A few thoughts on the resignation of David Petraeus as CIA director: Few American leaders had a stronger reputation for integrity and honor, so the reason he cited for his departure – an extramarital affair – comes as a shock to the nation and to those who know him best.
Petraeus will go down in American history as one of its greatest generals. He turned around an increasingly disastrous situation in Iraq, despite tremendous criticism from war skeptics here at home. The work that he did there no doubt saved American and Iraqi lives and provided the Obama administration an opportunity to leave Iraq a reasonably stable country.
The director of the Central Intelligence Agency cannot carry on a secret affair and continue to hold that position. Friends and associates of Petraeus are telling reporters to take the stated reason for his resignation at “face value,” citing his reputation for integrity. And there’s little question that Petraeus, through a long and storied career in service to the country, has earned the benefit of the doubt. But it’s also true that the timing of his departure will inevitably raise questions.
Congressional Republicans were furious with Petraeus for what they described to THE WEEKLY STANDARD as “misleading” testimony he gave to the House Intelligence Committee on September 14. In that session, Petraeus pointed to a protest over an anti-Islam YouTube video as a primary reason for the attacks on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, despite an abundance intelligence pointing to a preplanned terrorist assault on the U.S. consulate and CIA annex there. Other members of Congress were particularly interested in questioning Petraeus about why crucial details about those attacks were left out of “talking points” the CIA prepared for lawmakers and executive branch officials. Among those details: the existence of a communications intercept between two al Qaeda-linked terrorists discussing the attacks. The level of frustration with the CIA and Petraeus had led several top Republican lawmakers to consider calling for his resignation in late October.
Obama administration officials have told reporters that Petraeus’s resignation means he will not testify before congressional oversight committees next week, as planned. This will not sit well with Republicans, who believe Petraeus is in a unique position to shed light on the intelligence on Benghazi before the attack, the decision-making during the attack and the misleading stories told after it.