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El Universal, Mexico

From Caligula to Berlusconi,
and Now, Petraeus

By Ricardo Trotti

Translated By Krystal Miller

18 November 2012

Edited by Lau­ren Gerken



Mexico - El Universal - Original Article (Spanish)

Sex scandals have always existed, from the incestuous Caligula to the perverted Berlusconi to the unfaithful Clinton to the awkward Petraeus. But now, they have more of an impact, as they are easily discovered and great awareness now exists about misconduct which undermines the credibility of institutions.

Therefore, High Gen. David Petraeus’ resignation at the guidance of the CIA was a good thing. An FBI investigation discovered that he had maintained an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, a young retired soldier. That same investigation revealed a plot which not even Hollywood could match, in which Broadwell was harassing Petraeus because she was jealous that he may have been with another woman, Jill Kelley. Kelley, in turn, was engaging in “inappropriate” communications with a Gen. John Allen, who, we found out this week, is responsible for the withdrawal of 68 thousand troops from Afghanistan by 2014.

This past Wednesday, Barack Obama explained that this twisted love quadrangle has not violated national security, despite the FBI’s continued investigation of more than 30,000 pages of emails between the generals and the women.

Regardless of whether Broadwell had privileged access to classified information, which could have jeopardized national security, or whether the military code that punishes adulterers with a year in prison applies in this instance, it has become clear that the armed forces are more efficient in dealing with the enemy on the battlefields than in internal affairs. As a result of the scandal that broke out between members of the U.S. Secret Service and prostitutes in Cartagena, Minister of Defense Leon Panetta has requested a review of the instructions on ethics and good behavior received by officers.

Some countries have noted with incredulity that an extramarital affair could destroy Petraeus’ career, just as affairs have destroyed the careers of many American politicians. But this “zero tolerance” policy is based on who is expected to choose and accept public service and on who will assume responsibility of respecting the standards of honesty and integrity, acknowledging that individual behavior is rarely divided between public and private.

Hence, the merit of some questions: Could an official be honest or appear to be honest if he’s caught stealing a watch from a store? Or driving drunk or not paying taxes? Or having an extramarital affair or sexually harassing someone?

The personal conduct of officials has an impact on the way the public views them. Thus, anything improper, morally or legally, undermines the credibility of the work and the departments to which the officials are assigned, as did Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi and France’s Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Panetta made the correct decision to encourage a greater moral code among military leaders. However, the risk is that the Petraeus scandal would bury an even greater shame, which will remain unresolved. The Pentagon established that in a year, there are 3,192 abuse allegations by the armed forces, and that one of three military women have been sexually assaulted. The issue of infidelity and probable cracks in national security seems much more serious if one considers that women represent 14.5 percent of a force of 1.4 million.



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