One of the more disturbing aspects of American militarism today has been the elevation of generals to the pantheon of heroes. Since 9/11, one U.S. general has excelled all others in hype: David Petraeus, the “Surge” savior of Iraq.
Today, Nick Turse has an outstanding article at TomDispatch.com on Petraeus and his charmed career. Despite his very public marital infidelity, and despite leaking highly classified secrets to his mistress, Petraeus has emerged from scandal as if reborn.
As Turse notes with telling humor, the retired general is more in demand than ever, so busy making money and giving advice to the high and mighty that he has no time to talk to (critical) journalists. Shepherded in style from event to event, looked up to as a sage on nearly every topic facing America today, Petraeus has somehow maintained a Messiah-like aura despite his past sins.
And I truly mean Messiah-like. Turse cites a story about Petraeus that I’d never heard that casts a whole new celestial light on Petraeus and his hype machine. Visiting a wounded soldier in the hospital, a soldier apparently in an irreversible coma, Petraeus reportedly awakened this man by shouting “Currihee,” a Cherokee word and unit battle cry that became famous after HBO’s popular “Band of Brothers” series.
And what immediately popped into my head? Lazarus, come forth!
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ awakened the dead Lazarus. Petraeus awakened a comatose soldier. Petraeus is not just a genius general — He’s the freakin’ Messiah!
America’s continued embrace of Petraeus says much about the American moment. Despite the fact that his “surges,” whether in Iraq or Afghanistan, were not miracles but rather, in their lack of staying power, essentially mistakes, Petraeus is still celebrated as warrior, sage, even saint (despite that obvious scarlet letter).
Is it possible that “saint” Petraeus might be “born again” to become a serious presidential contender in 2020? Heck, if thrice-married Donald Trump can break all the rules of civility to win his party’s nomination, why not the “honorable” Petraeus?
I’m not a prophet, but I’ll issue a warning anyway: Beware of false messiahs in 2020, especially those who wore general’s stars with miracle stories following in their wake.