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La Prensa, Honduras

New Leaders for Superpowers

By Mario Varga Llosa

I am not surprised at the way the war in Afghanistan is going, that the fanatical Taliban carries out more successful terrorist attacks daily. The most disconsolate thing is that on a daily basis so many young soldiers sent by the United States and its allies fall victim to these horrors as they defend ideas and values some in the military hierarchy do not seem to take seriously.

Translated By Jane Esi Hagan

24 November 2012

Edited by Kyrstie Lane

Honduras - La Prensa - Original Article (Spanish)

The CIA, FBI, and the highest levels of the military hierarchy are only now beginning to discover what every reader of literature has always known: a jealous lover is to be feared and is capable of causing great catastrophes.

To date, these are the known facts surrounding the extraordinary scandal currently ensnaring the most powerful country on earth. Jill Kelley, a stunning brunette and wife of a respected Tampa, Florida cardiologist, started receiving anonymous email messages a few months ago. The messages were threatening, accusing her of flirting with General David H. Petraeus, a highly decorated soldier, chief of the CIA, distinguished and much admired throughout the country.

One of the messages accused Ms. Kelley of having “touched” the general under a table. Alarmed at this harassment, Ms. Kelley alerted an FBI agent who was her friend and who, it just so happens, would often send her Internet pictures of himself bare-chested and showing off his biceps. The agent informed his superiors and the FBI initiated an investigation that resulted in the discovery of Ms. Paula Broadwell, a doctor’s wife, mother of two sons, former beauty queen, West Point Military Academy sports champion and author of an impassioned biography of General Petraeus, as the originator of the anonymous email messages.

Upon questioning, Paula admitted the deed and handed over her computer to FBI investigators, who subsequently discovered classified documents relating to national security in addition to several email messages from General Petraeus to Ms. Broadwell that - according to reports - were “highly sexual.”

Broadwell denied that she had received the classified documents from the CIA chief, but she admitted that they had been lovers. The investigators interviewed the general, who, while admitting the affair, also categorically denied having supplied the biographer with confidential information. When General Petraeus was chief of NATO forces in Afghanistan, Paula Broadwell traveled there six times to document information for his biography.

Although no wrongdoing has been proven regarding the execution of his duties, General Petraeus resigned his position as a result of his relationship with Paula Broadwell. President Obama accepted his resignation, and in the space of one day one of the most impressive figures in the United States and an icon for military officials and recruits alike had been discredited, becoming fair game for the muckraking press, with the looming possibility of impending conjugal problems to resolve.

This is only one of the story’s many parts, which digresses from the original source, Ms. Jill Kelley, recipient of the aggressive anonymous messages from the jealous lover. When FBI investigators interviewed her, Jill agreed to give them access to her computer, where they discovered a treasure trove of sexual correspondence. Tens of thousands of racy email messages were sent to Jill from none other than General John Allen, who had succeeded General Petraeus as Commander-in-Chief of military forces in Afghanistan a year-and-a-half ago, and who had been nominated as the next NATO Supreme Allied Commander, a move that has since been put on hold following the scandal. The Defense Minister, who is investigating the messages, provisionally qualifies them as “improper and inappropriate.”

General John Allen, a highly decorated Marine and veteran of many wars, has denied ever having an adulterous relationship with Ms. Kelley. His friends and defenders allege that during the Internet exchange the general only went so far as verbal mischief. This, if true, only makes matters worse and shows that while it may not have been adultery, it is without doubt quite scandalous. According to The New York Times, between 20 and 30 thousand pages of text from General Allen was retrieved from Jill Kelley’s computer.

I have spent my life writing and I know the time it takes to write a page. To write anything between 20 and 30 thousand pages General Allen would have had to spend several hours each day of the 16 months he spent in Afghanistan, even if he had written with the legendary speed attributed to Alexandre Dumas. And this he did just to kill time and elicit laughs and perhaps a few blushes from a woman he did not even love! I am not surprised at the way the war in Afghanistan is going, that the fanatical Taliban carries out more successful terrorist attacks daily. The most disconsolate thing is that on a daily basis so many young soldiers sent by the United States and its allies fall victim to these horrors as they defend ideas and values some in the military hierarchy do not seem to take seriously.

I have always been surprised at how public figures in traditionally protestant and puritanical countries such as England and the United States are expected to not only fulfill their official duties but to also be beacons of virtue in their private lives. Scandals such as the one involving President Clinton and the infamous White House intern, the fallout of which almost led to his ouster, would be close to impossible in the majority of European countries, not to mention Latin America, where there is often a clear demarcation between the private lives and public actions of politicians.

Unless the indiscretion and excesses of the personality directly impact the official function, privacy is respected, and presidents, ministers, parliamentarians, generals, and mayors flaunt their lovers with élan, since to certain chauvinistic publics exhibitionism of this kind, instead of discrediting the involved parties, enhances their image. But now, thanks to revolutionary audiovisual and electronic advancements, privacy does not exist. In any case privacy is not respected, and breaching privacy is a sport that is practiced daily by communications media for an insatiable public that demands it.

Since this scandal erupted, television, radio, newspapers, and social networks have exploited the events in an incessant and frenetic manner that is literally nauseating. This is the civilized age of the crude and hard, [in which] malice is spewed by the bucketful of course, but also in which, to be honest, the system is submitted to a merciless self-critique, implacable, revealing the fragility that crouches behind its crushing power, and how human miseries and frailties always find ways to harden into strongholds that would actually work better as defenses against those very frailties.

What conclusions can we draw from this story? That it is the story of the moment that many will find of enormous public interest. There will be books, various publication features, television programs and movies that will cash in on it. The biography of General David H. Petraeus is certain to make the bestseller lists, potentially enriching Paula Broadwell.

No doubt Jill Kelley will be tempted by some opportunistic editor to write her own version of the story, which she will not even have to author herself, since it will likely be penned by some professional who will embellish the story with the requisite spice that will render it even more racy and scandalous than it actually was. If such a book becomes a bestseller, it will enable Mr. and Mrs. Kelley to pay off their debts, since one thing that has come to light as a result of this scandal is the fact that the couple is close to financial ruin.

General John Allen will probably have to forgo the nomination that would have made him the NATO Supreme Allied Commander. His case does not sadden me one bit, and I do not believe that in the grand scheme the military forces of the world will fare too badly without him. On the other hand, the case of General Petraeus is genuinely tragic. He has been a great soldier, with a history of impeccable service who achieved the seemingly impossible by turning around the war in Iraq at the last minute, enabling the United States to leave that diabolical trap gracefully, if not victoriously.

An “error of judgment” that lasted four months has drowned him in disgrace. If he is remembered in the future, it will be neither for all the wars in which he risked his life, nor the wounds he received, nor the lives he helped save, but for a furtive sexual fling.



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