To begin with, why did President Obama accept the resignation of General David Petraeus?
Pressure? Morality? Fear of political reprisal? Or, does the President really believe what President Eisenhower, J. Edgar Hoover, and President Lyndon Johnson feared back in the 1950s and 1960s before Executive Order 10450 was revoked — precisely on June 4, 1974?
Forget the reasons behind the headlines about Petraeus and Broadwell. Just focus on the headlines themselves for the moment.
General David Petraeus had an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. It started sometime in the Spring of 2012 — not the affair, but the FBI’s monitoring of the General’s e-mail. Apparently several FBI workers suspected that an intimate exchange between Broadwell and Petraeus made reference to corruption. As it turned out, the messages were merely sexual in content and did not compromise the General’s political or military knowledge or position as Director of the CIA.
According to the media, the relationship between Petraeus and Broadwell began in 2010 and continued through 2011 when the General was commanding troops in Afghanistan. When asked why they were monitoring the General’s e-mail, one source in the FBI claimed that the Agency feared that Broadwell had access to Petraeus’ personal e-mail which, among other messages, contained classified information. Obviously, Petraeus’ position as CIA director gave him top security clearance and because he was married, according to that same source in the FBI, it was reason enough to monitor the exchanges between the General and Broadwell.
Which gets us back to Executive Order 10450.
During the Eisenhower administration, when McCarthy and other crazies saw communists behind every tree, forbidden sexual encounters were somehow connected to treason, though we all know forbidden sexual encounters go back to before the Roman Empire, when there were no “official” communists lurking to overthrow Caesar. Nonetheless President Eisenhower signed Order 10450, which prohibited the hiring of federal employees, cabinet members, political advisors who were either homosexual, communists, drug users, or were known to have other sexual perversions. The reason given was that those with the “wrong kind” of sexual preference, left-leaning liberals who perhaps leaned a bit too left, and drug users (not clearly specified as the number of prescription drugs back then were far few than there are today) were potentially vulnerable to blackmail by Soviet intelligence and other foreign enemy agencies.
For many, namely the someone who was in the front line of those crazies and who terrified every American president during his reign, J. Edgar Hoover, applauded the Order and made no secret about how necessary it was given what happened during the Johnson administration.
In 1964, Walter Jenkins, a close advisor to President Johnson was dismissed for his homosexuality. Allegedly caught in a men’s room at a YMCA with a grown man — read that again — a grown-up, consenting adult — Hoover spearheaded the investigation of Jenkins and back then, basically ruined his life.
Never mind that during that time fighting men and women were dying in Vietnam in a war that was “protecting” Asia, from the spread of Chinese communism, which to me, was as immoral — losing those precious lives — as fighting a war that murdered abortion doctors, bombed their clinics, beat gays to death, or penalized people for taking anti-depressants.
Shamefully, it wasn’t until 4 June 1974 that Executive Order 10450 was revoked.
Or was it?
Officially it was.
But the world has changed and now a married man (or woman for that matter) holding a high level top security position is forced to resign because he or she has an extra-marital affair. And our men and women are still dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, gay marriage is still illegal in the majority of states, our economy is unhealthy, people (American) people are starving and homeless, candidates (remember Romney) are still against abortion, rape is God’s will if the victim gets pregnant, etc., etc., etc.
In essence, though Order 10450 is officially revoked, the mind set of that filthy law is still embedded in the hearts and minds of all those who voted for a candidate (Romney) and his cohorts who have expanded that list of potentially dangerous transgressions originally found in 10450.
Should we all assume that added to that archaic order is that anyone in a sensitive government position should be “allowed” to resign (we’ve come a long way) and not just be excoriated and fired for infidelity to a spouse?
When General Petraeus’ privacy was compromised by the FBI and he was “caught,” he wrote a letter to his CIA colleagues (part of which was his letter of resignation) stating, “After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair… Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours. This afternoon, the president graciously accepted my resignation.”
What was so “gracious” about Obama accepting Petraeus’s resignation, a man whose military and strategic brilliance is a fact? Reason enough because he had an affair? What does Obama have to gain in his second term by pandering to those who are still locked into the 1950s and the moral agenda of someone like J. Edgar Hoover? Why didn’t President Obama simply say that the General’s professional talents and abilities override his sexual desires, which, by the way, are none of our business.
After all, this was not a case of sexual harassment, rape, pedophilia, wanton sexual exploits a la Dominique Strauss Kahn that involved prostitution rings, orgies, and violence against women or using government money to finance the affair.
Here’s something else to think about.
This particular transgression for which General Petraeus resigned could actually mean that the former director of the CIA could face a court martial.
It boggles the mind to know that the crimes that could bring on a court martial include a consensual affair, preceded by investigations of those involved, perhaps even going back years to learn if the perpetrators had engaged in extra-marital sex before.
And here’s something else to ponder.
Men and women in the military can be court martialed for the following reasons: drug related charges, crimes of forgery, perjury, maiming, murder, and, this is the best, the rape of a woman other than the soldier’s wife. In other words, raping your wife in the military is still OK.
The CIA and the Department of Defense should spend more time monitoring suspected terrorists, taking more seriously the fact that Iran is close to delivering a nuclear weapon, uncovering enemy cells throughout the country, finding alternatives to keeping suspected terrorists in abhorrent conditions at Guantanamo, bringing to justice those Wall Street titans whose banks were bailed out by the government but who refuse to circulate that money to improve the economy, ridding the streets of the homeless, and helping those who are victims of natural disasters.
Instead, they are spending time and money on monitoring the e-mail of a much-decorated general who has proven himself time and again to be a loyal, brilliant, and caring commander of young men and women fighting senseless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as being credited for developing the “surge” that contained the insurgents in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
There are so many scandals that seem to fall under the radar of media scrutiny, scandals that profoundly affect the lives of our troops fighting overseas or Americans living here who are left to fend for themselves after hurricanes or other natural disasters. Scandals overseas such as below-standard military equipment, or post-injury facilities to treat and rehabilitate our returning soldiers, or disaster agencies and insurance companies that can’t seem to get it together to help people in a time of dire need.
Do we really care that one of the e-mails the FBI found made reference to Petraeus and Broadwell having had “sex under a desk”?
And finally, how much time did the press spend trying to dig up the most unflattering photograph of Mrs. Petraeus and juxtaposing it next to the most appealing picture of Ms. Broadwell?
My hope is that during this last term of President Obama, one of the issues that is raised is to define morality or immorality as it pertains to the challenges we face in the 21st century.