Petraeus: Sex Under the Desk with Broadwell Less Dangerous than Intercourse with the Kagans

Rajiv Chandrasekaran has a fascinating story about how the NeoCons–in the form of Fred and Kim Kagan–kept control of the strings on our Generals in (Chandrasekaran’s story is limited to) Afghanistan. The Kagans effectively moved to Afghanistan and served as private, high level advisors for Petraeus, all funded by the defense contractors funding AEI and Institute for the Study of War.

The four-star general made the Kagans de facto senior advisers, a status that afforded them numerous private meetings in his office, priority travel across the war zone and the ability to read highly secretive transcripts of intercepted Taliban communications, according to current and former senior U.S. military and civilian officials who served in the headquarters at the time.

The Kagans used those privileges to advocate substantive changes in the U.S. war plan, including a harder-edged approach than some U.S. officers advocated in combating the Haqqani network, a Taliban faction in eastern Afghanistan, the officials said.

The pro-bono relationship, which is now being scrutinized by military lawyers, yielded valuable benefits for the general and the couple. The Kagans’ proximity to Petraeus, the country’s most-famous living general, provided an incentive for defense contractors to contribute to Kim Kagan’s think tank. For Petraeus, embracing two respected national security analysts in GOP circles helped to shore up support for the war among Republican leaders on Capitol Hill. [my emphasis]

Perhaps more frightening than that is the way the Kagans threatened Stanley McChrystal to be allowed to check his work in Afghanistan.

The Kagans should have been thrilled, but they soon grew concerned. They thought McChrystal’s headquarters was not providing enough information to them about the state of the war. The military began to slow-roll their requests to visit Afghanistan. In early 2010, they wrote an e-mail to McChrystal, copying Petraeus, that said they “were coming to the conclusion that the campaign was off track and that it was not going to be successful,” Fred Kagan said.

To some senior staff members in McChrystal’s headquarters, the e-mail read like a threat: Invite us to visit or we will publish a piece saying the war is lost.

Worried about the consequences of losing the Kagans, McChrystal authorized the trip, according to the staff members.

The story notes that John Allen has afforded them access as well.

So effectively, Neocons who have repeatedly led the cry to escalate our wars have been given personal access to the war, paid for by the people profiting off these escalations.

As fascinating as the story is, it doesn’t yet tell the full narrative of what the Kagans were doing.

For example, why is Chandrasekaran just reporting it now? Has David Petraeus’ star fallen sufficiently for sources to start revealing what was apparent to all of us watching, he was a NeoCon puppet? Or is it surfacing because of the review by military lawyers, bolded above?

Or is it coming to light now because of the close scrutiny Petraeus’ communications and actions received after he was caught diddling his biographer? Chandrasekaran’s sources claim the people running the war didn’t know Neocon advisors were camped out with SCI clearances reading Taliban intercepts (hey! didn’t we try to make peace with the Taliban?!?!).

The extent of the couple’s involvement in Petraeus’s headquarters was not known to senior White House and Pentagon officials involved in war policy, two of those officials said.

So if they just discovered it after the Paula Broadwell affair, it would make sense that it is now leaking.

Then there’s a temporal feint Petraeus’ allies are trying to pull off. A former aide suggests Petraeus brought the Kagans in simply because he had less knowledge of Afghanistan than he had in Iraq.

“Petraeus relied on the Kagans for a fresh set of eyes . . . because he didn’t have the same nuanced understanding of Afghanistan that he had of Iraq,” a former aide to Petraeus said.

That is, Petraeus wants to suggest this arrangement existed only in Afghanistan (not insignificantly, the period of time when Petraeus’ communications would be under review because of the Broadwell scandal).

But Chandrasekaran makes it clear it goes back further. Petraeus started providing Neocons access back in Iraq, and he did so, in part, because they served as publicists for the publicity hound General.

The Defense Department permits independent analysts to observe combat operations, but the practice became far more common when Petraeus became the top commander in Iraq. He has said that conversations with outside specialists helped to shape his strategic thinking.

The take-home benefit was equally significant: When the opinion makers returned home, they inevitably wrote op-eds, gave speeches and testified before Congress, generally imparting a favorable message about progress under Petraeus, all of which helped him sell the war effort and expand his popularity. [my emphasis]

These think tankers, funded by defense contractors, were selling Petraeus right along with their escalating wars.

Besides, we know Fred Kagan, at least, was getting this kind of access during Iraq and using it to sell the escalation. As I noted in 2008, the back channel between Dick Cheney–who after being instructed by the Saudis, was pushing the surge–and Petraeus through Jack Keane is the untold story of the official narrative of Iraq.

And then there’s the curious near-total absence of Dick Cheney from the first three-fifths of the book, the part describing the debates over a new strategy in Iraq, even while Woodward admits Cheney continued to “offer[] his views directly to the president.” Cheney’s absence is particularly problematic given the reports that Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah “summoned Cheney” to Riyadh to express displeasure (andissue threats) about the Iraq Survey Group’s proposals just before the time when–Woodward reports–Bush made up his mind to support a troop escalation.

According to Hadley, that moment [when Bush decided in favor of a surge] had come when the president called him in mid-December 2006 and said, “I’m getting comfortable with my decision, but I don’t want to give a speech yet.”

Particularly given Woodward’s portrayal of the way Cheney later fiercely guards his back channel access through Jack Keane to David Petraeus–breaking the chain of command to protect the surge from all regional considerations–the description of Cheney as distanced from the decision to support the surge seems odd.

Woodward made it clear, though, that AEI (that is, Kagan) was getting classified information to build his theory of the surge.

So this puppet mastery is in no way new to Afghanistan. It’s just that the Afghan story is coming out, without yet being connected to the escalation that still remains the fictional success story orchestrated by the heroic General Petraeus and his merry band of think tanker-publicists.

And aside from my point above–that their access to Taliban intercepts means the Kagans would have had a view on any peace negotiations–there’s Chandrasekaran subtle suggestion that the Kagans dictated the surge in Afghanistan, too, advocating for the targeting of the Haqqani network at a time when President Obama was trying to reel in the war.

Their immersion occurred at an opportune time. Petraeus was fond of speaking about the importance of using troops to protect Afghan communities from insurgents, but he recognized that summer that the Obama White House wanted to narrow the scope of the war. As a consequence, the general decided to emphasize attacking insurgent strongholds — and so did the Kagans.

[snip]

The Kagans believed U.S. commanders needed to shift their focus from protecting key towns and cities to striking Haqqani encampments and smuggling routes, according to several current and former military and civilian officials familiar the issue.

In the late summer of 2010, they shared their views with field officers during a trip to the east. “They implied to brigade commanders that Petraeus would prefer them to devote their resources to killing Haqqanis,” said Doug Ollivant, a former senior adviser to the two-star general in charge of eastern Afghanistan.

But Petraeus had not yet issued new directives to his three-star subordinate or the two-star in the east.

The suggestion is the Kagans drove the new focus on the Haqqanis–indeed, were even issuing orders to officers before Petraeus was doing–just at the time Obama was trying to de-escalate the war.

The implications of this story are quite sobering, though Chandrasekaran has just begun to map it all out. Paid representatives of the war industry twice intervened with David Petraeus to get him to extend and expand the war. And in the case of Afghanistan (and I suspect even in the case of Iraq) they did so by bypassing the entire chain of command.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

24 replies
  1. Frank33 says:

    So many mysteries, so many secrets, it is difficult to know what these monsters really do.

    Some military officers and civilian U.S. government employees in Kabul praised the couple’s contributions — one general noted that “they did the work of 20 intelligence analysts.” Others expressed deep unease about their activities in the headquarters, particularly because of their affiliations and advocacy in Washington.

    But the Kagans can do the work of twenty monsters.

    And there is Vickie Nuland Kagan, of the the Fighting Kagans. Vickie lies repeatedly for the wars. And Vickie should have been the person to go on the Sunday tee vee shows, instead of Susan Rice.

  2. John B. says:

    That is a freaking amazing story revealing yet again how deep the corruption exists of our so called leaders and miltary high command. And to think that the C-i-C was unaware of this psecial relationship of AEI asshats and his star general…

  3. eCAHNomics says:

    @John B.: I think O was only too aware and why laid the trap for Petreaus, Allen, and the other generals & admirals who got cashiered around the same time, for either “sex” or “misuse of funds” scandals.

  4. orionATL says:

    beyond “jesus h. christ this is intolerable”,

    my question is what possible professional competence could either of the kagan’s bring to afghanistan?

    what possible professional competence could they bring that could not be matched by our military’s own analysts, say of the quality of col p. lang?

    where were gates or panetta in this?

    where was the chair of the jcs?

  5. prostratedragon says:

    Sounds like an m.o.:

    And one of the first things that that [incoming GWBush administration] gun task force did was go on a shooting event, a secret shooting outing with the NRA. They didn’t invite me [transition liason for outgoing Clinton administration]. They didn’t invite the career staff who were part of the Justice Department […] At that same time, Ashcroft, the attorney general, had hidden his schedule from the staff within the Department of Justice, from the senior staff, who were the career staff, and he was secretly meeting with the NRA and working with them basically to advance their agenda in the Bush administration. [emphasis pd’s]

  6. orionATL says:

    i ain’t no lawyer; don’t know no law

    BUT

    if the kagans were given access to classified information, that ought to be the basis for vacating every whistleblower conviction the doj has obtained

    OR

    petraeus&staff and the kagans ought to do time and pay fine.

    this is precisely glenn greenwall’s argument that there are two systems of justice in the u.s. – one for the well-connected and/or wealthy and one was us fu-k-d over peons.

  7. emptywheel says:

    @orionATL: That’s what some people have been noting this morning. Neither of them have peer reviewed journals on even the war-fighting aspect of this, much less the Afghan side.

  8. brendanx says:

    emptywheel,

    Aw, you left out the money quote, the puppet one, included here in the letter to the editor I wrote today:

    The Post’s editorial on Chuck Hagel (“Chuck Hagel is not the right choice for Defense Secretary”, Dec. 19) is illuminated by two pieces in the same day’s paper. The first details how Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, a husband-and-wife pair of neoconservative publicists and lobbyists (and sometimes contributors to the Post’s opinion pages) served in a murkily defined unpaid civilian role, with access to secret military intelligence, at the side of then commander David Petraeus in Afghanistan (“Civilian analysts gained Petraeus’s ear”, Dec. 19). As Petraeus himself joked of this scandalous relationship, “There’s some suspicion that there’s a hand up my back, and it makes my lips talk, and it’s operated by one of the Doctors Kagan.” The other piece details how neoconservative have accused Hagel of anti-Semitism in opposition to his possible nomination, with this opposition substantively grounded in the complaint that he is insufficiently “pro-Israel” (“Neocons push against Chuck Hagel”, Dec. 19). One can conclude two things from today’s reading: that “neoconservatives” give primacy to Israeli interests, and that the Post’s editors are either neoconservatives themselves, like the Kagans, or their puppets, like Petraeus.

  9. brendanx says:

    That quote reminds me of a pet peeve of mine: overuse of “Dr.” as when some in the left blogosphere refer to Paul Krugman as “Dr. Krugman.” Let’s reserve that honorific for Mengele, and Condoleezza Rice. Okay, the Kagans, too. I guess it’s a dis-honorific by now.

  10. Frank33 says:

    Mr Vickie Nuland, aka Robert Kagan is a neo-con intellectual…(laughing in the sound track). And America is NOT in decline.

    Even our neo-con President Obama agrees, it is not a decline. It is merely a corrupt fiscal and military cliff, that we are all falling off, into the unknown wars and environmental disasters. And the Military Industrial Espionage Complex has more power than ever. They can torture, imprison, or assassinate anyone.

    But, Kagan did confirm a conspiracy theory. We are ruled by reptillian Aliens from outer space who have taken over our human governments.

    “Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus.”

  11. Jim White says:

    Somehow, every time I saw the title of this post today, my brain kept saying “Oh, intercourse the Kagans!” Here’s why (it would be impolite not to share):

  12. geoschmidt says:

    Isn’t it true that sex is one of our most basic and primeval drives/motivations? So could it be that maybe it would be productive to look at the way that drive has been harnessed and subverted by them who historically had the power to work that kind of magic!

    The “priestly ones”, (“beastly ones”, I had to put that in…) who goin’ back a couple… millennia or so… them’s who were like the… johnnie come lately: Rasputin, I mean like them who were the power behind the Throne. (as a kind of genre, so to speak… )

    So my thesis is: that the sex drive and related stuff, has been the perfect tool. In the sense that, we all, mostly have some kind of sex drive, and when you would look at the way the children in the schools are marshaled in one way or another… and the systematic use of the gender identity… boys here, girls there… (and never the tween…)

    So when you might look on how the sex angle is used and abused… then you see a little sign that it is a tool to manipulate the population of what at one time might have been a good little population, sort of like the people in HG Well’s “Time Machine” like the ennui, preyed upon by the subterranean Molocks. eww…!

    Sex, a normal instinct is somehow pressed and repressed and now the whole human
    supposedly ” intelligent” population, is somekinda way weird on the basics of sex!

    Jessus Christopher, I can’t seem to find a mate, but tell you what, they sure did a good job on ole humans with the way they put the sex deal in there… Oh gaddamit,

  13. tjallen says:

    Some of this Kagan-Petraeus scandal was reported within the first days of the Broadwell-Petraeus scandal.

    For example, just two days after Petraeus resigned, the Washington Post’s Greg Jaffe reported:

    Quote:
    Prominent members of conservative, Washington-based defense think tanks were given permanent office space at his headquarters and access to military aircraft to tour the battlefield. They provided advice to field commanders that sometimes conflicted with orders the commanders were getting from their immediate bosses.

    Some of Petraeus’s staff officers said he and the American mission in Afghanistan benefited from the broader array of viewpoints, but others complained that the outsiders were a distraction, the price of his growing fame.
    end Quote

    at this link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/former-aides-wonder-did-petraeus-stumble-in-unfamiliar-terrain/2012/11/11/881b650c-2c3a-11e2-a99d-5c4203af7b7a_story.html

  14. tjallen says:

    Several years of war embedded neocons and Petraeus, including Max Boot and Stephen Biddle, along with the Kagans. One example here:
    http://consortiumnews.com/2012/12/19/neocons-guided-petraeus-on-afghan-war/

    Some of this material even appears in Boot’s Wikipedia page! for example:
    “He [Boot, on the Charlie Rose show] also mentioned that he has served as a civilian adviser to both Petraeus and his predecessor Stanley McCrystal, with fellow civilians Fred Kagan and Stephen Biddle.”

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