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Petraeus, the affair that launched a thousand letters

MAILBAG

November 13, 2012|By Sara Lessley
  • David Petraeus and biographer Paula Broadwell in July 2011.
David Petraeus and biographer Paula Broadwell in July 2011. (Photo by ISAF via Getty Images )

Readers' comments on the Petraeus affair continue to pour into The Times' letters to the editor inbox, as each day brings another revelation. 

“CIA Director David H. Petraeus resigned Friday after a brief but troubled tenure as head of American’s clandestine spy service, citing his 'extremely poor judgment' for engaging in an extramarital affair,” wrote Ken Dilanian and David S. Cloud in Saturday’s Times.

Initially, most readers focused on the extramarital affair, and that thread continues:

As Jennifer Laity of Palos Verdes Estates writes: “The unraveling of the Petraeus soap opera is like a Greek tragedy…. Time and again we see that the insecurities which lead some men to ruthlessly seek positions of power often lead to relationships of flattery.”

Agrees Jacqueline Kestler of Culver City:  “There's an old saying that applies here: ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.’ ”

But many do believe he should be held to a high standard:

In Arcadia, Robert Ellison responded to The Times’ editorial Tuesday:

“I believe when one achieves a position of responsibility, she/he gives up certain aspects of her or his life…. Once one takes the job, one must become invulnerable. Parenthetically, if he did such a wonderful job in Afghanistan and Iraq, why are we still there?” 

Others are impatient with the issue, the coverage and the resources devoted to the investigation:

As Robert Schwartz of Thousand Oaks observes: “It is an outrageous scandal that former CIA Director Petraeus (a highly decorated retired senior Army general) has publicly confessed to being an imperfect human being. Irrespective of his decades of sterling service to his country, in 21st century America, it is a capital offense to engage in a private heterosexual love affair while still married.

“For the greater benefit of the insatiably prurient news media, the full weight of the federal investigative apparatus must be employed to get to the bottom of this unfathomable treason. We can all sleep better knowing that our fearless FBI is zealously monitoring terroristic jealous girlfriend emails; millions of taxpayer dollars must be rightfully sacrificed upon society's altar of absolute marital purity.”

Tom DeSimone of Palm Springs seconds that notion:

“Doesn’t the FBI have more serious concerns than snooping through personal emails detailing an extramarital affair between two adults?  Granted, it may be a moral lapse in Petraeus’ conduct, but to cause him to step down from a stellar career and to instigate this massive non-news media blitz is inexcusable.  Now they are investigating Gen. [John] Allen for sending a shirtless photo, and it’s being labeled a ‘sex scandal.’

“When is this country going to … get over this puritanical nonsense?

“You might expect this reaction if these men were religious leaders who preach one thing and hypocritically practice another.  But these two generals hold highly respected positions and have served this country well…. To drag them and their families through the media mud is shameful and childish at best.”

Or, as David Pohlod of Oak Park asks about The Times’ story:

“It’s comforting to know that "extramarital affairs are common at all levels of the agency (CIA) and typically are viewed as a security problem only if the officer is involved with a foreigner or someone who poses a risk. I wonder who defines the ‘someone’ who poses a risk?"

Others quibbled with the military assessment:

In Pasadena, Paul Caracciolo advised: “Let's not characterize David Petraeus' resignation as a good soldier falling honorably on his sword. Undeniably, Petraeus deserves our deep gratitude for his years of commendable service. But gratitude shouldn't permit Petraeus' admirers to recast his resignation as honorable.

“Did he resign after first reflecting on his affair? If passion fogged his thinking, when the affair ended four months ago? If self-denial temporarily held sway, when the FBI interviewed him weeks ago? No.

“Petraeus resigned [apparently] only after a fellow general and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper convinced him.”

Agreed Karl Schmid of Los Angeles:  “While the world lauded Petraeus as a great general officer … as a Vietnam vet, I found his policies to be naive. In theory, it sounds great that our soldiers live with and work closely with Afghans and win their hearts and minds, but it is another [thing] to expect 17- to 20-year-olds to do this, given their understanding of Afghan culture and religion and frequent rotations.  Petraeus’ policies assumed our soldiers to be almost superhuman … but in the end he was anything but… We can’t trust our top spy agency to such a person.”

And, of course, some writers couldn’t resist the “Betray-us” and other wordplay:

As Claire Weinberg emailed from Granada Hills: “Did Gen. Petraeus betray us? Should he be pun-ished? His liaison with Broadwell doesn't bode well. Is this Broad well or sick with “jillousy”? Was he wholly involved with this gal while wife Holly was unaware and didn't get the general picture? … We are 'All In' this, write from the start.”

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