There they go again -- powerful men having illicit affairs while their apologists blame the women. Didn't we just vote to reject these Mad Men mores in last week's election? Apparently not everyone got the message.
These are the facts: Generals David Petraeus and John Allen exchanged torrents of emails with women not their wives. Petraeus had a relationship with his biographer and Allen exchanged voluminous emails with his female friend while both generals were supposed to be waging war and defending our country in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and around the world. The FBI, CIA, Pentagon, House and Senate are all looking into the chain of events to see whether and how national security was breached and military codes of conduct violated.
Both men will pay with their jobs. Both men will be cautionary tales. But what is the moral of their stories? That smart people do stupid things? Yes. That some secret keepers can't keep secrets? Yes. That the "e" in email stands for evidence? Yes. That there is no such thing as a private email on the "world wide web?" Yes. That human beings being human make lamentable mistakes? Yes. That the generals are victims of the women? Absolutely not.
Generals Allen and Petraeus are many things -- but victims they are not. There are victims here -- starting with the spouses and children and the children of the four consenting adults. There may be other victims as well -- such as service members and security personnel sacrificing their lives under the command of men who were not 100% focused on the task at hand. But the generals are not the victims and their enablers need to stop blaming the women.
Young folks call it "slut shaming" -- and Mother Jones reporter Kate Shappard has a pretty nasty compilation of the verbiage directed at Petraeus biographer Paula Broadwell: "Got her claws into him" "dressed in tight clothes" and "shared a story about women wanting to be sexually dominated" to name a few. And we now have General Allen's friend depicted as "flirtatious" and "salacious." Sigh. As if two of the most powerful men in the world were hapless victims to female sexuality. Please.
Didn't we just have this discussion at the 2012 ballot box? Didn't we just reject "binders full of women" and victim shaming in favor of women making our own decisions about our bodies, our families, and our futures? Didn't a majority of voters just elect powerful women to work side by side along men to make the critical decisions about security and economic power? Apparently not everyone got the memo -- because the minute this sex scandal was reported, people regressed without a second thought.
Enough with the Mad Men mores -- the generals are not the victims. If you just voted to defend women's rights, then don't participate in blaming these women for what they and the men did -- hold all four consenting adults Petraeus, Broadwell, Allen, and Kelley equally accountable for the facts. If you just finished thinking, "gee the Republican party needs to modernize its views of women" make sure yours are modernized too.
The larger point here is that Generals Allen and Petraeus held American blood and treasure in their hands. They decided the fate of hundreds of thousands of American service members and security personnel. Were the liaisons deadly distractions that put troops in harm's way or prevented us from doing better in Afghanistan? The public deserves to know -- and deserves new leaders who can give 100 percent focus to bringing our troops home safely honorably and soon.
This is 2012 not 1962. Here's a thought -- David Petraeus and John Allen ought to stand up and make clear that they the generals are not the victims here and that anyone suggesting otherwise should stand down.
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