Story/Photo By Ken Krayeske • 9:55 PM EST
Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of CentCom, addressed several hundred people at the new Goodwin College building on Riverside Drive in East Hartford, Friday, March 13. No peace protestors or anti-war folks showed up to harangue Petraeus.
Should the United States ever vote for a general as president again, it will be for an affable, humorous four-star servant of empire like David H. Petraeus.
As General David Petraeus cracked jokes about Brezhnev, told war stories about Iraq and spun lies about murderous policies, he received multiple standing ovations from the packed house at Goodwin College's new riverfront building in East Hartford Friday night, March 13.
Among the clapping crowd was a who's who of Connecticut cognoscenti – Congressman Joe Courtney, Ned Lamont, Brad Davis and even former governor and ex-con John G. Rowland. And the business leaders and military personnel who populated the auditorium lapped up Petraeus' public speaking skills.
Petraeus, a four star general, actually saw combat in the invasion of Iraq, and participated in the liberation of Najaf, he said.
"You could feel it, it fell," he said. When that happened, he told a fellow officer, "The good news is, we own Najaf. The bad news is, we own Najaf."
Congressman Courtney didn't see this as a statement of empire.
"I think you're drawing way too much of a conclusion," Courtney said afterwards. "It's a quip, not a policy statement."
Was it? Combined with the rest of Petraeus' remarks, and the context of his visit, I am not so certain. The World Affairs Council of Connecticut, along with weapons manufacturers Northrupp Grumann, United Technologies and Colt Manufacturing sponsored his visit.
Like a good guest, Petraeus made sure to thank the local munitions suppliers for their work in supplying America's troops with the best military hardware in the world. It is clear, then, that Connecticut's economy relies on war.
Like good hosts, the World Affairs Council made sure it was a largely painless visit fro Petraeus. Just as with Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Hartford back in September of 2008, the Council cautiously screened any audience queries that Vietnam War hero and WAC board member Paul "Buddy" Bucha would ask Petraeus in the question and answer session.
Bucha praised Petraeus effusively. "He is a man who walks in grace, a man of impeccable integrity," Bucha said, comparing him to Alexander the Great, particularly because Petraeus oversees an area larger than the breadth Alexander's domain.
Introducing Petraeus, Retired Lt. Gen. William Keys, now the head of Colt Manufacturing, called Petraeus a "soldier's soldier."
"He leads from the front," Keys said. "He has superb intellectual prowess." Keys only compared him to McArthur and Eisenhower, and listed the accolades mass media has heaped on Petraeus.
In his own right, Petraeus not only graduated at the top of his class at West Point, but he holds a doctorate from Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He started the speech with a joke, and dove into policy, which sounded neoliberal.
CentCom is a military operation which stretches across 18 languages, 20 countries, 22 ethnic groups, and 530 million people, Petraeus said. Combined with rich oil reserves, a lack of water and severe poverty, this makes "a potent brew of challenges."
CentCom's four main activities are defeating extremism, preventing aggression, protecting trade routes and stopping nuclear proliferation. Petraeus added to that list stopping counterinsurgency, quashing narcotics trades and securing the single problem set that is Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The ultimate goal in Afghanistan, Petraeus said, was to assure that transnational terrorists are not able to enjoy the base in Afghanistan they had before. That base was the result of blowback, and one wonders what kinds of blowback we are going to face in 30 years for the actions our military takes now.
He talked of networks nested within networks nested within networks to deal with intelligence sharing, engagements, operations and training. He sounded like a corporate leader with his talk of multilateral cooperation between governments and U.S. agencies.
"Countries realize the importance of strengthening their bilateral relationships with the United States," Petraeus said. He quoted President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and even international wanted man Henry Kissinger.
And he seemed to belong in this company of accomplished powerbrokers of global domination who trade in death for profit.
"Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires," he said, warning that America could suffer the same fate if it was not careful. He did not challenge the notion that American involvement there was an exercise in planetary supremacy. But he sold invasion and colonialism to an adoring crowd.
"We need to not be seen as outsiders," he said of American work in Afghanistan. "We need to be seen as good neighbors." We need to promote Afghan solutions to Afghan problems, and we need to be sure we are seen as being there for the people, he said.
"Our soldiers need to live our values and strive to be the first with truth," Petraeus said. "We must reverse the cycle of violence."
He even shared with the audience a secret that was reported in the New York Times: "We had a stand down of special mission elements because of the concern for civilian casualties."
Petraeus glossed over the reality of the mess we helped create in Afghanistan. He was quick to point out the narcotrafficking, but he failed to acknowledge that America's engagement in Afghanistan stretches back to 1979.
He omitted the bombed wedding parties, the friendly fire deaths of Americans, the censoring of journalists, the corruption of Hamid Karzai's government, the secret prisons, and the covered-up massacres.
Then he went even further in discussing how we are dealing with the resurgence of the Taliban and Al Qaida in the federal administered tribal areas of Pakistan, which makes it sound like an Indian reservation in Nebraska.
"There are certain activities we never talk about," Petraeus said. Explosions have killed eight out of the Al Qaida honchos, with Pakistani military forces taking out two more.
I imagine he was talking about the extrajudicial assassinations carried out by unmanned drones. Although it may have been something else, because he did glorify the round-the-clock use of aerial drones to defeat a violent rebellion in Sadr City, Baghdad.
He bragged how soldiers in Nevada, Georgia or even Germany pilot the drones like they are playing video games. Even Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was impressed, he said, with the control room of monitors showing the chat rooms the remote pilots discussed the killing surge on.
The surge in Iraq had worked so successfully that U.S. troops went from 180 attacks a day to less than 15 attacks a day. "That includes violent crime," Petraeus said. He noted, though, that progress is fragile and reversible.
If those numbers are true, that would mean occupied Iraq experiences less violent crime than a city like Los Angeles on any given day. And if that is the case, then it should be no wonder when Americans would clamor for Petraeus to make its cities safe from violence, too.