General DisinformationSeptember 16th, 2007

When it comes to talking for a long time without saying anything, General Petraeus must be reckoned a grand master.

He dominated two days’ public conversation, and I dare you to tell me what he was talking about. He spouted some numbers, but they were such carefully particularized statistics that they were uninterpretable.

Petraeus seemed to imply that the U.S. is winning the war, and he claimed to be determined to have the army fight on–because defeat is unacceptable–but he didn’t seem confident of victory or even sure what victory might look like.

He didn’t want to express an opinion about how much time off the GIs should get between combat tours, but he was positively effusive in predicting the consequences of quitting. In fact, he said little about what has already happened and stuck almost entirely to speculation about what will happen. He expressed absolute certainty about every speculative scenario he rendered. For all that, he didn’t paint an encouraging picture of our military adventure, and he failed if he was engaged in public relations for the generals or the suits that command them.

The performance of the elected officials across the table was enough to make a patriot switch his allegiance. The speeches–there were no questions–were uniformly pandering and self-serving, with neither party enjoying a clear advantage in terms of unction or sanctimony. With rare exceptions, these men and women represent not us, but themselves. They parade their perfumed presences across the floor of the House and Senate as if it were the court of Louis the Sixteenth.

Some were hostile to the general and some were friendly, but he was their object and they all used him to the same purpose. Squanderers of other people’s lives, the public treasure, and what remains of international goodwill, these villains deserve to be rousted violently from their perches.

Petraeus did take the focus off 9/11, and that may have been his main purpose. Among prominent anniversaries of unsolved mysteries, this one ranks near the top, and yet it passed without comment. But for Petraeus’ celebrated testimony, the embedded media’s failure to ask the unanswered questions this 9/11 would be a mystery in itself. Did the networks and the government conspire to keep America from discussing why the three skyscrapers actually collapsed. Don’t ask.