At the strategic level, gaining and maintaining U.S. public support for a protracted deployment is critical. Only the most senior military officers are involved in this process at all. It is properly a political activity. However, military leaders typically take care to ensure that their actions and statements are forthright. They also ensure that the conduct of operations neither makes it harder for elected officials to maintain public support nor undermine public confidence.
This curious instruction in this military field manual, which itself is a piece of public relations work, shows that General Petraeus knows the profound importance of creating illusion to support war.
The Norman Rockwellian image he created for himself – serious, highly professional, righteous, observer of international law, disciplined master of humane war and nation-building and, especially, heroic – served not only his career, but the careers of politicians who advance themselves as militarists and the fortunes of corporate bosses who sell weapons and/or depend on the US military to secure them safe zones of exploitation around the world.
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General Petraeus, as well as anyone, is likely to know that his romance and its exposure stir emotions in the public that lead inevitably to uncertainty about the tragic military adventures he has championed – the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and, most recently, the burgeoning US global campaign of drone surveillance, assassination and terror.
One might suggest that General Petraeus quit as head of the CIA two days after Barack Obama was selected for four more years in the White House because his romance with Paula Broadwell might “undermine public confidence” in a deliberately fabricated set of illusions about what our military is doing.
Indeed, the Petraeus incident is providing a curious public with a glimpse into the reality of a US military world in which the very top military commanders are living lavish lives and partying, playing and hobnobbing with the wealthy while their troops are suffering and dying and engaged in killing, wounding and detaining thousands of Iraqis, Afghanis and Yemenis, with lesser numbers dying under drone fire in Somalia, Libya and even the Philippines.
The lack of a sense of decency among US generals during our current wars extends, of course, to their failure to see any conflict of interest in going to work for arms makers once they retire while their wars continue on, fanned by the companies they work for.
General Petraeus may fear that the search for the real David Petraeus will inevitably lead to, one, a reexamination of his conduct of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and, two, questions about whether these wars are intended to serve any national security interest or are being undertaken to advance corporate interests at tremendous costs to the public interest.
First, with respect to the conduct of the wars, without the halo, General Petraeus can be charged with conducting a savage campaign of slaughter, relocation, detention and deprivation in Iraq which traumatized millions and has been a major factor in Iraq’s fragmentation and internal strife, which continues until now.
In 2007, Consumers for Peace, of which I am director, published an analysis of the Petraeus counterinsurgency manual and the “surge” in Iraq. The studies document the degree to which General Petraeus was willing to ignore international law and engage military activities that can be defined as war crimes; this must be further investigated and exposed.
The major US press organizations will not do this. They aggrandized General Petraeus through the surge and after, willfully ignoring the horrific consequences of the Iraq occupation and then abandoning coverage of Iraq when President Obama announced US troops were leaving Iraq at the end of 2010. (There is no press mention of the large US mercenary forces that remain in Iraq and the guerilla war there.)
The deepest secret policy of General Petraeus may involve his work as a military enforcer for Western corporations that demand security for their investments and operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Any further exposure of his communications with major corporations while he was conducting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan might reveal to the American public the degree to which our wars since 9/11 have been driven by corporate goals, particularly those of energy corporations.
A hint of the Petraeus role as corporate protector came in a March 2008 news story by Ben Lando for United Press International, reporting that General Petraeus had made calls to ” large Western corporations” to encourage investment in oil, gas and power production in Iraq. The article quotes Army Col. Steven Boylan, a Petraeus spokesman: “‘Sometimes to get the ball rolling, it takes a senior leader to engage other senior leaders in the corporate world to have a discussion’ on the realities of security in Iraq, Boylan said.”
Lando was unable to get any of the major corporations he tried to contact to comment on the Petraeus calls.
The existence of working relationships between Petraeus and corporations seeking military security to extract wealth from Afghanistan is also hinted at in a “Meet the Press” interview distributed on YouTube in which the general talked about “trillions, with an ‘s’ on the end, trillions of dollars worth of minerals” in Afghanistan that can be exploited only if there is military security in place.
Exposure of the realities of Petraeus’s corporate alliances would be a most important revelation for the American people. This might lay bare the degree to which we have been carried into war by Western corporate power and the ways in which our wars have everything to do with supporting the global .01% and absolutely nothing to do with terrorism, democracy, freedom or patriotism.