“It’s Good to Be Back,” Petraeus Says before He Offers a Vague Apology and Oil Market Advice

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 1.24.13 PMJohn McCain has officially launched David Petraeus’ rehabilitation tour.

Petraeus testified today before the Senate Armed Services Committee on what to do in the Middle East. But you could tell how much this is about rehabilitation for the heartfelt thanks Petraeus offered McCain for bringing him in to testify. “It’s good to be back,” Petraeus said, before launching into the most hailed part of the hearing, this vague apology.

I think it is appropriate to begin my remarks this morning with an apology, one that I have offered before, but nonetheless one that I want to repeat to you and to the American public. Four years ago I made a serious mistake, one that brought discredit on me and pain closest–to those closest to me. It was a violation of the trust placed in me, and a breach of the values to which I had been committed throughout my life. There’s nothing I can do to undo what I did. I can only say again how sorry I am to thoseI let down and then strive to go forward with a greater sense of humility and purpose, and with gratitude to those who stood with me during a very difficult chapter in my life.

He didn’t actually say what part of the scandal he was apologizing for, though some of the press seemed to be certain that it was about one or another aspect of it. His invocation of the pain he caused those closest to him suggests it was the affair itself. The timing — just over four years ago, August 28, 2011, was the day he gave his black books full of code word intelligence to Paula Broadwell for several days — suggests it was about actually leaking intelligence.

If the acts he apologized for were four years ago, though, it means this apology doesn’t cover the lies he told the FBI on June 12, 2012 about sharing this intelligence. And it doesn’t cover keeping those books with code word intelligence in the top drawer of his unlocked desk until FBI found them on April 5, 2013, the act — mishandling classified information — that he technically pled guilty too.

Though I wouldn’t be surprised if the lawyer he shares with Hillary Clinton, David Kendall, advised him not to apologize for lying to the FBI, given that would involve admitting guilt for something he didn’t plead guilty for.

So having apparently apologized for a range of things that didn’t apparently include lying to the FBI, David Petraeus gave unsworn testimony to Congress.

The testimony was about what you’d expect. David Petraeus’ surge was, according to David Petraeus, a huge success. Petraeus told of some great things Nuri al-Maliki did even while explaining some great things Haider al-Abadi is doing. Petraeus envisioned the break up of Syria while insisting that the same couldn’t happen in Iraq (because the Sunnis in Iraq would have no oil revenues). All casualties in Syria were the fault of Bashar al-Assad, and not the US ally-backed forces Petraeus watched get armed while he was still CIA Director. Petraeus denied, without being asked, that the military had a policy of ignoring Afghan bacha bazi, as reported in NYT this week.

Not a word was mentioned about the chaos CIA-led intervention in Libya has caused, or what to do about it (Petraeus did mention Libya in a passing answer to a question), not even in discussions of why the Russians would never be willing to work under US command in countering ISIS, not even from the party that remains obsessed about Benghazi.

Nothing was mentioned about how all the men we’ve — Petraeus — has trained have been prone to flee.

The closest Petraeus came to discussing the support for Sunni extremism our allies — Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey — give (and therefore their role in the region’s instability) came when Petraeus discussed Turkey’s increasing targeting of PKK that happened at the same time Turkey agreed to let us use Incirlik Air Base, though Petraeus didn’t note any connection between those two things.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the hearing, though, came towards the end (after 2:11), when Thom Tillis asked a very reasonable question about how other countries (he didn’t say, but he probably had China in mind) reliance on Iran once they start selling oil will become important strategically.

After claiming Tillis’ break-even number for Iran’s budget (which accords with public reporting) was incorrect, Petraeus put on his private equity guy hat.

I’m the chairman of the KKR global institute and a partner in KKR, one of the global investment firms, uh [hand gesture showing breadth] big private equity firms in our country. And, first of all, by the way, the analysis on crude oil export shows that not only would the price of WTI, West Texas Intermediate go up slightly, so the producers would be better off, it would also have an impact on Brent Crude prices, which would come down, the global price, which is a lot of what we refine, and the price at the pump probably would go down. So it’s very interesting — if you look at, I think it’s the CBO that did the analysis of this. One of our analytical organizations here, I think, on Capitol Hill has looked at this. And it’s a very interesting dynamic.

[Tillis tries to interrupt, Petraeus keeps speaking.]

Beyond that, I don’t think we should get involved in markets as a country, unless we want to do something like sanctions. So again, you wouldn’t do it — if you want to use sanctions for economic tools as a weapon, gives thumbs up sign] fine, but otherwise I think you have to be very careful about intervention in the global markets.

Tillis tried again, restating his question about whether we should drill as much oil as we can to hedge against increased Iranian influence.

We ought to produce all the oil that we can, if we’re making a profit. If we can enable countries like Iraq to revive their oil industry as we did, it helps Iraq, it funds their gover–by the way they’re running into fiscal deficit now. But again, this is really about market forces I think, much more than getting involved in this as a country.

Not much of Petraeus’ answer made sense, but I can assure you, the head of KKR’s Global Institute is pretty excited about natural gas.

Sure, the expertise of a private equity guy might be worthwhile to Congress, though that affiliation was not listed on the SASC websiteScreen Shot 2015-09-22 at 12.46.32 PM

But it’s all the more absurd given the rest of Petraeus testimony, most notably his silence about Saudi Arabia’s destabilizing influence, given that we do play in global markets precisely through our unquestioningly loyalty to the Saudis.

I guess the Senate — which turned out in big numbers — finds this kind of analysis useful. But it is, once again, about David Petraeus more than it is about testimony that will help us adopt a sound policy in the Middle East.

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.

16 replies
  1. Les says:

    The problem is they’re obsessed about Benghazi for the wrong reasons. It had the potential to be another Iran-Contra scandal. Instead, they swept the real scandal under the rug and tried to treat it as if it were the Beirut Marine Barracks bombing.

  2. orionATL says:

    rehabilitating the eventual v-p candidate of the mo’ war party.

    scott walker, supposedly the kochsucker’s pick for prez, has folded. several former koch operatives have been working for el toupe since the beginning. petraeus and el toupe, “mo’ war less wetbacks” – what a team.

  3. orionATL says:

    i have a simple question. it is critical but not intended to be snide.

    what did general petraeus ever do to be considered a military hero?

    what specific accomplishments? where.

    to me he seems like donald trump – entirely a media creation, a man of ersatz fame.

  4. Joanne Leon says:

    Can he be rehabilitated quickly enough for 2016? Maybe as Carlyhawk’s even more hawkish VP. Hard to imagine him settling for the number 2 job tough. Maybe he’d be a Cheney.

    • wayoutwest says:

      You should probably slow down and read these reports more carefully, possibly using a finger to follow the script and avoid confusion.

      The Division 30 trainees surrendered their weapons to al-Nusra fighters in exchange for safe passage, if this report is actually valid. Their commander did comment on the failure of the training program which was a diversion from the beginning.

      If this is how the West supplies al-Nusra, the enemy of the Islamic State, it’s a piss poor tactic, a few trucks and a few arms at a time won’t do much for a fighting force of thousands.

      • Don Bacon says:

        a few arms at a time won’t do much

        The few arms at a time include (this time):
        12,640 RPG
        6,240 AT rkts
        700 AT missiles
        72 grenade launchers
        36 missile launchers
        –as seen here.

        This sole-source $54m SOCOM contract to a freight forwarding firm with six employees was so corrupt, it must have involved Petraeus.

  5. Don Bacon says:

    .
    There he goes again,

    Jim White: He always has been, still is, and always will be an ass-kissing little chickenshit.
    .
    That is all.

    The absolute need for an anti-Petraeus ass-kissing little chickenshit focus on the web has been thankfully fulfilled for a long time by Jim White, which one can link to here.
    .
    Petraeus’s AKLCS nom de guerre was awarded by his immediate superior, Admiral “Fox” Fallon, who termed Petraeus an “ass-kissing little chickenshit” after their first meeting. Fallon was CENTCOM chief at the time, and was fired by Bush-43 for being in too much of a diplomatic mood over Iran and not being offensive-minded enough.

  6. RUKidding says:

    I’ll go for ass-kissing little chickenshit every time. Now General Betrayus is an ass-kissing little chickenshit with a big paycheck from PE firm KKR. No doubt the ASLC was hired for his electronic rolodex, and this little dog ‘n pony show in the US Senate is but one example of how the ASLC will swing his big dick, even when it’s not at his mistress.
    *
    I have to note that the AKLC performance in the US Senate happened just as both the Pope and the Chinese PM are set to converge on the Yew Ess Aye. Good timing!
    *
    If he’s re-habbed in time to be someone’s VP – all choices for the GOP POTUS candidate are shudder-worthy – I’ll be even more PO’d than usual.
    *
    Where’s the JUSTICE for Chelsea Manning?? Oh yeah, I forgot. Chelsea’s the low hanging “fruit” (only using the common phrase; not meant as a slam) that gets busted while the high and mighty not only get a free pass for worse crimes but get handsomely rewarded for them. Right, Ollie North?
    *
    ptoui!

  7. Les says:

    The reports are saying they actually joined Al Qaeda as soon as they crossed over into Syria. This is similar to earlier reports on the movement of soldiers and supplies to ISIS by way of Free Syrian Army from the south.

    As for the defective weapons supplier, the firm is called Purple Shovel and based in Sterling, Va. They contracted to deliver outdated grenades and other weapons from a Bulgarian source.

    • wayoutwest says:

      Can you explain why you and others are calling al-Nusra, al-Qaeda when these are two distinct groups with different roots and history although they share goals and ideology? The Iranians and Assad have used this rhetorical tool to brand all opposition in Syria as foreign Jihadis and the Russians seem to be using it to identify any rebels as Islamic State.

      This type of oversimplification may be useful propaganda aimed at people with little knowledge of these conflicts or a pro Assad/Iran fixation but are not informative or accurate. The al-Nusra leaders and fighters came from Syria to join AQ in Iraq to oppose the US occupation and returned to their homeland in Syria to overthrow the minority Alawite dictator Assad. They do pledge allegiance to the AQ leadership just as the AQ leadership pledge allegiance to the leader of the Taliban but no one is calling AQ the Taliban.

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