Michael Hastings, the journalist who once stepped on General Stanley McChrystal's neck, has written an epic account of "the sins of General David Petraeus" in a new column at BuzzFeed.
The column describes how Petraeus manipulated the media to shape false perceptions and how his downfall has revealed the extent to which his deceptions affected foreign policy and the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hastings calls Petraeus a "world-class bullshit artist" and cites Petraeus' own words from his Princeton dissertation — “Perception” is key, he wrote: "What policymakers believe to have taken place in any particular case is what matters — more than what actually occurred."
Hastings shows how Petraeus used willing journalists to present the Iraqi surge as the key to Iraq's success, downplaying the role of Sunni militias and their Awakening — and how Petraeus betrayed the Sunnis by leaving them to be devoured by the Shiites.
He also explains how Petraeus "manipulated President Obama into trying the same thing in Kabul." The Afghan surge, of course, has been a total failure.
But Petraeus kept his sterling reputation thanks to what Hastings calls the " the media-military industrial complex ." Here's where it really gets interesting.
The media, either for access or straight up cash (laundered through an organization Petraeus started called Center For A New American Security or CNAS), gave favorable reports or used quotes from unnamed sources which painted favorable pictures for one such strategy or another.
(CNAS) put the journalists who were covering those same plans and policies on its payroll. For instance, New York Times Pentagon correspondent Thom Shanker took money and a position from CNAS and still covered the Pentagon; Robert Kaplan, David Cloud from The Los Angeles Times , and others produced a small library’s worth of hagiographies while sharing office space at CNAS with retired generals whom they’d regularly quote in their stories.
But these incestuous relationships were bound to cause trouble. Case in point: biographer-turned-lover Paula Broadwell.
"She was an attractive package to push Petraeus and his counterinsurgency ideas," writes Hastings. "Little Brown editor Geoff Shandler once told me how 'hot' he thought Broadwell was after she came in to meet him at his office, and indicated to me that Broadwell had made him somewhat aroused."
She was "hot" and aggressive too, once describing an angry Afghan villager whose house had been destroyed in a massive massacre as having "a fit of theatrics."
These are the types of writers with which Petraeus surrounded himself. But the type of woman who describes the lamentations of another woman who's lost everything as a "fit of theatrics" is also the type to set up dummy email accounts and send hate mail to another woman she thought of as a threat. And the rest is history.
Unfortunately for Petraeus, the military media and all of its highly placed sources turned against him the moment they smelled blood in the water.
Don't miss: How Broadwell 'Sealed The Deal' With Petraeus >
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