Today, news broke that David Petraeus, one of America’s most decorated generals and current head of the CIA, was resigning under a cloud as he admitted an affair with his biographer. It’s simply unfathomable that someone with such a position would do such a thing. But of course he, like all of us, is human. At least he accepted responsibility for the error and resigned.
What I don’t understand, and what irks me is that in all the words of regret released by Petraeus and encomiums delivered about him by the president and others, not a word was offered about the woman with whom he had the affair, Paula Broadwell. I’m not saying that she’s a victim, though perhaps she is. But you’d think that Petraeus at least would’ve offered just a word about or to her in all this. As it is, she’s been typically erased from the picture.
I don’t mean literally since of course her actual picture is plastered around the internet. I mean that when powerful men overstep the bounds and take advantage of their office or prerogatives, the thought is always for them and those around them. Hardly ever for the “other woman.”
Typical of this is the developing story of IDF Gen. Uri Sagi, 71, who resigned yesterday from the Labor Party primary race for the next Knesset. Sagi is a former military intelligence chief, former chief negotiator with Syria during Barak’s prime ministership. He was slated to be Labor’s security spokesperson if he won a Knesset seat.
In recent days, a former IDF subordinate met with Party chief Shelly Yachimovich to tell her of alleged sexual harassment to which she’d been subjected by him. There was also a rumor that Sagi fathered a child out-of-wedlock with another female IDF subordinate in the 1980s. Earlier today, yet a third woman came forward on Yachimovich’s Facebook page and accused Sagi of attempting to rape her while she served with him. She claims that at the time her male supervisors encouraged her not to press charges. Instead, they offered her a transfer, which she accepted. Today, she says, she regrets she didn’t pursue the matter.
Rather strangely for someone in his circumstances, Sagi hardly put forth a vehement or vigorous denial. Instead, he almost immediately announced he was resigning from the race for “health” and “personal reasons.” He treated the accusations as if they were annoying fleas buzzing around his head, instead of serious charges. He did say that political enemies wanted his scalp, and this was the motive for the attack on him. In Israel, this is certainly possible. The Likud plays hardball and will use every lever to smear their opponents (and vice versa). But it hardly responds to the actual acts of which he’s accused. They somehow have disappeared from the scene.
As have the women. They do this for different reasons in Israel. There the male is top dog, especially a powerful one. Women are appurtenances. They are vessels into which men pour their egos and more. When scorned or victimized, they aren’t treated with dignity or respect. Their claims are scorned. They’re viewed as wild-eyed harridans out for revenge (witness the treatment accorded to P. after she was raped by TV reporter Yoav Even). The accused hire good lawyers, get gag orders and prevent the public from hearing about the crimes they may have committed. The system works in mens’ favor.
This is the story of powerful men. Especially military men. Especially Israeli military men (though not just them of course, since this story is common to all Israeli men in positions of influence). The perquisites of power are theirs. Moral codes are banished, lines are blurred for the sake of male ego and id.
The same hubris that characterizes their sexual choices and their repercussions characterizes their judgment about military-strategic issues. There is the same sense that Israel can do pretty much as it chooses. That it can make decisions and execute them with little or no consideration for the aftermath. That victims or enemies will bend over and take what they’ve got coming. That by sheer dint of will they can dominate any situation. This is the way the mind of the Israeli general (and prime minister) tends to work.