Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Petraeus’ Political Seppuku


On the Friday after Election Day, November 9, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, General David H. Petraeus announced his immediate resignation and admitted to an extramarital affair (with his biographer Paula Broadwell), which had been exposed (officially by an unrelated FBI investigation, privately others had known of the affair earlier including perhaps Holly Knowlton, Petraeus’ wife of 37 years).

Many see the Petraeus affair as an example of politically counterproductive and socially immature American puritanism. The popular counter to this criticism is that Petraeus had opened himself to blackmail, which represented too dangerous a risk to national security, making his departure necessary. Others suspect there were hidden motives and agendas to Petraeus’ downfall, which were covered over by the public drama of a sexual scandal being paid for with honorable military resignation. The following comments pursue this second possibility.

I have the impression that the US “consulate” in Benghazi was a CIA observation post under the cover of a State Department facility, and that the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, took the heat for the fatal attack (four American consular employees died) on September 11, to shield the CIA specifically and the Obama Administration generally. At that time, Hillary Clinton had the highest national approval rating among high-profile US government personalities and potential presidential “candidates,” Democratic or Republican, so it must have been estimated that she could probably survive the political hit and put it well behind her by 2016. This all saved Petraeus from censure for the Benghazi disaster.

Having an affair “at the office” inevitably distracts you from your work; in a job like CIA director “the office” has a very broad definition (it encases you always and everywhere). Was Petraeus paying all the attention he should have to the configuration, defense and manning of the Benghazi consulate-operations center, and to the data gathered by it? Or, were the data gathering and interfacing functions of covert diplomacy (spying) being sub-contracted to the State Department: Chris Stevens, Hillary Clinton’s appointee?

Perhaps Petraeus, the Army general, did what generals do best even as head of the CIA, focus on the military operations of the agency (the robotic air force: drones, and the counterinsurgency or semi-covert commando type military campaigns in Afghanistan and Pakistan), and left the reconnaissance, intelligence and infiltration work in Libya to their State Department paper-shuffling/networking office-worker type contractors: Chris Stevens and the State Department.

Congressional investigations into the Benghazi consulate attack, in September-October, and security vulnerability (paramour) investigations now would inevitably expose too much sensitive CIA activity, and too many embarrassing management errors (probably compounded by inattention). Also, objectively, even the drone war and counterinsurgency campaigns Petraeus had designed and supervised were not succeeding politically (at searing humanitarian cost).

Petraeus had accumulated too much baggage, he had become a liability to the top political careerists, he had to go. Petraeus probably remembered his Roman, samurai and military history, and decided to take control of his unavoidable exit, by making it an immediate and quick one. Obama returned the favor by his prompt permission for his Drone-War Praetor’s career seppuku,  so Petraeus could obtain an expeditiously merciful release. I doubt Hillary was anguished by the departure.

In Washington D.C., policies are personified. One thinks of Elizabeth Warren and financial industry regulation, George W. Bush (and more recently Mitt Romney) and tax reductions for the wealthy, and so on. David Petraeus boosted his career during congressional testimony in 2007 by presenting as successful his command efforts in Iraq as part of “the surge” of US troops there, and he went on to become the face of US counterinsurgency policy as applied since.

Now, Petraeus’ departure from the Obama Administration can be taken as an opportunity not only to reevaluate the management of the CIA, but to adjust its priorities, and to reexamine the current drone war and counterinsurgency policies. Perhaps these policies will remain static with a new manager appointed to supervise them (since the foreign policy objectives have not changed), but then again, perhaps the need to appoint a replacement Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) will be used as an opportunity to initiate some new and diplomatic rather than military methods of conducting US policy in Central Asia.

Manuel García, Jr. is a retired nuclear test physicist/engineer and now an occasional writer on energy and society. His e-mail is

Manuel Garcia, Jr, once a physicist, is now a lazy househusband who writes out his analyses of physical or societal problems or interactions. He can be reached at

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Tom Clifford
Duterte’s Gambit: the Philippines’s Pivot to China
Reyes Mata III
Scaling Camelot’s Walls: an Essay Regarding Donald Trump
Raouf Halaby
Away from the Fray: From Election Frenzy to an Interlude in Paradise
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
David Yearsley
Trump and Hitchcock in the Age of Conspiracies
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”