In Defense of Petraeus and Allen

In Defense of Petraeus and Allen

Reasonable people might suggest that it is outrageous that CIA chief David Petraeus and the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen, would take the time–mere days after the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, and violent demonstrations against U.S. diplomatic missions worldwide–to write letters supporting a distant woman’s attempt to win custody of her child. 

Reasonable people would be wrong.

Everyone knew at the time–because President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and UN Ambassador Susan Rice had told us–that the Benghazi attack had been a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Islam video. Even Petraeus himself had seemed to support that theory. The director of the video would soon be jailed for a year. So why would Petraeus or Allen have needed to worry about the military implications?

President Obama had not called the Benghazi attack an act of terror. (Until he did. Retroactively. Candy Crowley said it was in the transcript. Which it must have been. Because Mitt Romney had objected. And because the White House could not afford a national security scandal right before the presidential election. So there wasn’t one.) Thus the generals would have had time to devote to the domestic disputes of strangers.

Even President Obama himself understood that there were more important things to attend to in the wake of the Benghazi attack, such as fundraising in Las Vegas and campaigning for votes in swing states. So let us not judge Petraeus and Allen harshly for helping the sister of a friend back home, in a month when nineteen U.S. soldiers lost their lives in Afghanistan. The Commander-in-Chief set the tone, and they followed through.