One of the hardest pill to swallow in recent days is that this General a lot of us had held in such high esteem could fall so hard. I don't want to make excuses for his actions. They were point blank, wrong, and as the head of the CIA, he could have been compromised and blackmailed, if the wrong people found out about it. Simply put, anyone in that position needs to be so squeaky clean that they are beyond reproach. So I agree he had to go.
But it is hard to put into words how I feel about this. To do so you'd need to know that I as a junior enlisted soldier, never met the man personally. I never shook his hand. Never heard him speak directly to a group of troops. I heard a lot of scuttlebutt, and there was a great story about my brigade commander at the time having a really unpleasant experience, which at the time was fine by me. A junior enlisted soldier loves to hear that a Colonel can get reamed by a superior officer, even if they never actually see it. I can not speak to Petraeus the man.
I can speak to Petraeus the General. You really need to know where the Army stood in 2005-2006 to understand why, his re-write of FM 3-24, was incredibly important and why his Observations, proved so pivotal. It took a military that was starting to get demoralized by the increasingly grim news. We were losing guys, and we were unable to stop the increasingly gruesome sectarian violence. You'd have to have lost a friend, or been in a convoy that had been hit to really understand just how desperate the soldiers were for any sense of hope. What he told us was that it could happen. That if we used the right methods, methods we weren't really accustomed to, we could pull off a victory.
The Surge was our last chance. Everyone knew it on an instinctual level. You could tell, that there was a lot of pressure riding on all the Officers. One screw up, even at the junior enlisted level could derail the whole thing. Worst of all we knew the media was there, and over the past few years had come to the quite conclusion that they had not only taken sides, they were rooting for us to fail. Whether or not that is actually the case is debatable, but "if it bleeds it leads", and what bleeds more than a war? We were taking unbelievable risks, facing down IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devise), EFPs(Explosively Formed Projectiles), Snipers, complex ambushes, indirect fire, you name it. There was a lot of equipment that came from Iran, and I even found the case for some American Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs), though we didn't find the missles that went with it.
You can't understand, if you're sitting there, and never deployed why, going up and down Preadators and Pluto scared me so much. You can't imagine why the thought of getting blown apart, wasn't something that you might see in a Hollywood movie. It was very real. One hit in the right spot with the right weapon and five men would die. It happened, and that thought would fill us all with dread. As a Medic, the thought of the guys that I had come to love, as brothers, torn apart in such a brutal fashion, and that I would be utterly powerless to do more than slap a bandage on them as they died. . . that kind of knowledge eats at you.
But Petraeus had a plan. What's more is despite the initial push-back by the militias, by the end of August, you really were starting to see a difference. The militias were taking a huge hit, because they had no idea who was informing on them. We had all these elaborate plans to take down leadership of the militias, and when we did, we would strike without warning when least expected, with speed and, ferocity. We were winning and I a soldier on the ground could see the difference.
I watched live in Baghdad the "Petraeus Hearings" I watched the "General Betray-us" adds gleefully rebroadcast by CNN International. I watched the Code Pink fools make total asses of themselves, and there at the center of it all was our General. He was cool as a cucumber, honest, open, forthright, and laid out not only that we were winning, but how we were measuring success, how we were winning the hearts and minds etc. This show was all about him and he preformed beautifully. The was didn't end that day for me, but it was really telling how almost overnight the coverage of the Iraq war almost ceased. No one wanted to cover it anymore, which given our views of the media meant that they too were conceding that we were winning.
The Army loved him. He could do no wrong. Even when he got "demoted" from CENTCOM to take over in Afghanistan we all took this as a ringing endorsement of a man who had become quite literally indefensible. The sad fact is that he seemed to be the only commander who had the ability to defeat this new enemy we faced in the Global War on Terror (or whatever you want to call it). More than that he inspired a lot of people how to be a leader in it.
With the announcement of his resignation and the salacious details, everyone seems to be jumping on the F**k General Petraeus bandwagon. We have people coming out of the woodwork telling all sorts of stories about him, from the mundane to the truly insane. I can't help but think that this has a lot to do with the celebrity status we gave him, but more than that there seems to be a real campaign out there to utterly destroy the man. I can't imagine what further humiliation he can suffer, and to be honest I just don't want to follow this anymore.
All the validity of counterinsurgency will be lost. I have little doubt that we will have to relearn lessons that will be tossed out in the wake of the scandal. Already in Afghanistan we can see the failure of switching from a counterinsurgency to a counter-terrorism campaign. Violence is up, and the Taliban is gaining power and ground. While we seem to be able to drop tons of ordinance in a countries we're not even at war with, potentially creating new enemies down the road, we seem to be totally unable to make a political victory we so desire. I can only shake my head with a great amount of despair, and walk away as one of the Army's true heroes is slowly torn down. I'm not going to have any part in this.