A Plot No Other Than the Devil Could Have Written A Biographer’s Gaffe

17 Nov 2012

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Petraeus and Broadwell

Those who are familiar with my writing must have been expecting a piece on Barack Obama’s victory. I was going to do that when the convolution, complication of the Petraeus Scandal gripped my attention.

Writers spend days and nights developing plots to wow the reader, so they challenged to read exceptional plots. But this particular one must have been written in the devil’s study by himself.

It is a clear case of how not to write a biography. In this case, the biographer fell for her subject, a powerful General, got greedy and resorted to fending other females off. One of the victims, a celebrated socialite, who also played in military circles, wouldn’t be stopped. Rather, she wanted Madam Biographer overthrown by her military friends. Threatening emails are investigated, and what do they see? Love emails between Madam Biographer and her General. This is not your ordinary general. He is the Director of the dreaded CIA. The result is a scandal the gets more complex by the day.

And although it shot the book, the seed of the scandal, from a ranking of 76,792 on Amazon to 111, (and still rising), the question is whether it is the right way to write a biography. How are people supposed to believe what they read? What could be the writer’s joy when the book has caused the loss of his subject’s powerful job.  

Some of the main characters in the plot, I call the “Devil’ Plot or story” are:

General David Petraeus: The popular retired general with a stellar reputation for his command of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, was named head of the CIA in 2011, succeeding Leon Panetta, who became defense secretary. Mr. Petraeus admitted having an affair with Paula Broadwell in an interview with FBI agents.

Paula Broadwell: Ms. Broadwell met Gen. Petraeus six years ago, when she working on a master’s degree project. She now lives in Charlotte, N.C., with her radiologist husband and two children, according to an online biography page associated with her book about Mr. Petraeus, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.”

Jill Kelley: Ms. Kelley, who helped organize social events at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., said she received emails she viewed as harassing, and reported them to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Tampa. She forged close ties with top military and intelligence officials in Tampa, hosting lavish parties at her waterfront mansion and earning accolades as an “honorary ambassador” to the military and an honorary consul general for Korea. Ms. Kelley’s husband, Scott, is a cancer doctor.

John Allen: Gen. Allen, a Marine Corp. four-star general, has been nominated as the new NATO supreme allied commander for Europe, but Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has asked the Senate to put his confirmation on hold. The reason: The FBI uncovered some 30,000 pages of emails between Ms. Kelley and Gen. Allen. It is not clear whether these allegedly inappropriate emails contained discussions of a sexual nature, or classified information.

As Julius, my friend in the US noted, “Sadly, all the characters are married!”
Various online sources have done a beautiful timeline of the Devil’ Story for easy tracking. One goes like this:
2006: Broadwell meets Petraeus at Harvard University, where she is a graduate student. Petraeus is a lieutenant general working on a manual about counterinsurgency and is invited to give a speech about his experiences in Iraq.

2007: The Senate confirms Petraeus as the commanding general for U.S. troops in Iraq.
2008: Broadwell initiates a case study of Petraeus’s leadership. On a visit to Washington, Petraeus invites Broadwell to join him and his team for a run along the Potomac River.

October 2008:  Petraeus is named commander of U.S. Central Command, based at MacDill Air Force Base near Tampa, Fla., where Jill Kelley and her husband attend social events alongside the area’s military elite.

June 30, 2010: The Senate confirms Petraeus as the new commander for war in Afghanistan. Over the next year, Broadwell expands her research of Petraeus into an authorized biography. She makes multiple trips to Afghanistan and is given unprecedented access to Petraeus and his commanders.

Sept. 6, 2011: Petraeus is sworn in as CIA director with his wife, Holly, by his side. Broadwell keeps in contact with Petraeus and is later invited to his office for events, including a meeting with actress Angelina Jolie.

November 2011:  Petraeus begins an extramarital affair with Broadwell, according to retired Army Col. Steve Boylan. Jan. 24, 2012: Broadwell’s biography, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus,” is released.

Jan. 30, 2012:  In an interview with her hometown paper, the Bismarck Tribune, Broadwell describes Petraeus as an inspirational figure who always takes care of his subordinates.
May 2012: Kelley, a Tampa socialite, starts receiving harassing emails. The FBI begins investigating soon after.

Summer 2012:  FBI agents determine that the email trail leads to Broadwell. They come across a private Gmail account using an alias that belongs to Petraeus. Emails between Petraeus and Broadwell lead agents to believe the two are having an affair. FBI Director Robert Mueller is notified. At some point during the investigation, the FBI interviews Petraeus and Broadwell.

July 2012: The affair between Petraeus and Broadwell ends, according to Petraeus’ friend Boylan.
Late Summer 2012:  Attorney General Eric Holder is notified. By this time, the FBI has long since concluded there was no national security breach, but continues investigating whether Petraeus had any role in the harassing emails sent to Kelley.
The week of Oct. 29, 2012: Petraeus and Broadwell are both interviewed for a second time by the FBI. By this point, both have acknowledged the affair to the FBI.

Tuesday, Nov. 6: As Americans cast their ballots on Election Day, the Justice Department informs Director of National Intelligence James Clapper of the investigation. Clapper calls Petraeus and urges him to resign.

Wednesday, Nov. 7: The White House is first notified about the affair involving Petraeus. The retired general turns 60.
Thursday, Nov. 8: President Barack Obama, having returned from Chicago, is told of the affair. Petraeus meets with Obama at the White House and asks to resign.

Friday, Nov. 9: Obama accepts Petraeus’s resignation. News of the resignation breaks before Congress is briefed.
Friday, Nov. 9: Broadwell’s husband emails guests to cancel her 40th birthday party, scheduled for that weekend. By the evening, Broadwell has been publicly identified.

Tuesday, Nov. 13: Pentagon reveals that Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is under internal investigation for thousands of “inappropriate communications” with Kelley, the Florida woman who is a Petraeus friend, over a two-year period. His nomination to be the next commander of U.S. European Command and the commander of NATO forces in Europe is put on hold.

The Pains
Spouses of the principal characters in this case, must be hurting. But because of his illustrious career, his effectiveness and because he was adored by many Gen. Patraeus’ travails which worsen by the day is perhaps the most painful. He is reported to have said that Broadwell’s was his first and only extra-marital affair, but that does little to clean up the mess.

Neither does the rationalization that like almost every powerful man in history, a high sex drive may have come along with Petraeus’ drive for success and power; high testosterone levels are common in military men; nor that it was a case of a biographer idolizing her subject. Psychologists explain that: “talking about yourself is very seductive. It feeds the ego, and it’s very compelling to talk about your experiences to someone who is hungry to hear them. This is one reason why therapy patients so commonly develop erotic transference towards their therapists, and why so much talking and listening happens early in romantic relationships.

Coming soon after the US Presidential elections, the devil’s timing of the story does the four-star general little favour. Just when the media was dying for news (since the election drama over) the General hands them a week’s supply of news and new ads. The media find attempts to the hide the affair equally intriguing. What of revelations that they apparently used a trick, known to terrorists and teen-agers alike, to conceal their email traffic.

Rather than transmitting emails to the other’s inbox, they composed at least some messages and instead of transmitting them, left them in a draft folder or in an electronic “dropbox.” Then the other person could log onto the same account and read the draft emails there. This avoids creating an email trail that is easier to trace.

Worse, the scandal involves questions of national security, politics and even the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead. According to the Wall Street Journal the unfolding drama could also impact more officials from the CIA, FBI and the military.

The home front provides no comfort either: According to reports the fallout from the scandal has engulfed Holly Petraeus, who met her husband in 1973 when he was a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. They were married in July 1974 at the West Point chapel. Some 38 years of marriage!

Women to avoid?
Sad. But the renowned military strategist missed some basic psychological points in falling for a date. According to Dr Shane Perrault, Petraeus must have ignored some fatal mistakes to avoid when selecting a mistress. They include the underestimation of the woman’s ambition; her taste for publicity; and the understimation of her ability to keep a secret. On the last, Shane explains that    If we didn’t learn anything else from the Monica Lewinsky and President Bill Clinton scandal, we should have learned famous, powerful men’s mistresses don’t keep quiet, and even worse they keep evidence.

Maybe Petraeus should have been warned by the title of the biography. Shane cracks that any time a woman writes a book about you and names it “All In”, you have to recognize leaving probably isn’t really an option, especially if she suspects it’s for another mistress.

But, as a friend once said, it all looks like when the devil wants to get a powerful man, he sends a mistress. Powerful men have had sex scandals throughout history.

Tags: Life and Style, Life, Petraeus, Broadwell

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