Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

A jaundiced view of David Petraeus

with 8 comments

From the grandson of a highly regarded WWII general, Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.:

FASTIDIOUSNESS is never a good sign in a general officer. Though strutting military peacocks go back to Alexander’s time, our first was MacArthur, who seemed at times to care more about how much gold braid decorated the brim of his cap than he did about how many bodies he left on beachheads across the Pacific. Next came Westmoreland, with his starched fatigues in Vietnam. In our time, Gen. David H. Petraeus has set the bar high. Never has so much beribboned finery decorated a general’s uniform since Al Haig passed through the sally ports of West Point on his way to the White House.

“What’s wrong with a general looking good?” you may wonder. I would propose that every moment a general spends on his uniform jacket is a moment he’s not doing his job, which is supposed to be leading soldiers in combat and winning wars — something we, and our generals, stopped doing about the time that MacArthur gold-braided his way around the stalemated Korean War.

And now comes “Dave” Petraeus, and the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. No matter how good he looked in his biographer-mistress’s book, it doesn’t make up for the fact that we failed to conquer the countries we invaded, and ended up occupying undefeated nations.

The genius of General Petraeus was to recognize early on that the war he had been sent to fight in Iraq wasn’t a real war at all. This is what the public and the news media — lamenting the fall of the brilliant hero undone by a tawdry affair — have failed to see. He wasn’t the military magician portrayed in the press; he was a self-constructed hologram, emitting an aura of preening heroism for the ever eager cameras.

I spent part of the fall of 2003 with General Petraeus and the 101st Airborne Division in and around Mosul, Iraq. One of the first questions I asked him was what his orders had been. Was he ordered to “take Mosul,” I asked. No answer. How about “Find Mosul and report back”? No answer. Finally I asked him if his orders were something along the lines of “Go to Mosul!” He gave me an almost imperceptible nod. It must have been the first time an American combat infantry division had been ordered into battle so casually. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2012 at 3:54 pm

Posted in Army, Military

8 Responses

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  1. I promise I wrote my blog before reading your post. I feel slightly vindicated. Thank you for your service.


    16 November 2012 at 4:59 pm

  2. I think the title of the article speaks volumes to the intelligence and honor (or lack thereof) of the author. To take issue with Petraeus makes good sense- his actions are terribly inappropriate for anyone, particularly a man in his position. But to call the war in Afghanistan a “phony war” is beyond irresponsible, it’s truly disgusting.
    Please don’t misunderstand, I am opposed to our being in Afghanistan. That does not, however, make it acceptable to demean the many members of our military who have served honorably there. Phony implies that it is in some way false- which it is clearly not. It is very real, as the families of those who have died can attest.

    One of the things many journalists seem not to have learned is how to take issue with the war, but not with the warriors. And also how to take issue with a general without insulting those who were under his command.

    Jeff Beyea

    16 November 2012 at 7:29 pm

  3. Titles are frequently not by the author but by the editor. Of course, he does say in the article that the war in Iraq was not a real war, but that’s not the same as a phony war. It was certainly real in that many Americans were killed and many, many Iraqis were killed. But we did not have clear-cut military objectives nor civilian leadership with a coherent strategy or clear goals. I think the author’s point is that Petraeus exploited this no-win situation for career advancement. And I’m not so sure Petraeus himself is all that honorable: recall his offense.


    16 November 2012 at 8:31 pm

  4. I agree with all the above points regarding the war…. I was very much opposed to it for so many reasons. I just don’t like the implication that it was in some way not real… I guess it seems like going down the same path as those who showed their opposition to the Vietnam War by spitting on returning soldiers. I think it’s essential that Petraeus be held accountable for his actions… but we also have to remember that his dishonorable actions do not reflect on the rank and file soldiers he commanded.

    It’s interesting to note that if not for the flaw in our electoral system that allows someone to win the Presidency without winning the popular vote we likely wouldn’t have gone to Iraq for a second time at all.

    Jeff Beyea

    17 November 2012 at 5:45 am

  5. The Iraq War was “phony” in this sense: our objectives were false and constantly changing. That is, the war was untrue in its origins and reasons for being, even though people died. The reason, you recalled, was first and foremost to seize the weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein controlled, only there were none (and the US blocked UN inspectors from verifying that because the Bush Administration *wanted* the war). There was the constant refrain that Saddam Hussein was somehow behind 9/11, despite the Sunni Hussein and the Shiite al Qaeda being intransigent enemies. There were the statements that the war would be paid for by Iraq’s oil production, that the war would last only a couple of months, that the US would be welcomed as liberators. I think the last reason offered was that we were there because we wanted to establish an Arab democracy in the Middle East.

    All these false reasons are why the war was a phony war. This is not a reflection on those who fought, but it is a recognition of the facts of how great were the lies foisted onto the American public. And those military leaders who knowingly cooperated in the lie and used it to their benefit are complicit.

    The events are real enough, but the reasons for the war were false, and that is the sense in which it was a “phony” war: fought for reasons other than those told to the public, reasons that would not withstand a public scrutiny and debate.

    I haven’t seen any negative reactions to the men and women who fought there beyond the obvious: the strong feelings against Blackwater for the pointless slaughter of 17 Iraqi civilians for no reason, the military’s false stories of heroism to cover the military’s own failings (Pat Tillman in Afghanistan, for example, and Jessica Lynch in Iraq), the actions of the Army (and CIA) at Abu Ghraib, the slaughter carried out by Staff Sgt. Robert Bales in Afghanistan, and so on. Certainly some acted in ways that deserve harsh condemnation, including the military officers that tried so hard to conceal such offenses, but there is, so far as I know, no negative response to the troops overall. I stand willing to be corrected, but I don’t think it’s happened. Indeed, I see the military leadership getting unwarranted respect, given how frequently they lie to the public and how hard they work to conceal offenses and how reluctant they are to have officers (as opposed to enlisted personnel) punished for misdeeds.


    17 November 2012 at 9:44 am

  6. I would say that is a fair assessment. I have always felt that the first Gulf War was justified, in that we liberated an occupied country. I also have suspicions that the second Iraq War was more about GW wanting to finish what his Daddy started than anything else. Perhaps I overreacted to the “phony war” concept…
    I certainly don’t wish to suggest that military personnel should get unwarranted respect- especially those who have behaved in an uncivilized manner while wearing the Uniform.

    As far as the negative response, the most horrific example I can think of is the idiots who protest at military funerals. I think that is a terrible, twisted way to exercise freedom of speech.

    Jeff Beyea

    17 November 2012 at 9:52 am

  7. I totally agree that demonstrations at military funerals are totally beyond the pale. These are extremists by any measure, and the demonstrates are drunk with hate. It staggers the mind to think that members of the Westboro Baptist Church consider their behavior as Christian. Fred Phelps seems to me to be flat-out insane.


    17 November 2012 at 9:58 am

  8. Personally, I liked the line from one sports commentator, about the fall of Tiger Woods. I’m paraphrasing: “Too bad his Dad isn’t around to see what happens when you try to turn your child into a machine”.


    19 November 2012 at 1:24 pm

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