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Five Reasons Why Petraeus (and Allen and the Shirtless Agent) Are the Ones to Blame

Enough with the slut shaming. Let's take a look at who should really be held responsible.
 
 
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There’s been a lot of slut-shaming about the seductive and irresistible women at the heart of the Petraeus sex scandal. But let’s be honest with ourselves. If anyone is at fault here, it’s Petraeus himself.

1. He built the security apparatus that ensnared him
 
First things first: Petraeus knew what he was getting himself into. As The New Yorker cleverly reminds us, Petraeus bragged about the “diabolical creativity” of the intelligence gathering technology at Langley. 
 
The implications off all these computer programs were far from lost on Petraeus. 
 
“We have to rethink our notions of identity and secrecy,” he said in the same speech.
 
Considering that his clandestine affair was well underway at the time of this declaration, Petraeus’ hubris is clearly even more potent than one might think. But the point is, Petraeus built and presided over arguably the most invasive spying apparatus ever created in the history of humanity. The idea that he could simultaneously carry on a secret affair and think he wouldn’t get caught is just plain stupid--and reason enough to justify his resignation.
 
2. He Broke "The Code"
 
So, check this out. Under U.S. civilian law, there is no punishment for cheating on a partner or spouse. That would be viewed as some type of antiquated relic of an ancient civilization or an oppressive enshrined by some religious regime with a penchant for stoning women. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, however, soldiers (as well as generals) have to take a Vow of Monogamy, and breaking that vow by engaging in an affair could result in being kicked out of the military. Let’s put aside, for a moment, the obvious similarities between this vow in the U.S. military code and the laws of religious regimes that this same military tries to conquer--often citing these types of repressive laws as one of the reasons to justify the war. The point is a civilian like Jill Kelley didn’t break any laws or enshrined codes of conduct, but Petraeus did.
 
3. He May Have Compromised U.S. National Security
 
Now that Petraeus has stepped down as director of the CIA, he’s going to testify in front of congressional intelligence panels about the Benghazi consulate attacks. But the congressional members have already made it clear that what it really wants to know is whether Petraeus compromised U.S. national security by leaking confidential pillow talk.
 
According to the Christian Science Monitor, the panel members want to know, “Did Petraeus’s affair with his biographer, and then the complications of an FBI investigation, ever pose a national security threat or in any way have an impact on the CIA’s response to the Benghazi attack?”
 
Good question. That it’s being asked at all reminds us that Petraeus had a pretty high-level job to be doing and engaging in a clandestine affair wasn’t one of his many job responsibilities. Just the opposite, in fact.
 
4. And Why Was He Meddling in a Custody Battle?
 
One of the many surprising revelations of this story was that Petraeus and General John Allen both took it upon themselves to intervene in the custody battle of Jill Kelley’s sister. The woman, Natalie Khawam, was fighting to get more visitation hours with her four-year-old son, which is no doubt an important personal battle, but certainly not one that merited the attention of both the director of the CIA and the top commander of the armed forces in Afghanistan. For both men, the intrusion is a clear abuse of their political power--not to mention another diversion from their job descriptions.
 
5. The Top-Down Culture
 
Of course, Petraeus wasn’t the only man who broke all the codes of conduct in this saga. We now know that there were at least two other men lustfully participating in this scandal: the text-happy “shirtless agent” and General John Allen with his reported hundreds of “inappropriate” emails. Taken together, we can begin to piece together the picture of a U.S. military/security world rife with illicit and sometimes harassing sexual interactions, a culture that begins at the highest level and trickles its way down. For presiding over that world and setting a four-star example, Petraeus, we salute you.
 
 
It’s a shame that, as McClatchy Newspapers reported, women are concerned that the sex scandal will “hurt their role as advisers to military leaders.” What this story really should do is force the nation to question whether we want old philandering men in control of our national security and armed forces--and many other important governmental post.
 

Laura Gottesdiener is a freelance journalist and the author of "A Dream Foreclosed: Black America and the Fight for a Place to Call Home," forthcoming from Zuccotti Park Press.

 
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