t run a corrective story until June. “It took a long, long time to be corrected.” Post reports that Lynch gunned down several Iraqis would also prove false. MORE

RELATED: Lynch faulted the U.S. government for creating the story as part of the Pentagon‘s propaganda effort.[21][1][22] Soon after her rescue, Pentagon officials disputed a report appearing in the Washington Post that Lynch had fought back, and the first official report of Lynch’s actions during her capture released by the Pentagon weeks later said that she did not appear to have fought back against her captors, in contradiction of earlier Pentagon press releases. According to one former Pentagon official, the stories of her supposed heroics that day were spread by the news media and Congressmen from West Virginia were instrumental in pushing the Pentagon to award her honors based on reports of her actions during her capture.[23][24] Months after returning, Lynch finally began speaking to the public. Her statements tended to be sharply critical of the original story that was reported by the Washington Post. When asked about her heroine status, “That wasn’t me. I’m not about to take credit for something I didn’t do… I’m just a survivor.”[2] MORE

RELATED: Paula Broadwell & Vernon Loeb on BOOKTV

RELATED: The FBI investigation that led to the abrupt resignation of David H. Petraeus as CIA director was triggered by a 37-year-old Tampa woman who grew up in Philadelphia. Jill Kelley, married to a surgeon and mother of three young daughters, complained several months ago that she had received harassing emails from a woman who turned out to be Paula Broadwell, Petraeus’ biographer. Born Jill Khawam to a locally prominent Lebanese-American family, past articles and records show that she grew up in Northeast Philadelphia and lived in the area until her mid-20s. MORE

RELATED: The Runaway General

PREVIOUSLY: Who Is Stanley McChrystal?


[Artwork by ALEX FINE]

COMMON DREAMS: Seymour Hersh says that Dick Cheney headed a secret assassination wing and the head of the wing has just been named as the new commander in Afghanistan. In an interview with GulfNews, (the Persian Gulf’s largest daily English language newspaper published from Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates) on May 12, 2009 Pulitzer prize-winning American investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, said that there is a special unit called the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) that does high-value targeting of men that are known to be involved in anti-American activities, or are believed to be planning such activities.According to Hersh, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) was headed by former US vice president Dick Cheney and the former head of JSOC, Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal who has just been named the new commander in charge of the war in Afghanistan.

McChrystal, a West Pointer who became a Green Beret not long after graduation, following a stint as a platoon leadertortureflag.jpeg in the 82nd Airborne Division, is currently director of Staff at the Pentagon, the executive to Joint staff to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Most of what General McChrystal has done over a 33-year career remains classified, including service between 2003 and 2008 as commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, an elite unit so clandestine that the Pentagon for years refused to acknowledge its existence. On July 22, 2006, Human Rights Watch issued a report titled “No blood, no foul” about American torture practices at three facilities in Iraq. One of them was Camp Nama, which was operated by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), under the direction of then Major General Stanley McChrystal. McChrystal was officially based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, but he was a frequent visitor to Camp Nama and other Special Forces bases in Iraq and Afghanistan where forces under his command were based.

An interrogator at Camp Nama known as Jeff described locking prisoners in shipping containers for 24 hours at a time in extreme heat; exposing them to extreme cold with periodic soaking in cold water; bombardment with bright lights and loud music; sleep deprivation; and severe beatings. When he and other interrogators went to the colonel in charge and expressed concern that this kind of treatment was not legal, and that they might be investigated by the military’s Criminal Investigation Division or the International Committee of the Red Cross, the colonel told them he had “this directly from General McChrystal and the Pentagon that there’s no way that the Red Cross could get in.” MORE

PREVIOUSLY: NOBAMA: Top Afghanistan Envoy Cables White House That None Of The Plans On The Table Are Workable

PREVIOUSLY: State Department Official/Ex-Marine Resigns Over Afghanistan Policy, Says War Is Over If You Want It

PREVIOUSLY: HERSH: Military At War With The White House



FOX NEWS: The top U.S. war commander in Afghanistan apologized Tuesday for an interview in which he said he felt betrayed by the man the White House chose to be his diplomatic partner, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry. The article in this week’s issue of Rolling Stone depicts Gen. Stanley McChrystal as a lone wolf on the outs with many important figures in the Obama administration and unable to convince even some of his own soldiers that his strategy can win the war. In Kabul on Tuesday, McChrystal issued a statement saying: “I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened.” MORE

THE ATLANTIC: Even though McChrystal voted for Obama and told him so during their first meeting, he sensed that a number of senior White House aides didn’t really believe that the former commander of the military’s special missions unit during the Bush-Cheney years was suddenly on their side. National Security Adviser James Jones, who is a bit of cipher to McChrystal’s team, may or may not have been one of these aides. No one in the West Wing bought all that liberal internet chatter about: JSOC’s alleged crimes — but no one really didn’t buy it, either. Within hours after today’s Rolling Stone story broke, McChrystal was called by the White House, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They were not happy. MORE

HUFF POST: The article’s author, freelance reporter Michael Hastings had approached McChrystal’s camp many months ago with the proposition of doing a profile for the magazine, said Bates. He pitched it as a “broad piece,” in which he would cover a wide scope of the general’s military history, talk to those who knew him on a personal level, and spend time with him in Afghanistan. Much of the reporting took place in April, with Hastings scoring an unusual and profoundly lucky break: Volcanoes over Iceland required McChrystal to travel to Berlin by bus, during which he and his aides were drinking on the road trip “the whole way,” according to Hastings. MORE

RELATED: Gen. Stanley McChrystal has offered to resign his position in the wake of an explosive Rolling Stone interview, according to Time magazine’s Joe Klein. Appearing on CNN on Tuesday afternoon, Klein said, “I think he’s probably going to lose his job. A little bit of news: I was just talking to a very reliable source who tells me that McChrystal has submitted his resignation and it’s going to be up to the president… to accept it or not tomorrow.” After the television appearance, Klein clarified that his source says McChrystal has offered to resign, but has not officially submitted his resignation. MORE