Why We Don’t Need Petraeus

28 Mar

James SteeleThe capacity for Americans to forgive its representatives who abuse power looks like manipulation especially when a second-rate pundit like Mike Barnacle asks, why David Petraeus resigned from the Central Intelligence Agency. Umm, because of poor judgment!

Can women afford to forgive the head of the CIA for not being able to know who to grant or not grant access to information?

Petraeus’ personal life is his business, and whether those nearest and dearest to him can forgive him is their business.

But here’s what I have trouble forgiving: By so flagrantly violating the necessary boundary between a powerful married male and less powerful married female subordinate, the two of them have injured the idea that men and women can work closely together in purely platonic relationships.

They’ve given credence to the idea that a senior man and junior woman who are collaborating on a book, a project, a speech – whatever — will eventually tumble into the sack. This issue plagues all workplaces, and does a disservice to women who have much more trouble than men finding mentors to help them up the corporate ladder.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and author of “Lean In,” an advice book for working women, often talks about the importance of men and women being able to work collaboratively without fear.

“Sixty-four percent of managers in the U.S. say they’re scared to be alone in a room with a woman,” Sandberg said recently during an appearance at the Writers Guild Theater in Los Angeles. “Mentoring is all about being alone in a room with a woman.”

Petraeus didn’t just let down his wife and family. He let down all the women who are coming up in the ranks too, women who deal with unfair stereotypes and bias about their ability to work with men. He owes them an apology too.

I guess that’s not important, though, because he’s a (male) leader. And, we shouldn’t question the motives of such an amazingly talented man. How talented is Petraeus? He picked James Steele to ruin Iraq.

MAGGIE O’KANE [multimedia editor and director of investigations at The Guardian newspaper and executive producer of the new BBC documentary, James Steele: America’s Mystery Man in Iraq]: Well, in terms of the relationship with Petraeus, the main link between Colonel Steele and General Petraeus was Colonel James Coffman, who was the direct link in the chain of command between Petraeus and special police commandos. Colonel Coffman was appointed as the special adviser to the special—to the police commandos, reporting directly to General Petraeus. He described himself in the Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper, when he was interviewed, as General Petraeus’s eyes and ears on the ground in Iraq.

So, from our interviews with people who worked within the special police commandos who observed Steele and Coffman, one said to me, “Steele and Coffman were never apart. In the 40 or 50 times I saw them inside the detention centers, I never saw them separated. They came in separate cars every morning and left separately, but worked hand in hand.” So there was clearly a close working relationship between Steele and Coffman, who was reporting to General Petraeus.

But we understand that Steele was sent to Iraq by Donald Rumsfeld, and we understand that because Donald Rumsfeld actually writes to George Bush in September 2004 and tells him about sending James Steele to Iraq.

University of Southern California’s president, C.L. Max Nikias, is absolutely correct: “‘In our post 9/11 world General Petraeus’s influence on our military is unmatched and his contributions to the CIA are far-reaching,’ Nikias said.”

And, that’s why Americans should give David Petraeus more time with his family, and less access to Washington’s halls of power.

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