Copyright John T. Reed

Former general David Petraeus resigned as CIA head because he got caught in an extra-marital affair with a journalist who covered him. The FBI uncovered the affair.

Lovely. In my web article “Should you go to, or stay at, West Point?” I listed the top ten most prominent West Point graduates. Petraeus was one of the top three who actually were prominent because of their current job. The other two were Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed and Duke basketball’s “Coach K”. The others were all has beens, e.g., Wes Clark (my table commandant for a while in the mess hall at West Point), Buzz Aldrin. (My point was that if West Point is the world’s greatest leadership school, how come it has produced so few current leaders? Make it one fewer who is prominent because of his current job.)

Top secret clearance

The Newsmax article I linked to above makes much of Petraeus cheating on his wife when he had a top secret clearance. A top secret clearance!? Hell, I would not be surprised if most U.S. military personnel with top secret clearances cheat on their wives.

That’s not the issue. My whole West Point class and I got top secret clearances the summer after we graduated. Petraeus is a West Point graduate. We got secret clearance the month before we entered West Point. Both clearances required background checks by Army Intelligence—meaning you suddenly got told by your friends and neighbors that they had been questioned in person about your loyalty to the U.S.—when I was 17 and 21.

I got in trouble once for taking a top secret document to a general in Vietnam. When I told the major in the ante room next to the general’s office that I was there to deliver a top secret document to the general, the major took it from me. Turns out he did not have a top secret clearance. I assumed all the officers who outranked me also had at least as high a security clearance as I did. Since we got top secret clearances upon graduation from West Point, I assumed all Army officers did the same. If they had warned be about that, I would have insisted on giving it directly to the general. How the hell was I supposed to know that the general’s right-hand man was outranked by little old first lieutenant me with regard to secrecy?

A lot higher than ‘top secret’

The issue is Petraeus was head of the CIA!!! His effective secrecy clearance is almost identical to “Eyes Only POTUS.” POTUS stands for President of the United States. He knows, or has access to, almost every secret there is. And he was not that far lower on the secrecy-access ladder when the affair started during his being top general in Afghanistan and maybe Centcom Commander.

Yes, Bill Clinton engaged in similar misbehavior when he was POTUS and got away with it. He has no shame, is devoid of morality, and was the leader of the Democrat party. We used to be a nation of laws. Now we have become a nation of men. What laws you have to abide by depends on how much political power you have, not what you did. Petraeus was inculcated with some shame about such things at West Point and/or in his upbringing at home. But he did not have the political power to tough it out after he got caught like Clinton did.

West Pointers and girls

We were deprived of female companionship to an extreme degree at West Point when I was there from 1964 to 1968. Petraeus was there from 1971 to 1974. It was still all male then.

I heard Petraeus speak in San Francisco a few years ago. One of his standard jokes was that he dated the Superintendent’s daughter while a cadet. The Supe is the top officer at West Point. He later married her. He said it was his first clandestine op. And now we learn it was apparently not his last, in the romance category.

West Point graduates of that era were made fun of by non-West Point officers because we were said to have a sort of all-boys-high-school perspective on women, as in “Look, there’s a girl!”

Well, what would you expect? It was an all-male, monastery-like place 50 miles from civilization. We often referred to it as the High School on the Hudson or Hudson High. One of our most prominent graduates, Pete Dawkins, who won the Heisman Trophy and a Rhodes Scholarship and who is also on my top ten West Pointers list, commented that young West Point graduates were immature about alcohol and women. We couldn’t have alcohol either. I have never touched alcohol in my life so I cannot comment on that, but I agree that we were screwed up about women after being in an isolated, all-male, college for four years. I cannot say that West Point generals commit adultery more than non-West Pointers who took ROTC at co-ed colleges, but it would not surprise me if it were true. If you sow the seeds of depriving young men of females when they are 18-22, don’t be surprised if they bear the fruits of adultery decades later.

Foreign Policy in Focus reports say Broadwell broke off the relationship and part of the evidence against Petraeus were “his obsessive attempts to revive it in the form of over one thousand emails.” That is precisely the sort of adolescent dopiness you would expect from a teenage boy at an all-male high school. Petraeus is 60.

‘The System’

A West Point classmate and I reacted to the extremely bad dating situation at West Point, and the not much better one when you are shunted around to different isolated, rural, Southern Army bases after West Point, by inventing what we called The System. It is described extensively in my book Succeeding. Short version, we would be dating the best looking girls in the county within months of arriving at a new Army post. I met my wife that way. Dating such a high number of women caused us the have a high number of all the related experiences including getting Dear John letters. We figured out very quickly what any logical person would. When it’s over, you move on to the next one. You do not send one letter seeking to reinstate, let alone more than 1,000. And we were single Army lieutenants, not a 60-year-old, married director of the CIA!!!

I my article Should you go to, or stay at, West Point?, told how many may cadets get married at the Cadet Chapel at West Point right after graduation. So many that they have to allocate the 20-minute weddings that go on for a week or more by lottery. During my days there, some cadets who entered the lottery and got a wedding slot, had neither a fiance nor a prospect!!! He has been married for 38 years, and graduated from West Point in June 1974. He got married two months after graduation.

My sense during senior year at West Point was that some seniors were a bit desperate about getting married. The logic seemed to be that they had been deprived for four years, now were about to lose whatever cachet being a cadet had, and might never get married if they did not act fast. One in the class above me explained he was getting married right after graduation because he thought he was nearing the end of his biological clock with regard to the ability to have sex and wanted to make up for lost time by having the unlimited sex you get in marriage. Speaking as a 66-year old who got married a year after Petraeus, I would note that Class of ’67 cadet was wrong on a couple of counts.

Now here are two paragraphs from page 143 of my book Succeeding. They sound like they were written about Petraeus but I wrote them in 2003.

‘More women after marriage’

When I was a young bachelor Army officer, I had many a conversation with my married peers in which they expressed astonishment about how attractive they suddenly became to women after they got married. They would tell of this attractive woman or that beautiful woman who flirted with them.

They were chagrined that they got married so soon. I suspect this mentality leads to adultery, which a lay marriage counselor I served with in Vietnam told me was the almost universal cause of divorce.

My point in the book and the West Point article is it is very unwise to marry too young, especially when your dating experience is sub-par. You gotta shop around if I may quote those great philosophers, The Miracles. I have a bunch of best practices in bold print in the Succeeding book. One in the section where I told about young Army officers regretting getting married too soon is

Do not make long-term commitments when you are in your early twenties or younger.

And that goes double for West Point cadets considering getting married right after graduation. That is not to say that all of my classmates who got married right after graduation got divorced. They did not. But West Point was, and apparently still is even though it’s co-ed, an especially screwed-up situation from which to get married early. I got married a month before my 29th birthday and my wife was three months shy of her 26th.

You can see photos of Petraeus’s wife, Holly, and the two women involved in the email fame that caused his resignation on the Internet. I will let the photos speak for themselves. You can also see the photo of the father of Petraeus’s wife, the West Point superintendent. I predict you will instantly look to see if he is still alive, fearing for Petraeus’s life. That would be at

Adultery was the least of it

But the most profound thing is this man’s failure to consider his positions of the highest trust. It is comparable to Bill Clinton’s adultery in the Oval Office. If you are that starved for female companionship, divorce your wife. Then having sex with someone other than your wife is just called a “date,” not cheating. Seems like that would be the Duty Honor Country thing to do. (“Duty Honor Country” is the motto of West Point.)

This just in:

Whoops! This just in. The woman Petraeus had the affair with was Patricia Broadwell (nee Kranz). She is a journalist wannabe and wrote a book about Petraeus titled All In, which now has new meaning. So does “embedded” which was her status as a first-time write for a time in Afghanistan. She is also a West Point graduate (not on my top ten most prominent West Pointers list—yet). And she has an MPA from Harvard, the second-most common grad school and degree among West Point grads (Harvard MBA is 1st and Harvard Law is third). Petraeus and Broadwell met at Harvard when she was a student there. And she has a radiologist husband and two children. Petraeus has two grown children.

Suspicions of infidelities had followed him for years, current and former US military officials told The Washington Post.

NY Times said Broadwell was in the Army 15 years. It was five—the minimum.

The adultery came to light because a woman got a threat. The anonymous threatener seemed to suggest an attempt to blackmail Petraeus. The threatenee, Jill Kelley, a friend of the Petraeus family, went to the FBI. They investigated and figured out that Broadwell and Petraeus had been having an affair. Unnamed friends say Kelley was not having an affair with Petraeus. Why she got threatening emails or from whom has not been explained.

Adultery in the Green Zone?

Reportedly, Petraeus was having sex with Broadwell while head general in Afghanistan. One account said his staff did not know that but worried that he might be giving the appearance of impropriety by spending so much time in private with Broadwell.

On 11/13/12 I read that the affair started in May 2012 and ended in Juy 2012. That makes the discussion below irrilevant but I will leave it for a while because this story keeps changing by the day.

Non-combat-zone veteran readers might not be able to think through the idea of Petraeus having clandestine sex in the Green Zone in Afghanistan. I was in Vietnam. Let me describe to you the daily life of a combat general and the layout of the base.

At first in Vietnam, I was at Plantation Post about five miles from Long Binh. Long Binh was the largest U.S. base in Vietnam and the headquarters of Generals Westmoreland and Abrams. Our Plantation Post was the headquarters of II Field Force, a corps but we could not use that word because the South Vietnamese Army had already used it for particular areas of the country and it would cause confusion if the Americans also used it. You hear Vietnam ets refer to the corps area where they served—eye corps, two courps, three corps, four corps or the delta. Those are the South Vietnamese Army corps areas.

II Field Force was commanded by General Julian J. Ewell. It was hundreds of buildings with the whole camp surrounded by barbed wire and bunkers manned by guards. During business hours, the generals and full colonels worked in offices in some of the buildings or were flying around in their helicopters inspecting their various subordinate units.

Could they have had sex in the base camp? Yes. But this was a bee hive of activity with tens of thousands of soldiers plus Vietnamese civilian workers, mainly women who were hootch maids or cooks and servers in mess halls; also some male workers like the “shit burners” (literally their job description) and handymen. Many were enemy spies, but we did not know which ones. They arrived around six AM and left around six PM. I do not believe any were allowed to be there at night. So sex with them would be an afternoon delight in a hooch or office surrounded by thousands of soldiers and things like doors to offices and doors to hooches were almost continuously under observation by many of them.

In Vietnam, we had no female soldiers that I recall at Plantation nor were there any female reporters anywhere. They had a Quonset hut hospital at Long Binh. I spent some time there with a fever. They had nurses at Long Binh and nurses living on that post. But we had no hospital or nurses at Plantation.

The only women at Plantation at night were Red Cross girls, a.k.a. “doughnut dollies.” These were typically ordinary-looking, American, college-grad women who rated about a four or five on a scale of 1 to 10 but who were artificially elevated to 9s or 10s because there were tens of thousands of male soldiers and only a dozen or so of these women. We heard some of them were seen going into the house trailers (I kid you not—that’s where the generals and maybe some of the colonels lived) of some of the brass after supper and emerging in the morning. The Red Cross girls seemed not so much interested in sex as in getting married.

Nowadays, there are many female enlisted and officers, not just nurses. And there are many female war zone reporters. But my point is that generals and colonels in combat zones do not go home to the suburbs or to an apartment in the city after supper. They have no cars; only jeeps driven by enlisted drivers. And their living quarters are 20 or 30 feet from the other quarters and buildings where many others live, eat, or work.

A combat zone headquarters base is not a place where they roll up the sidewalks after business hours. The place is teeming with soldiers outdoors from about 4 AM to about midnight. And from midnight to 4AM there are still a great many soldiers out and about pulling guard duty or working night shifts. If you’ve seen World War II-era war movies, there are often scenes of base camps with zillions of tents and Quonset huts buzzing with vehicles roaring around and throngs of soldiers moving hithir and yon. That was the way it was in Vietnam and I assume, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Going to someplace off by yourself in a combat zone is a great way to get killed. For security reasons, the generals’ trailers or other quarters tend to be located in the heart of the military Quonset-hut city to get them as far from the wire as possible. And with the spies in the base every day, the enemy knew exactly where the commanding general and other big shots lived.

‘MASH 4077th’

You know what’s ‘a good way for you non-combat vets to understand it? The MASH TV series. Can you imagine “Colonel Sherman Potter” of “MASH 4077th” having a prolonged extramarital affair in that camp with no one knowing? True, “Major Hot Lips Houlihan” had a running affair with “Major Frank Burns,” but everyone knew about it. Now overlay that unit, with about 100 people total, on a country-wide, world-famous, four-star general’s headquarters compound with thousands of soldiers working 24/7.

So if Petraeus, of all people, was having an affair with Broadwell, as both admit, then others saw her going into his office or quarters and staying there for suspiciously long periods of time or at suspicious hours of the day.

Broadwell is a lieutenant colonel in the Army reserves

I saw a clip where Broadwell said that after she ended her active duty service, she went into the Army reserves where she was promotod to lieutenant colonel in August 2012. She apparently is still a reserve lieuntenant colonel. That has legal implications. It means she has been subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice since she was about 18 years old and still is subject to it. That might cover the handling of secret documents and the divulging of secret facts. It also might make her having an affair with Petraeus illegal even if they were both single—fraternization or something like that.

A reader says,

Conduct that occurred while she was on active duty orders or during reserve call ups, drill weekends, etc. would be covered under the UCMJ. But the rest of the time the UCMJ does not apply to civilian conduct, as is the case with reservists not performing their official duties. Therefore, absent any proof she ran afoul of the UCMJ while on orders, it is unlikely she could face a courts martial. Petraeus on the other hand could face UCMJ action if it is proven he committed adultery, or even if he engaged in an inappropriate relationship (Article 134, I think). Unlike someone who leaves the military without a pension, Petraeus is a retiree, which means he can be brought back onto active duty and face a courts martial for conduct committed while on active duty.

Rust Limbaugh titled his 11/13/12 discussion of Petraeus and Mrs. Broadwell “The Real Housewives of West Point.” Hard to argue against it. But apparently someone did becaues he changed it to Real Housewives of the Pentagon the next day. The actual housewives of West Point are women like Holly Petraeus who are married to West Point faculty and administrators. None of them were involved in this incident per se. Holly is a former housewife of West Point when Petraeus was stationed there as an instructor—a common Army crown prince assignment. As far as I know, Broadwell was never a housewife at West Point. Jill Kelley’s connection with the military is so vague as to be almost invisible. She never had any association with West Point. I was never stationed at West Point other than as a cadet, but I have many classmates who were. Suffice it to say that some of the real housewives of West Point have engaged in extramarital sex there over the years, just not in this incident, as far as we know, so far.

David “you can talk to me when I run if you can run fast” Petraeus and Paula “I believe in the right to bare arms—and shoulders” Broadwell apparently share the current obsession in the U.S. military with physical fitness. The recently resigned-in-disgrace, four-star general Stanley McChrystal was another one of these, “I would run, not jog, eight hours a day if I was allowed to” military people who have lost their sense of proportion with regard to how important other things like winning an occasional war are. We were taught to keep physically fit at West Poin in the 1960st, but not to be goofy about it like the current crop of military officers. I wrote a web article about the current overemphasis on physical fitness.

I wrote a lot of stuff about Petraeus, some positive but mostly negative, before this infidelity came to light. To see those articles, search for the word “Petraeus” within my web site. There is a box near the top of each of my web pages, including this one, for doing that.

I appreciate informed, well-thought-out constructive criticism and suggestions.

John T. Reed

Link to information about John T. Reed’s Succeeding book which, in part, relates lessons learned about succeeding in life from being in the military

John T. Reed Publishing home page - John T. Reed military home page