David Petraeus: A Gold Medal Winner in Spin

Petraeus mufti

W.J. Astore

I’ve been watching the Winter Olympics on TV, and the color commentators for NBC are typically athletes who’ve earned gold medals in the past, like Tara Lipinski in figure skating or Bode Miller in skiing.  Why is it, then, when NBC and other networks seek expert “color” commentary on America’s wars, they turn to retired generals like David Petraeus, who’ve won nothing?

I’m not dissing Petraeus here.  He himself admitted his “gains” in Iraq as well as Afghanistan were both “fragile and reversible.”  And so they proved.  The U.S. fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and lost thousands of troops and trillions of dollars for gains that truly were ephemeral.  Despite this disastrous and tragic reality, Petraeus remains the sage on the stage, the go-to guy for analysis of our never-ending wars on PBS, Fox News, and elsewhere.

But then I got to thinking.  Sure, Petraeus hasn’t won any wars.  But he’s earned a gold medal in public relations.  In spin.  In 2007 he spun the Surge as a major U.S. victory in Iraq.  (Temporary stability, bought at such a high price, did indeed prove fragile and reversible.)  A later surge in Afghanistan didn’t prove as spinnable, but in a strange way his adulterous affair, a personal failure, came to obscure his military one.  Now he regularly appears as a pundit, the voice of reason and experience, spinning the Afghan war, for example, as winnable as long as Americans continue to give the Pentagon a blank check to wage generational war.

In facilitating the growth of the national security state and ensuring it never takes the blame for its military defeats, Petraeus has indeed excelled in the eyes of those who matter in Washington.  He’s no Tara Lipinski on ice or Bode Miller on snow, but when it comes to spinning wars and gliding over the facts, he takes the gold.

12 thoughts on “David Petraeus: A Gold Medal Winner in Spin

  1. And some Ivy League university gave this guy a ph.D for plagiarizing those old field manuals we had to read back at Coronado Island in the late 1960s: the ones instructing us on how to lose at counter-insurgency in Southeast Asia, just as the French had before us? Personally, I see nothing but:

    A Badly Managed Perception

    See the boot-licking, ass-kissing, chicken-shit Dave
    As he spins like a top on the table
    Never mentioning troops that he sent to their grave
    As the price of his own career fable.

    Like the basketball player of comedy fame
    Who would dribble before he could shoot
    He had Kagan and Keene conjure up a new name
    For his mission-creep plan, old and moot.

    Like those old books on COIN that we studied before
    Back in nineteen and sixty and nine
    Where we learned why the French had done badly at war
    ‘Cause they thought to do Wrong was just fine.

    But to Dave and his General-kind, Wrong’s OK.
    If you just do it more it will “work.”
    Which explains why they cannot tell nighttime from day
    And pin medals galore on the jerk.

    Then he fell for the lure of the camel-toe cleft.
    Now he sells on TV his hot air:
    “To prevent the return of the ones who’ve not left,
    We’ll assure that they’re always still there.”

    So please, Dave, betray us with bullshit and spin
    And collect some more loot for your lying.
    You have proven that losing’s the best way to “win,”
    (If you don’t mind a “few” thousands dying).

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2018


  2. Gen Petraeus and Max Boot are a lethal combination..
    And the other day, wanting to watch Book TV, turned on the TV and saw Max Boot and the General!!…. had to switch the channel….did not think I would learn anything…. wonder if Mr Boot was going to say, how USA could have won the war in Vietnam!!


  3. This week we had some Generals all decked out in their ribbons and medals warning us about the grave cyber threats to our 2018 elections. The talking heads on cable blabbered on and on about Russian trolls, fake news. (Lions and tigers and bears, oh my) I guess intelligent Americans will be turned into non compos mentis zombies from reading Russian Trolls on facebook and twitter.

    The next step for the Organs of State Security is to censor internet. Our simple minds cannot filter out facts from fake news, we must be protected from Russian Trolls. The internet providers will be happy to go along with it as long as they can maintain virtually monopolies and make a profit

    Side bar > https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/14/muslim-blogger-hoda-katebi-chicago-wgn-news
    ‘You don’t sound American’, TV host tells Muslim blogger from Oklahoma.
    An Iranian American Muslim fashion blogger was told on a US television network “you don’t sound like an American” after she criticised US policy in the Middle East.

    Hoda Katebi, 23, was invited onto Chicago’s WGN News morning show to speak about her book, Tehran Streetstyle, but was caught off guard when one of the presenters asked her about nuclear weapons.

    But one of the presenters made a sharp turn to geopolitics, and asked: “Let’s talk about nuclear weapons. Some of our viewers may say we cannot trust Iran. What are your thoughts?”

    Katebi responded: “I don’t think we can trust this country [the US]. When we see the legacy of this country and the violence that it has not only created but also created the capacity for, a lot of these weapons in the Middle East are completely brought in by the Unites States.”

    This exchange prompted the presenter to tell Katebi: “A lot of Americans might take offence to that. You’re an American, you don’t sound like an American when you say [this] … you know what I mean.”
    You’re an American, you don’t sound like an American when you say [this] … you know what I mean.”

    This is a powerful statement. Americans are not supposed to question the Imperialist Foreign Policy of the AmeriKa. Toss that idea of Freedom of Speech.
    The Empire strikes back through it’s stooges in the Media at any dissent from the concept of American Exceptionalism.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What does an “American” sound like? Very dangerous, this question. And I thought we had freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly … and liberty to express ourselves. I suppose we do — as long as you sound like an American.


  4. I should add that Petraeus is more symptom than cause. He allowed himself to become a symbol of “victory” with the Surge. He knew it was a sham, hence all the talk of gains being fragile and reversible.

    I don’t recall Caesar using the words “fragile” and “reversible” to describe his conquest of Gaul!


  5. Flaccid Phallic Fulminations

    Sixteen years and countring
    With no result in view
    Another “Friedman Unit”
    In total, thirty-two.

    Just six more months will do it:
    Around the neareast bend,
    And then into the tunnel,
    With no light at the end.

    Our “gains” we will call “fragile”
    And easy to “reverse.”
    So why then do we need them?
    To loot the public purse!

    It’s just about the money.
    It always was and is.
    So call on Dave Petraeus
    Who’ll make sure he gets his.

    Some bullshit noise he’ll utter,
    Some sounds that seem like words,
    Which if you try to parse them
    Will smell like little turds.

    Dave’s good at euphemisms.
    He practiced night and day.
    Pure wind he calls “reflection,”
    And “war” means making hay.

    So Dave had an opinion:
    What Keane and Kagan “thought.”
    They tried to “surge,” but dribbled:
    Flaccid phallic frauds, the lot.

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2018


      1. And another British writer…..
        –a historical letter from Afghanistan (extract):

        . . .”Every influence, every motive, that provokes the spirit of murder among men, impels these mountaineers to deeds of treachery and violence. The strong aboriginal propensity to kill, inherent in all human beings, has in these valleys been preserved in unexampled strength and vigour.

        “That religion, which above all others was founded and propagated by the sword — the tenets and principles of which are instinct with incentives to slaughter and which in three continents has produced fighting breeds of men — stimulates a wild and merciless fanaticism. The love of plunder, always a characteristic of hill tribes, is fostered by the spectacle of opulence and luxury which, to their eyes, the cities and plains of the south display.

        “A code of honour not less punctilious than that of old Spain, is supported by vendettas as implacable as those of Corsica. . . .. Then the Mullah will raise his voice and remind them of other days when the sons of the prophet drove the infidel from the plains of India, and ruled at Delhi, as wide an Empire as the Kafir holds to-day: when the true religion strode proudly through the earth and scorned to lie hidden and neglected among the hills: when mighty princes ruled in Baghdad, and all men knew that there was one God, and Mahomet was His prophet.

        “And the young men hearing these things will grip their Martinis [British rifles], and pray to Allah, that one day He will bring some Sahib[Brit] — best prize of all — across their line of sight at seven hundred yards so that, at least, they may strike a blow for insulted and threatened Islam.” — Winston Churchill, journalist, 1897, aged 23


  6. Petraeus got his PR start in 2004. It was during a hard-fought presidential campaign between Bush-43 and Kerry, and the latter had made some disparaging remarks about Pentagon operations in Iraq. Lieutenant General Petraeus was then in charge of training Iraqi troops (we know how well that turned out) and entered the political campaign on Bush’s side, thus ensuring a bright future.
    Washington Post
    Battling for Iraq
    By David H. Petraeus
    Sunday, September 26, 2004; Page B07
    BAGHDAD — Helping organize, train and equip nearly a quarter-million of Iraq’s security forces is a daunting task. Doing so in the middle of a tough insurgency increases the challenge enormously, making the mission akin to repairing an aircraft while in flight — and while being shot at. Now, however, 18 months after entering Iraq, I see tangible progress. Iraqi security elements are being rebuilt from the ground up. . . Iraq’s security forces are, however, developing steadily and they are in the fight. Momentum has gathered in recent months. With strong Iraqi leaders out front and with continued coalition — and now NATO — support, this trend will continue. It will not be easy, but few worthwhile things are.


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