Petraeus Resignation: Spies, Lies and Politics

By Dady Chery and Gilbert Mercier

General Petraeus had to resign today from his position as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He admitted to an affair, but some — such as the New York Times — are already saying that the convenient timing of the resignation was related to the intelligence failure in the September 11 attack on the United States Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Was Petraeus blackmailed for money by his lover or was he framed for internal CIA reasons or political ones? We might never know. General Petraeus’ resignation will excuse him from being called to testify before Congress about the security breach in Benghazi. This is for now an embarrassment for the Obama administration. Petraeus was credited for turning around the Iraq war at its worst stage for the US, in 2007. But the fact is, this resignation leaves a new slot open for an appointment by President Obama during his second term.

In the typical Orwellian world we live in, a four-star General becomes a spy, and a Clinton spy — Leon Panetta — is switched to the Pentagon as Secretary of Defense. The affair was “discovered” by the FBI — spying on a CIA Director — from a “compromised” computer he had used. This is nothing new in the United States, in the rarefied circle of power, considering that Bush Sr. had been a CIA Director before becoming Reagan’s Vice President. Often in US politics, sex scandals have also been motivated by political reasons. From the affair of Marilyn Monroe with John F. Kennedy, to more recent sex scandals involving Bill Clinton, John Edwards and Arnold Schwarzenegger, it seems that sex is always linked to power. It is often — this could be the case with Petraeus — a way to hide a forest behind a tree.

Sex, in a less schizophrenic culture than America’s, should not be this way. It brings life and death, propels and paralyzes, compels rebellion and collaboration, inspires love and hate. It is free most of the time, but it sells always. The media relentlessly serve up made-up teenagers, with no natural talent except their sex appeal, as the ideals of beauty in television advertisements; reality shows promote premises that border on pornography, and the serious news are presented alongside the shenanigans of out-of control pop stars.  This is the more obvious form of sexual manipulation. There is also a more insidious use of sexuality for political ends.

Consider, for example, the spectacle of the recent United States Democratic National Convention. This followed a public debate, not on US aggressions throughout the world, but on abortion and gay marriage. It was a seduction on a national scale. The incumbent President’s wife looked as if on a hot date, and the next day newspapers discussed her well-sculpted bare arms, designer dress that gave the illusion of being short, and high-heeled red shoes. There followed former President Bill Clinton, and later President Obama himself, both of whom wowed the public with the deliveries of their speeches rather than any relevant content.  The public reacted as anticipated. Some of its response in social media was quite graphic, and it was all about sex.

Between consensual adults, sex should be fun, free, creative and absolutely nobody else’s business. Private life, even for public figures, should be private in sexual matters, unless it is criminal. Most of us know what constitutes a sex crime, and this is rather simple: non-consensual sex, such as rape or sex with youths below the age of consent, or sex that is associated with actions that are criminal. One example would be the fraudulent expenditure of public funds to support a mistress.

In countries that are non-puritanical like Italy, France, or Haiti, the threshold for a sex scandal is rather high. In the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, for example, it took an accusation of rape — some said he was set up by Sarkozy — to finish his career in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) simultaneously with his political campaign for the French presidency as a Socialist contender. Berlusconi had to engage in sex orgies with underage girls, combined with graft and tax-fraud allegations to lose his position and be sentenced to prison. In Haiti, where Martelly boasts of his bisexuality and infidelities, the only sexual scandals that have received any attention have been homosexual rapes by UN personnel.  In the US, however, the threshold for a sex crime is much lower. It is an issue of puritanical morality in complete contradiction with the reality of an hyper-sexualized culture.

Once again, while facing catastrophic problems such as floods followed by winter storms and homelessness, a second round of a recession that might eclipse the 2008 crash, a real estate market still shaky, a build up of tension between Turkey and the Assad regime in Syria, and millions of  Americans unemployed, the US and its sad excuse for media are focused mainly on the sex scandals of politicians.

The United States remains a borderline schizophrenic country living in delusions and lies. On policy issues, the US claims to support “freedom and democracy” while the real concerns are to secure resources, their transit routes and to maintain the empire by the use of either military or economic power. The United States (especially in the Obama era) boasts endlessly about its positive role in world affairs, while it supports repressive and authoritarian regimes worldwide. This was the case under dictators Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt before the Arab revolution. It is still the case, in a flagrant double standard, in Bahrain, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

On sexual matters, America’s pathological contradictions are just as acute. In many ways, America is still a puritanical country which has been left behind by the 1960s sexual revolution.  Americans do not talk much about the fact that 60 percent of married men and 40 percent of married women have affairs at some point in their marriages. Since the degree of infidelity is correlated with the number of people with whom these married adults come into contact, it stands to reason that the figures would be much higher for politicians. Yet, America has an obsession for sexual topics when it comes to its celebrities and politicians, and quite often the distinction between the two has become blurred. America has a serious dichotomy problem when it comes to sex, while it even eroticizes violence, it is also a very sexually repressed culture.

Not that long ago former governor Schwarzenegger started a nightmarish journey of public humiliation and private hell when it was revealed that he had a “love child” with one of his staffers. US news outlets were relentlessly headlining on the “rage” of his wife.

A while back former presidential hopeful, John Edwards, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges related to his efforts to cover up an affair and child, which he had when his wife was fighting cancer. Edwards was allegedly using campaign donations to fund the cover up of the sex scandal. Another meaningless sex scandal Americans were dwelling on was one concerning Congressman Anthony Weiner. The Weiner scandal — called ”Weinergate” back then — started when an underwear picture was allegedly sent from Representative Weiner’s tweeter account.

What is truly pathetic, in all this, is that what Americans call their media and journalists are paying attention to side stories of this nature. Editors are putting up all this meaningless nonsense as headliners. There is one thing that the American press knows well: Americans cannot get enough of sex scandals. People on the East Coast are still dealing with the aftermath of Sandy; the job market is still shaky in most states; another major financial crisis is looming on the horizon due to a more than 17 trillion dollar national debt, yet most so-called reporters and media organizations are talking and writing about a  CIA Director and well-respected General having an affair and being forced to resign.

 

Editor’s Note: Photograph one by Mike Licht, photograph eight by Gilbert Mercier, and photograph four by Laurent Gauthier.

 

 

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One Response to Petraeus Resignation: Spies, Lies and Politics

  1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Peter Hockley
    November 10, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Resign over an affair, ridiculous, but in Gen. Patreus’ case though there is the possibility of being blackmailed, given the sensitivity of his job.