A Pointed Letter to Gen. Petraeus

Exclusive: As retired Gen. and ex-CIA Director David Petraeus was about to speak in New York City last Oct. 30, someone decided to spare the “great man” from impertinent questions, so ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern was barred, arrested and brought to trial, prompting McGovern to ask some questions now in an open letter.

Dear Gen. David Petraeus,

As I prepare to appear in New York City Criminal Court on Wednesday facing charges of “criminal trespass” and “resisting arrest,” it struck me that we have something in common besides being former Army officers and the fact that the charges against me resulted from my trying to attend a speech that you were giving, from which I was barred. As I understand it, you, too, may have to defend yourself in Court someday in the future.

You might call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one who believes there may be some substance to reports last month that Justice Department prosecutors are pressing to indict you for mishandling classified information by giving it to Paula Broadwell, your mistress/biographer.

Gen. David Petraeus in a photo with his biographer/mistress Paula Broadwell. (U.S. government photo)

Gen. David Petraeus in a photo with his biographer/mistress Paula Broadwell. (U.S. government photo)

No doubt, whatever indiscretions were involved there seemed minor at the time, but unauthorized leaks of this sort — to casual acquaintances — were strongly discouraged in the Army in which I served five decades ago. Remember the old saying: “Loose lips sink ships.” There were also rules in the Universal Code of Military Justice for punishing a married soldier who took up with a mistress, an offense for which many a trooper spent time in the brig.

Yet, I don’t imagine there is much sweat on your brow regarding legal consequences for either offense. And you may be correct in assuming that, just as the Army looked the other way about the mistress indiscretion, our timorous Attorney General Eric Holder or his successor will likely do the same on any disclosure of classified information. Some influential members of Congress and various Washington talking heads have already opined that you have suffered enough.

Still, I find myself wondering if it does not bother you to be assigned to the comfortable, “don’t-look-back” compartment for excusing one class of violators, including CIA torturers and reckless investment bankers who were “too big (or well-connected) to jail.” I still want to hold out hope for even-handed, blind justice rather than give up completely on the system of justice in our country.

You may not be surprised to know that, try as I might to feel some empathy for you, Schadenfreude at your misfortune is winning out, since I am convinced that you had a lot to do with other far-more-serious offenses, including aiding and abetting illegal “aggressive war.” And, I suspect you also many have aided and abetted the circumstances that gave rise to the bizarre charges against me.

I refer, of course, to my violent arrest, causing pain of my fractured shoulder, and my jailing in The Tombs, simply because I wanted to hear you speak last fall at New York’s 92nd Street Y and possibly pose a question from the audience.

Why the Police Alert?

No doubt, your acolytes/adjutants have told you how, despite my ticket for admittance, I was denied entry, brutally arrested by the NYPD, handcuffed behind my back, jailed overnight and arraigned the following day. I’m still trying to figure it all out including the enigma as to how it became known that I was coming.

“You’re not welcome here, Ray,” was the greeting I got from Y security as I came in the outer door. The NYPD was prepositioned and ready to pounce.

Were you, your entourage and the Y authorities afraid that during the Q & A I might ask an “impertinent” question of the kind I posed to your patron, promoter and protector, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, during a Q & A after he spoke in Atlanta six-plus years ago?

Speaking of Rumsfeld, you and I know him as your partner in some very serious crimes, relating to the illegal invasion of Iraq and the horrific violence that followed as well as the slaughter of so many innocent people in Afghanistan. For over a decade, I have closely observed your behavior and consider it nothing short of a media miracle that most Americans believe your worst sin to be that of adultery.

Since denial can be a very strong motivation, let me refresh your memory and remind you of the bad companions you fell in with. I am reminded of the egregious ways in which you did Rumsfeld’s bidding winning promotions and richly undeserved fame by condoning the unspeakable torture, for example.

Your third star came when you were dispatched to Iraq in June 2004, committed to carrying out Rumsfeld’s instructions to encourage Shia-on-Sunni torture and other human rights crimes. The all-too-predictable chickens are now coming home to roost from that unconscionably stupid attempt to defeat Sunni opponents of the U.S. occupation through such ignoble means those chickens being what we now call ISIL or ISIS or simply the Islamic State.

What amazes me is that the Teflon is still clinging to you and Rumsfeld, given the bedlam in that entire area today. You’re not even held to account for the performance of the tens of thousands of the Iraqi troops that you crowed about having trained and equipped so well. They dropped their weapons and ran away early last year when the ragtag militants of ISIL attacked.

Back in April 2004 when the graphic photos of torture at Abu Ghraib in Iraq were revealed, Rumsfeld claimed he was shocked, even though the International Red Cross had been complaining about abuses there for more than a year before the revelations.

The Senate Armed Services Committee eventually concluded without dissent, in a major investigative report on Dec. 11, 2008, that Rumsfeld bore direct responsibility for the abuses committed by interrogators at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other military prisons.

The Committee added that the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib “was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own” but grew out of interrogation policies approved by Mr. Rumsfeld and other top officials, who “conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees.”

Four years before the Senate report, in May 2004, Gen. Antonio Taguba came close to revealing precisely that, when he led the Pentagon’s first (and only honest) investigation of the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Rumsfeld promptly fired him. Yet, throughout all this scandal and mayhem, you were maneuvering your way up the high-command ladder without any indication that you were objecting to any of this.

Dangerous Orders

Mid-2004 was a significant watershed for torture in another way. Official messages given to WikiLeaks by Pvt. Chelsea (Bradley) Manning show that FRAGO (Fragmentary Order) 242 of June 2004 went into effect the month you arrived in Iraq to oversee its implementation.

The WikiLeaks documents indicate that you followed Rumsfeld’s order to encourage Shiite and Kurdish commandos to torture suspected Sunni militants. Examining those documents as well as your actions at the time, investigative reporter Gareth Porter saw that as the deeper significance of FRAGO 242 significance somehow missed by your ardent admirers in the “mainstream media.”

Porter, too, believes it was part of the larger Rumsfeld/Petraeus strategy to exploit Shia sectarian hatred of Sunnis in order to suppress the Sunni attacks on U.S. forces. But that strategy had some very negative long-term consequences that we are still encountering.

It inflamed Sunni opposition to the U.S. and its puppet government in Baghdad, and gave rise to the massive sectarian warfare of 2006 in which tens of thousands of civilians mainly Sunnis but many Shiites as well were killed. The violence was so widespread that U.S. field generals, such as Generals John Abizaid and George Casey, and sensible experts on the region, such as former Secretary of State James Baker, urged a new strategy late that year, essentially minimizing the American footprint in Iraq.

Instead, President George W. Bush enlisted your help in doubling down on the U.S. military presence in 2007 with the so-called “surge,” lest he be forced to concede defeat in Iraq before leaving office. You agreed and sacrificed the lives of almost 1,000 more American troops to secure what one might call an “indecent interval” that let Bush get out of Dodge without an outright loss hung around his neck.

As the growth of ISIL/ISIS and the chaos in the area today have made clear, your famous “surge” did little more than achieve a temporary lull (after a lot more killing). It failed to achieve its most significant stated purpose to create space for a political resolution of the Sunni-Shiite civil conflict. It did, however, have one very important benefit. The “surge” got you your fourth star.

On the issue of torture, it seems clear that the straight-arrow Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Peter Pace, did not get the memo for how to rationalize away these disgraceful crimes. For 18 months, he was apparently unaware of FRAGO 242, which became obvious when Pace and Rumsfeld gave widely different answers to a question at a Pentagon press conference on Nov. 29, 2005.

Gen. Peter Pace: It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene, to stop it.

Rumsfeld: But I don’t think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it’s to report it.

Pace: If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, Sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it.

Needless to say, Pace did not get the usual second term as JCS Chairman.

Selective Prosecution

These grave crimes are the ones for which you should stand trial. Personally, I might even be inclined to give you a pass on your marital infidelity and possibly even on sharing classified information with your mistress, if so many true patriots weren’t being prosecuted and imprisoned for sharing evidence of U.S. government misconduct with the American people.

And there is one other sore point regarding your esteemed career. According to a Washington Post report by Joshua Partlow, datelined Kabul, Feb. 11, 2011, you shocked aides to then Afghan President Hamid Karzai when you suggested that Afghan parents had deliberately burned their own children in order to exaggerate claims of civilian casualties from U.S. military action in Konar Province.

Partlow quoted two of Karzai’s aides who met with you in a closed-door session at the presidential palace and found your remarks “deeply offensive.” They said you had dismissed allegations by Karzai’s office and the provincial governor that many civilians had been killed and that you claimed that residents of Konar had invented stories, or even injured their children, to pin the blame on U.S. forces as a ruse to end the operation.

“I was dizzy. My head was spinning,” said one participant, referring to Petraeus’s remarks. “This was shocking. Would any father do this to his children? This is really absurd.”

You declined comment at the time. So I will add my own assessment, borrowing a famous line from another dark chapter of American history: “Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

Yours truly,

Ray McGovern

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an infantry/intelligence officer during the early Sixties, and then served as an analyst and Presidential briefer during a 27-year career with the CIA.

13 comments for “A Pointed Letter to Gen. Petraeus

  1. djleisure
    February 10, 2015 at 11:07

    thank you ray

  2. Ellen Murphy
    February 4, 2015 at 23:33

    Ray, a brilliant letter. Even better, true guts in your actions of honor and personal risk. May there be many to follow your lead. Call the next witness.

  3. Pat
    February 4, 2015 at 20:21

    The questions Ray asks are rhetorical, which I imagine he knows.

    Petraeus isn’t being protected because of who he knows but because of what he knows. Seriously, even if Holder grew a pair, how would he prosecute this case without divulging classified information that neither party wants exposed?

    I always suspected that the real reason Petraeus “got caught” having an affair (as though his superiors didn’t know all along) was that Broadwell started spilling the beans on Benghazi. Less than three weeks before they were outed, Broadwell gave a talk in Denver during which she revealed that the attack on the consulate likely was an effort to free Libyan militia being held prisoner at the CIA annex there.

    Petraeus literally knows where the bodies are buried. That’s why he doesn’t have to worry about doing KP duty with Bernie Madoff.

    I also don’t think Hillary has much to worry about. The public already has forgotten Benghazi, and Justice probably will drop it. Maybe the Republicans will try to get some mileage out of throwing the B-word around and “demanding” the truth, but it will all be for show. They can’t expose the truth without implicating themselves.

  4. Lorraine B.
    February 4, 2015 at 18:41

    Well, well, it seems pretty obvious where the Teflon General gets his cover and orders (not to mention the absurd claims Afghans burning their own children) from. I only wonder if he will also be present at the AIPAC meeting next month, seated next to Bibi himself. What a piece of work. And to think I was once part of his Army, tsk, tsk.

  5. February 4, 2015 at 15:21

    The hard truth is that those in power often do not have justice served to them, instead they are served preferential treatment called favoritism locking in a system of double standards in the justice system. As long as democrats and republicans appoint judges and prosecutors instead of truly independent people (non-party affiliated) the country is operating under an illusion of justice, especially at the highest level of government. Perfection will never be reached in justice, however, we can come much closer than this swamp of political favoritism that inhabits our system.

  6. Jack Miller
    February 4, 2015 at 13:23

    What a great letter! As reported in the Asia Times (9/14/07), when Admiral William Fallon first met Petraeus he crisply noted that the general was “an ass kissing little chicken shit”. Just the type to impress the warmongering Bush/Obama crowd. I take some comfort from the old saying, “When pygmies cast such long shadows, it must be very late in the day.” We can only hope.

  7. Jay B Borne
    February 4, 2015 at 10:09

    Petraeus should take the fall and serve punishment – preferably time – for his myriad violations of international law and basic decency. But he won’t. He still has a few powerful supporters remaining (some old men in the Senate, and Dianne Feinstein who failed to vet him for the CIA post). However, if he stays off the public stage, I would settle for that. But prison would be better. I bet his humiliated wife would enjoy that, too. Doesn’t she still have her government job? Hillary would be suicidal if she allows him to insinuate himself further into her campaign than he already has.

  8. Abe
    February 3, 2015 at 23:54

    Over the past decade, David Petraeus was directly involved at key stages of the destruction of the Iraqi, Syrian and Libyan civil societies.


    In June 2004, Petraeus was promoted to lieutenant general and became the first commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq in June 2004.

    This newly created command had responsibility for training, equipping, and mentoring Iraq’s growing army, police, and other security forces as well as developing Iraq’s security institutions and building associated infrastructure.

    Acclaimed as a counter insurgency expert, Petraeus “built relationships and got cooperation” by training and equipping the Iraqi ministries of Defense and Interior. These units became notorious for their secret prisons, torture centers and mass killings.

    Training and weapons distribution was haphazard, rushed, and did not follow established procedures, particularly from 2004 to 2005 when security training was led by Petraeus. When Iraq’s security forces began to see combat, the results were predictable.

    Petraeus continued to fail upwards. In January 2007, President George W. Bush announced that Petraeus would succeed Gen. George Casey as commanding general of Multi-National Force-Iraq.

    Based on the Petraeus Doctrine that “more terror is better,” the good General implemented a massive security crackdown in Baghdad combined with the infamous “surge” in coalition troop strength.

    Petraeus’ “surge” was credited for a reduction in the death rate for coalition troops. The Iraqi Ministry of Interior reported similar reductions for civilian deaths.

    However, a September 2007 report by an independent military commission headed by General James Jones found that the decrease in violence may have been due to areas being overrun by either Shias or Sunnis. In addition, in August 2007, the International Organization for Migration and the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization indicated that more Iraqis had fled since the troop increase.

    In short, Petraeus’ vaunted counter insurgency strategy to “secure the population” had succeeded by further depopulating and ethnically polarizing Iraq.

    Thus Petraeus was instrumental in advancing the US plan to effectively divide Iraq into three states: a Sunni state across wide swaths of central Iraq and Syria, a Shi’ite state in the south, and a Kurdish state in the north.

    After serving as CENTCOM commander (2008-2010), commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan in Afghanistan (2010-2011), Petraeus was nominated by Obama to become the new Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. On 30 June, 2011, Petraeus was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate 94–0.


    From 2011 up to the present, the situation in Syria manifests “an armed intervention and the illegal violation of the UN Charter by the US and various other countries including most likely Turkey.”

    Shifting from CENTCOM to the International Security Assistance Force to Central Intelligence, Petraeus was well-positioned to coordinate a “new way forward” in the Syrian conflict.

    In August 2011, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), formerly known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq, began sending Syrian and Iraqi ISI guerillas across the border into Syria. Led by Abu Muhammad al-Jawlani, this group began to recruit fighters and establish cells throughout the country.

    Al-Qaeda is viewed by many as a long-term CIA asset. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Al-Qaeda re-boot, rapidly expanded during Petraeus’ tenure as CIA Director (September 6, 2011 – November 9, 2012).

    ISIS allegedly started as a counterguerilla project in Iraq.

    On 23 January 2012, the group announced its formation as Jabhat al-Nusra, more commonly known as al-Nusra Front. Al-Nusra grew rapidly into a capable fighting force with popular support among Syrians opposed to the Assad regime.

    In July 2012, al-Baghdadi released an audio statement online announcing that the group was returning to the former strongholds from which US troops and their Sunni allies had driven them prior to the withdrawal of US troops. He also declared the start of a new offensive in Iraq called Breaking the Walls, which was aimed at freeing members of the group held in Iraqi prisons. Violence in Iraq began to escalate that month.

    Jihadists who had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan were recruited to overthrow Gadhafi in Libya. Weapons had been shipped to these forces through Qatar with American approval. In the spring of 2012, Petraeus made several trips to Turkey to facilitate the supply operation.

    According to multiple anonymous sources, the diplomatic mission in Benghazi was used by CIA as a cover to smuggle weapons from Libya to anti-Assad rebels in Syria.

    Petraeus allegedly was running the CIA ratline, transferring Libyan arms (and possibly Al-Qaeda forces) to southern Turkey so the terrorists could launch attacks into Syria.

    Seymour Hersh cited a source among intelligence officials, saying that the U.S. consulate had no real political role and that its sole mission was to provide cover for the transfer of arms.

    The September 11-12, 2012 attack on this hub of CIA activity allegedly brought end to active US involvement, but did not stop the smuggling of weapons and fighters to Syria.


    When the Rattenkönig resigned, purportedly due to the FBI’s discovery of the Broadwell affair, Petraeus was scheduled to testify under oath the following week before power House and Senate committees regarding the attack on the Benghazi consulate.

    Petraeus’ official actions as CIA Director, not his personal indiscretions, were a political liability to Obama during the 2012 election.

    Petraeus and Obama were spared many pointed questions in November 2012.

    Those questions still need to be asked and answered.

    Imagine the majestic rat king squeaking about how the US as “all in” with Al-Qaeda in Libya, Syria and Iraq. Now that would be a truly “riveting insider’s account.”

    • Jay B Borne
      February 4, 2015 at 10:13

      I don’t see how anyone can still credit Petraeus for the surge in Iraq. It wasn’t even an effective band aid. All it did was boost his career. Now he’s a darling of Wall Street, so I think he is safe for the time being. At least the public has come to know who he really is and, hopefully, will never elect him to any office. But then, Obama was a surprise in 2008, so I guess it could happen.

    February 3, 2015 at 22:20

    Yes, very revealing columns by Ray McGovern and Gareth Porter (2010 link). At the time of the massive torture of Sunnis in Iraq, I seem to recall the blame put on Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia, plus the Badr brigade, the latter also being a militia operating outside the Iraqi government and controlled by Iran.

  10. Gregory Kruse
    February 3, 2015 at 20:19

    This is what comes of propaganda by the corporations undermining civilian control of the military and democracy as a civilian political process.

  11. Dick Chicanery
    February 3, 2015 at 17:05

    petraeus is a typical american. As typical as it gets these days. That goes for most of the men in control of american policy and business, particularly the w. bush-men. They are not real politicians and successful businessmen, they have cheated, lied, back-stabbed and bulshitted their way to their positions; someone else wrote all of their college papers for them. When business and policy do not work as they had hoped, they lose nothing; they are still massively rewarded and remunerated.
    Most people see them on the tv and are fooled by middle-aged men in suits and ties pretending to be important, as if they were actually sober-minded men of importance trying to solve and rectify the terrible troubles of the world. They are really just bully-boy frat-boy date-rapist evangelists for capitalist anarchy. The only thing real and true about them is the depths of their depravity, sociopathy, and immiseration for all except themselves. They are the true “punks”.

  12. Regina Schulte
    February 3, 2015 at 17:05

    Thank you for sharing with the public this open letter to Gen. Petraeus. It is very revealing, to say the least. Given the corruption in leadership in the U.S., particularly with regard to our war-making professionals, I’m sorry to say that I have grown somewhat immune to the sort of unethical/immoral procedures you describe here. And, if I am, it is easy to believe that many other citizens are also getting used to the facts reported. Yet, the treatment you received when forbidden to attend Gen. Petraeus’ talk is shocking. The US. has lost its moral vision. The torch Lady Liberty holds aloft should be extinguished; we are not the nation we once were, and chronic war-making is only going to produce more of the behaviors you described.

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