When Kabul swiftly fell to the Taliban in recent weeks, war hawks emerged from all corners of the U.S. government and mainstream media to criticize the Biden administration’s decision to withdraw from America’s longest war. One such figure is General David Petraeus, the U.S. military official who commanded all forces in Iraq and later in Afghanistan during his 37-year military career before being confirmed as CIA director in 2011. The general was forced to resign in disgrace in 2012 after it was revealed that he shared highly classified information with his biographer–a journalist with whom he was having an extramarital affair.
Despite having to resign in ignominy, Petraeus has continually been handed a megaphone by some of the most popular U.S. publications and shows, including The New Yorker, which recently published a somewhat fawning interview with the general regarding Afghanistan in which the author refers to Patraeus as “the most famous and revered member of the armed forces during the war on terror and the war in Iraq.” Not so, says West Point graduate and historian Maj. Danny Sjursen, who fought in both Afghanistan and Iraq under Patraeus’ command after the September 11 attacks. The author of “A True History of the United States,” Sjursen described Patraeus’ words in the interview as “a cartoonish depiction of himself by himself” and derided the general’s strategies in both countries as failures, adding that the vast majority of troops supported withdrawal from Afghanistan.
On this week’s edition of “Scheer Intelligence,” Sjursen joins Robert Scheer to discuss what the retired major calls the fully debunked myths at the heart of Petreaus’ arguments about Afghanistan. Sjursen thoughtfully goes through each of the disgraced general’s arguments–all of which he views as fallacious at best. He also criticizes the revolving door between the Pentagon and the defense sector, in addition to other obscenely profitable industries, that allow former military officials to gain money and status despite having led the country through disastrously failed wars.
“The former generals who are now in the military industrial complex are the same people who are appointed to give advice to the president [or] are unofficially giving public advice on CNN,” says Sjursen. “The whole system locks out most people and [allows] these same insiders to control the narrative even after they’re out of uniform.”
The Eisenhower Media Network director and a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy (CIP) highlights the double standard with which generals like Petraeus and whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning are judged: The general not only seems to have gotten off relatively scot-free for his actions, but has also gone on to have a lucrative career in finance and punditry, whereas Manning has served time in prison more than once. Sjursen and Scheer also speak at length about the folly of the 20-year war in Afghanistan and how the U.S. empire’s insatiable militarism is the one thing many in leaders and pundits refuse to acknowledge as the source of the occupation. Listen to the full discussion between Sjursen and Scheer as they tackle one of the biggest U.S. foreign policy blunders of the 21st century.
Natasha Hakimi Zapata