Sunday 23 October 2016

Kim Bielenberg: Carry on up the Pentagon! Why General ‘Betraeus’ should have stayed on

Published 13/11/2012 | 12:43

Jill Kelley
Jill Kelley

IT is not so much a love triangle as an all-embracing farcical romantic quadrangle involving the military’s top brass that could be dubbed "Carry On Up the Pentagon".

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The sex scandal that has forced the resignation of spy chief General Petraeus has taken yet another twist with the involvement of his successor as US commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen.

The bauld General Allen is reportedly under investigation for what are teasingly termed “alleged inappropriate communications’’ with Jill Kelley.

She was the woman whose complaints to the FBI about emails from Paula Broadwell blew the lid on the latter’s affair with Petraeus.

Kelley, who is herself close to Petraeus, is said to have received threatening emails from Broadwell, who was Petraeus’ biographer and lover. Some have dismissed the emails as not so much threatening as “kind of cat-fight stuff”.

With the career of one general in tatters, and another under threat, should public figures really be above reproach when it comes to their marital affairs?

Amid all the hullabaloo over General Petraeus’ dalliance, the American public is probably less concerned about the threat to national security than the fact that Ms Broadwell called the soldier “peaches”, and they had sex under a desk.

Think of all the damage that could be done to top secret files, never mind the office furniture.

Really Mrs Petraeus should have smelled a rat when Ms Broadwell wrote a biography of the general with the title “All In”.

A second volume of this biography, if it is ever written, would have the potential to be a greater page turner, with more spicy detail than Ireland’s latest literary masterpiece, Twink Unzipped.

If the Americans start to follow the British example and insist that public figures are purely monogamous they are in danger of picking their leaders from a shallow pool of talent.

By these prudish rules, in the past there would have been no place for such rampant womanisers as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who led America out of the Great Depression, John F Kennedy, and Bill Clinton.

The argument could be made that a spy chief like Petraeus faced the potential of blackmail through his indiscretions.

But the Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen rightly dismissed the necessity of his resignation as “sexual McCarthyism’’.

Cohen suggests that his country should follow the French who cannot be blackmailed on account of a mere saucy fling with a paramour.

According to a well-known story in diplomatic circles, during the Cold War a senior French official was approached by a Soviet agent and shown pictures of himself having sex with a woman who did not appear to be his wife.

The unruffled Frenchman cheerfully responded to this blackmail threat: “I’ll take this one and that one, and yes, that other one is very nice.” That was the end of the matter.

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