Piling On The Petraeus Therapy

15 Nov

What’s an antonym for “hagiography”? Pornography? About all I can add to Xeni Jardin’s weariness about the tawdry “revelations” in the Petraeus National Security scandal, that it’s “…too weird and too sprawling and there are too many sets of penises and vaginas involved” is L7’s “Wargasm”.

Shit, that’s still so sex-military-industrial-lobbyist-surveillance state! I’m embarrassed to be the scion of the intelligence community (IC). Actually, I have always rebelled against it. I’ve always had to admit I’m the legitimate afterthought of a man committed to making women miserable who got lucky. I got a name, food, an education – not just that kind – and nothing else. And, really, I should be grateful for His Lordship’s name. I legally dropped it. I want to hide under the covers, because, even though I know few students care, I dread any question about the scandal. I’ve spent my whole life trying to make myself into a good person, to compensate for being the son of a scumbag who worked for the IC, and now both ends of the shaft have pierced my conscience, the sex and the abuse of power. It’s bad enough I have to work for self-important South Korean cubs of a political class free-riding off the teats of this beast that created me. I honestly thought the beast and I had reformed. Now, I realize I’m just a scumbag from a scumbag class living in a scumbag pseudo-country.

Can I tear myself away from self-important psychopaths and fangirls to consider “a boring subject that has nothing to do with sex.” (via Kevin Drum)

The militarization of the CIA raises various questions. For example, if the CIA is psychologically invested in a particular form of warfare–and derives part of its budget from that kind of warfare–can it be trusted to impartially assess the consequences, both positive and negative, direct and indirect?

And then there’s the transparency question. That Post piece noted concerns among some activists that “the CIA now functions as a military force beyond the accountability that the United States has historically demanded of its armed services. The CIA doesn’t officially acknowledge the drone program, let alone provide public explanation about who shoots and who dies, and by what rules.” Indeed, only a few months ago, in compliance with the War Powers Resolution, the Obama administration reported (vaguely) on targeted killings in Somalia and Yemen that had been conducted by the military, but not on those conducted by the CIA.

What’s wrong with this opaqueness? For starters, you’d think that in a democracy the people would be entitled to know how exactly their tax dollars are being used to kill people–especially people in countries we’re not at war with. But there’s also a more pragmatic reason to want more transparency.

These drone strikes are a radical departure from America’s traditional use of violence in pursuit of national security. In contrast to things like invading or bombing a country as part of some well-defined and plausibly finite campaign, our drone strike program is diffuse and, by all appearances, endless. Every month, God knows how many people are killed in the name of the US in any of several countries, and God knows how many of these people were actually militants, or how many of the actual militants were actual threats to the US, or how much hatred the strikes are generating or how much of that hatred will eventually morph into anti-American terrorism. It might behoove us, before we accept this nauseating spectacle as a permanent feature of life, to fill in as many of these blanks as possible. You can’t do that in the dark.

Joshua Foust tries to reassure me about Petraeus the Father Figure, the Guardian who’s working late, not fucking in some bedroom as her husband is off fighting in Vietnam.

Before his sudden resignation this past week, CIA Director David Petraeus was widely rumored to be spending much of his time micromanaging the CIA’s expanded paramilitary operations — poring over drone target lists and pushing for more kinetic action. Right before his sudden departure from the agency, Petraeus had requested a dramatic expansion of its armed drone fleet. It’s safe to assume this wasn’t to get better analysis out of Langley.

One reason for the IC’s shift is that counterterrorism intelligence is relatively easy to collect: much of it can be acquired remotely, through forensic financial investigation and sophisticated surveillance. Moreover, the analysis of this data also lends itself to technologically advanced analysis — the so-called “gonkulators” that ingest enormous amounts of data and automatically generate conclusions and targets of interest.

The rapid adoption of complicated technological systems happened at the same time as the shift toward the expanded counterterrorism mission. Lost in the shuffle was an equal focus on human intelligence (HUMINT) and local expertise. Though vital to some missions, like the covert drone war in Pakistan, even HUMINT has been limited by the focus on immediately exploitable information while deeper understanding of countries and conflict zones has atrophied.

But expertise is more than just collecting interviews with local people (a central tenet of HUMINT). As the scholar Manan Ahmed, a historian of Pakistan at Freie Universitat Berlin noted, “There are […] satellite cameras and listening devices; drones which can hover for days; databases which can track all good Taliban and all bad Taliban. Yet who can decipher this data?”

Developing the specific knowledge to understand why and how certain pieces of information matter — not just to a narrow counterterrorism mission but the full range of U.S. security — is difficult and time consuming. Few in the intelligence community have it, and sometimes policymakers have mistakenly relied on outsiders to fill in the gaps in their knowledge with embarrassing results.

I’m just piling on the therapy now. It’s liberal funhouse mirror time now, as I try to avoid descending into the shirtless details. Michael Hastings has no illusions binding him.

More so than any other leading military figure, Petraeus’ entire philosophy has been based on hiding the truth, on deception, on building a false image. “Perception” is key, he wrote in his 1987 Princeton dissertation: “What policymakers believe to have taken place in any particular case is what matters — more than what actually occurred.”

Yes, it’s not what actually happens that matters — it’s what you can convince the public it thinks happened.

Until this weekend, Petraeus had been incredibly successful in making the public think he was a man of great integrity and honor, among other things. Most of the stories written about him fall under what we hacks in the media like to call “a blow job.” Vanity Fair. The New Yorker. The New York Times. The Washington Post. Time. Newsweek. In total, all the profiles, stage-managed and controlled by the Pentagon’s multimillion dollar public relations apparatus, built up an unrealistic and superhuman myth around the general that, in the end, did not do Petraeus or the public any favors. Ironically, despite all the media fellating, our esteemed and sex-obsessed press somehow missed the actual blow job.

Why does Glenn Greenwald have to be a buzzkill – I thought he was a faggot?

Based on what is known, what is most disturbing about the whole Petraeus scandal is not the sexual activities that it revealed, but the wildly out-of-control government surveillance powers which enabled these revelations. What requires investigation here is not Petraeus and Allen and their various sexual partners but the FBI and the whole sprawling, unaccountable surveillance system that has been built.

Besides, when knuckle-dragging conservatives are willing to get off the military shaft long enough to consider their own civil liberties, that’s just a fun day inside the Beltway.

So, OK, let’s reconsider Benghazi – but put the Obama hatred and conspiracy thinking on a leash.

I want my Daddy figure back! No….no, no. I want to live in a world where soldiers and spooks can ass-fuck bad guys and feel good about the orgasm. But I don’t want to do more harm to the evil in the process than is necessary, or waste innocents in the crossfire. I just want a good fight, pushing limits, making mistakes a bit, and getting aural feedback.

Now, excuse me, I need to fuck my wife.

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