FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Wrong Petraeus Scandal

by RANDALL AMSTER

The media blitz is fully engaged around the latest Washington sex scandals, and with it come nascent cheers from some anti-war sectors over the public unraveling of the top brass who have helped to orchestrate the longest war in U.S. history. On email threads and in the blogosphere, one is likely to view celebratory remarks laced with words like “comeuppance,” “karma,” and “justice.” Yet while it may be true that there’s a certain element of ironic remuneration in all of this, it’s also the case that such episodes can serve to draw our focus toward the wrong issues and the wrong scandals.

It isn’t the sexual dalliances of the power elite that merit our critical gaze, but rather the sadistic destruction of their everyday actions as architects of institutionalized, taxpayer-funded brutality. The real transgressions here are not crimes of passion, but crimes of war: massive civilian casualties, destruction of nations, bankrupting the domestic economy, torture and rendition, drones raining extrajudicial death from above. These are the reasons to bring down a demagogue; doing so under other pretenses threatens to cloud the issues, while a successor is hastily named to continue the war effort. It would be a worse scandal if we allow this to happen.

Only in America could such rabid sexual Puritanism combine with uncritical genocidal complicity. We seem to have a unique capacity to condemn more mundane forms of human lust even as we thoroughly exercise our collective bloodlust without much reflection or remorse. Does it really matter much if a general has a love affair or betrays his family, when the war policies he has helped to design and implement have destroyed countless families and fractured the bonds of love among people half a world away? Maybe we should care a bit less about who they’re screwing than how we’re all being screwed all the time.

In this light, we can surmise that politics surely plays a role in all of this. Perhaps this signals an effort to slowly downsize the military and hasten an end to the war without end. Maybe it’s part of a larger foreign policy shakeup that will become evident in the near future. Possibly there’s a strategic shift afoot to deemphasize hardware and prioritize software in the next generation of conflict. It could also be the case that such revelations are a way of reducing in rank those whose policies have failed to produce the promised results. But we should be having those substantive discussions rather than merely the salacious ones.

Granted, there’s a certain degree of delightful irony in all of this, as “war on terror” stalwarts get bitten by the very same post-9/11 surveillance apparatuses that were imposed on all of us under the pretext of catching terrorists. The ease by which electronic communications of all sorts are delivered to law enforcement by internet providers should give us great pause in a free society. Progressives and civil libertarians have long complained about the intrusiveness of such practices, and how they broach the leading edge of punishing people for “thought crimes” right out of authoritarian dystopias. In a perverse twist, we might even consider whether we should be defending the defrocked generals’ right to privacy.

In fact, by arguing against the Patriot Act and its progeny, at least we would move the dialogue closer to the actual issues at hand. The entire post-9/11 paradigm — preemptive action, perpetual warfare, unilateralism, secrecy and surveillance, unbridled executive authority, manipulation of fear — should be under close scrutiny more so than the titillating details of anyone’s personal indiscretions. Perhaps we could argue that the two are related, i.e., as concrete expressions of cavalier hubris and moral turpitude. But if so, that point needs to be put forth more incisively than is taking place in the gossip mill right now.

In the end, I don’t want to put a damper on the chortles of an anti-war contingent in desperate need of even a small victory after more than a decade (longer, really) under the dark clouds of escalating militarism. I get why a story like this resonates and even appears as a form of rough justice to many. Still, it seems to me that larger issues yet pervade, and that we would do well not to lose sight of them — lest we find ourselves (to borrow an unfortunate phrase) winning the battle but losing the war.

Randall Amster, J.D., Ph.D., is the Graduate Chair of Humanities at Prescott College. He serves as Executive Director of the Peace and Justice Studies Association, and is the publisher and editor of New Clear Vision. Among his recent books are Anarchism Today (Praeger, 2012) and Lost in Space: The Criminalization, Globalization, and Urban Ecology of Homelessness (LFB Scholarly, 2008).

Weekend Edition
February 12-14, 2016
Andrew Levine
What Next in the War on Clintonism?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Comedy of Terrors: When in Doubt, Bomb Syria
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh – Anthony A. Gabb
Financial Oligarchy vs. Feudal Aristocracy
Paul Street
When Plan A Meets Plan B: Talking Politics and Revolution with the Green Party’s Jill Stein
Rob Urie
The (Political) Season of Our Discontent
Pepe Escobar
It Takes a Greek to Save Europa
Gerald Sussman
Why Hillary Clinton Spells Democratic Party Defeat
Carol Norris
What Do Hillary’s Women Want? A Psychologist on the Clinton Campaign’s Women’s Club Strategy
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Election: Any Good News for Palestine?
Linda Pentz Gunter
Radioactive Handouts: the Nuclear Subsidies Buried Inside Obama’s “Clean” Energy Budget
Michael Welton
Lenin, Putin and Me
Manuel García, Jr.
Fire in the Hole: Bernie and the Cracks in the Neo-Liberal Lid
Thomas Stephens
The Flint River Lead Poisoning Catastrophe in Historical Perspective
David Rosen
When Trump Confronted a Transgender Beauty
Will Parrish
Cap and Clear-Cut
Victor Grossman
Coming Cutthroats and Parting Pirates
Ben Terrall
Raw Deals: Challenging the Sharing Economy
David Yearsley
Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Formation: Form-Fitting Uniforms of Revolution and Commerce
David Mattson
Divvying Up the Dead: Grizzly Bears in a Post-ESA World
Matthew Stevenson
Confessions of a Primary Insider
Jeff Mackler
Friedrichs v. U.S. Public Employee Unions
Franklin Lamb
Notes From Tehran: Trump, the Iranian Elections and the End of Sanctions
Pete Dolack
More Unemployment and Less Security
Christopher Brauchli
The Cruzifiction of Michael Wayne Haley
Bill Quigley
Law on the Margins: a Profile of Social Justice Lawyer Chaumtoli Huq
Uri Avnery
A Lady With a Smile
Katja Kipping
The Opposite of Transparency: What I Didn’t Read in the TIPP Reading Room
B. R. Gowani
Hellish Woman: ISIS’s Granny Endorses Hillary
Kent Paterson
The Futures of Whales and Humans in Mexico
James Heddle
Why the Current Nuclear Showdown in California Should Matter to You
Michael Howard
Hollywood’s Grotesque Animal Abuse
Steven Gorelick
Branding Tradition: a Bittersweet Tale of Capitalism at Work
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s UN Victory and Redemption of the West
Patrick Bond
World Bank Punches South Africa’s Poor, by Ignoring the Rich
Mel Gurtov
Is US-Russia Engagement Still Possible?
Dan Bacher
Governor Jerry Brown Receives Cold, Dead Fish Award Four Years In A Row
Wolfgang Lieberknecht
Fighting and Protecting Refugees
Jennifer Matsui
Doglegs, An Unforgettable Film
Soud Sharabani
Israeli Myths: An Interview with Ramzy Baroud
Terry Simons
Bernie? Why Not?
Missy Comley Beattie
When Thoughtful People Think Illogically
Christy Rodgers
Everywhere is War: Luke Mogelson’s These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories
Ron Jacobs
Springsteen: Rockin’ the House in Albany, NY
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“The Martian”: This Heroism is for Chinese Viewers Too
Charles R. Larson
No Brainers: When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail