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With Petraeus gone, “the era of the celebrity general is over”

"Fan fiction": Broadwell's Petraeus biography

Michael Hastings knows a thing or two about contemporary American army generals. His extraordinary article for Rolling Stone, “The Runaway General” [1], documented first-hand the laddish excesses of Stanley McChrystal and his team, and led to the eccentric general resigning as commander in Afghanistan.

What does Hastings have to say of David Petraeus, McChrystal’s predecessor in Afghanistan? Having been scathing in The Operators, the book that emerged from the “Runaway General” saga, of the Petraeus’s spin-doctorish impact, he goes further in a new blog post at BuzzFeed [2].

“More so than any other leading military figure, Petraeus’ entire philosophy has been based on hiding the truth, on deception, on building a false image,” he writes of the man who has resigned from the CIA after revelations of infidelity (the play-away general, perhaps). A slavish media had overlooked the numerous “warning signs about Petreaus’ core dishonesty”, which “have been around for years”.

Until this weekend, Petraeus had been incredibly successful in making the public think he was a man of great integrity and honour, among other things. Most of the stories written about him fall under what we hacks in the media like to call “a blow job.” Vanity Fair. The New Yorker. The New York Times. The Washington Post. Time. Newsweek. In total, all the profiles, stage-managed and controlled by the Pentagon’s multimillion dollar public relations apparatus, built up an unrealistic and superhuman myth around the general that in the end did not do Petraeus or the public any favors. Ironically, despite all the media fellating, our esteemed and sex-obsessed press somehow missed the actual blow job.

Taken together, the records of McChrystal, Petraeus, and William Caldwell, whose “psychological operations” tactics were the subject of another damning Hastings exposé [3] for Rolling Stone last year, tell a compelling story of American military leadership in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The reputations of the men who were intimately involved in these years of foreign misadventure, where we tortured and supported torture, armed death squads, conducted nightly assassinations, killed innocents, and enabled corruption on an unbelievable scale, lie in tatters. McChrystal, Caldwell, and now Petraeus — the era of the celebrity general is over. Everyone is paying for their sins.


Hastings also reviewed for Rolling Stone at the start of this year [4] the biography of Petraeus penned by Paula Broadwell, who was reportedly Petraeus’s paramour. The book was “fan fiction”, he wrote.

The Petraeus-approved All In is such blatant, unabashed propaganda, it’s as if the general has given up pretending there’s a difference between the press and his own public relations team.


Double entendre lovers were already rejoicing at the title of Broadwell’s book: All In.

But head over to the original publisher’s blurb [5] for the book and you’ll find this:

Afforded extensive access by General Petraeus … Broadwell embedded with the general.