The Hero Myth Part 2: The Legend of David Petraeus

Posted on September 13, 2007


While it seems obvious that most people were not shocked or offended by MoveOn’s full page ad in the New York Times earlier this week, right wing pundits and politicians have focused much of their energy making it into the worst violation of societal norms.

At the outset, many will agree that it was a crappy rim shot joke–the only real crime here is if someone got paid to write such sophomoric crap in lieu of good copy writing. But what has been a real eye-opener has been the virtual deification of Petraeus in some right wing circles. Of the innumerable uses of the word hero, or characterizations there of, with the name Petraeus, here are a notable few:

“The ad, placed by the hard-left paranoiacs at, libeled a genuine American hero while further debasing the political debate in America”–New York Post, 9/12/07

“An American hero comes back to give his objective report as the leader of our troops over there, and he’s slandered, he’s libeled” —Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson, MSNBC online, 9/13/07

“…taking a man who has lived his life with honor an integrity…someone who [accuses] him of doing these things [misrepresenting facts with a political agenda] should burn in hell” South Carolina, Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, Hannity and Colmes, 9/11/07

Any rational person can see why such political operatives would rather talk about the Betraeus affair instead of the hard realities of Iraq Year Six; the most damning testimony on the war has indeed come from David Petraeus, who, even if his manipulative statistics are to be believed, pronounced on live television that soldiers will continue to die at a rate of 70 or so a week in Iraq with no known end in sight and with no clear security gains for the US.

Luckily for free-thinkers on this issue, the Hero debate is also a slam dunk. If Petraeus is a hero, then we will have to expand the definition of the word to include most post-doctoral fellows, skydivers and victims of accidental gun play. For literally, there is nothing else of note in the hum drum story of the technocratic ascendancy of General David Petraeus. Though he has been in the military since the age of twenty or so, he has never actually fought on a battlefield–indeed he spent the majority of that time in the military-industrial complex’s ivory tower–first West Point, then Princeton, then Georgetown. The man may have enough degrees to constitute an isosceles triangle, but has never ever had any mud on his combat boots, so to speak. Indeed, many of the iconographic legends of martyrdom associated with Petraeus were just dumb accidents–shot in the chest by a bumbling soldier in a live fire exercise, then some years later, breaking his pelvis in a skydiving mishap. The man has been a pencil pusher and military professor since day one.

God bless you if you still believe in heroes in this day and age. For those of you who do, those of you who believe that the Americans who invaded Iraq in our name and have caused one of the most horrifying losses of life in the history of American military adventurism, should be honored, rather than pitied, here’s something to think about. The general commanding them there has never been in combat himself. If its any consolation, he has taught alot of classes on killing people.