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).

More articles by:
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
Binoy Kampmark
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered: a Fragment (Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre)
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail