No one was really surprised when news broke last May that two major universities offered teaching positions to retired Gen. David Petraeus. After all, this country is familiar by now with prominent people never facing the consequences of their actions. Petraeus’ very public fall was obviously not a factor in City University of New York and University of Southern California’s hiring decisions when they decided to link their good names to a disgraced man. The sex scandal that ousted him also did not put a dent in CUNY’s initial salary offer of $200,000 — highlighting the inconvenient reality that the powerful political elites are held to vastly different standards and operate under vastly different rules than the rest of us.
It could be argued that USC is potentially sullying its good name by associating itself with Petraeus, but this is an institution of learning where the free flow of ideas is the guiding principle. For those students harboring strong opinions about Petraeus, it is a simple matter of not registering for the classes he will be teaching.
But then again, Petraeus is now the faculty adviser to the USC Veterans Association. Petraeus greatly expanded President Barack Obama’s brutal drone regime as head of the Central Intelligence Agency. According to the Washington Post, Petraeus sought permission to use “signature strikes” in Yemen. Signature strikes are attacks carried out by our government against groups of people, often unidentifiable due to limited intelligence, based on patterns of behavior. Something that looked like a terrorist meeting could very well be a terrorist meeting, or it could be a simple wedding filled with innocent people including women and children.
It is doubly disturbing that this is the same man under whose leadership oversaw the bloodiest years on record in terms of American military casualties in Afghanistan. According to figures released by the Department of Defense, nearly 40 percent of the American deaths in the duration of the Afghanistan War occurred under Petraeus’ watch. Petraeus does not advocate for veterans, as he has evidently had a history of failing those in the armed forces.
Lt. Col. John Cook, a former Army intelligence officer who served in Afghanistan, put it much more succinctly when he told the Daily Beast, “Petraeus made a mess of things in this war. That’s the real scandal.” According to Cook, Petraeus wrote a counterinsurgency strategy that “places a higher value on the lives of Afghan civilians than the lives of our own soldiers, many of whom have died unnecessarily” because of Petraeus’ leadership. It is a scandal that so many veterans had to suffer under Petraeus’ leadership, a sentiment shared by Ian Daily, president of the Young Americans for Liberty at the University of Southern California and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. He told the Daily Trojan, “He was so political and out-of-touch, and so far disconnected from the men and women who had to carry out his orders in Afghanistan. And now he wants to advise veterans?”
What makes Petraeus think he can be a capable advisor to USC’s young men and women, including its veterans? Petraeus was the wrong choice to lead the Afghanistan War, the wrong choice to lead the nation’s top intelligence agency and the wrong choice as advisor for the USC Veterans Association. If Petraeus could not even keep soldiers alive, he surely cannot act as a mentor to them.
Jayel Aheram is a junior majoring in political science. He is also an Iraq War and Marine veteran.
Editor’s Note: This post has been corrected to remove a quote that was originally said in a private conversation.
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