General Petraeus’ rise to fame began during the surge in Iraq and carried over into Afghanistan. His name became synonymous with the COIN approach to warfare and he quickly rose to become the civilian Director of the CIA.
It would all come crashing down in February of 2012 when it was brought to light that he was having an affair with his biographer and was accused of providing her with official binders that included classified information, code names and war plans. Although he originally denied providing the material to his biographer, during his plea deal he admitted to the mishandling of classified information.
In April of 2015, General David Petraeus was sentenced to two years of probation and a $100,000 fine for sharing classified information with his biographer. In January of 2016, the Army decided that it will not demote General Petraeus retroactively from his retired four-star general level.
Service members took a moment to express their thoughts by decrying the difference between enlisted and officer punishments. They identified that he was not reduced in rank, even though he had arguably been charged and found guilty of committing a crime during his time in that rank. People expressed their frustrations publically and socially.
The reality is that they are right, just not about what they are expressing. Not right about him getting better treatment than an enlisted soldier. In truth, a $100,000 fine for mishandling classified information is punishment. Also not about how the committing of a crime during his time at the rank should always result in reduction.
Consider the vast number of people transporting classified material around the world. Technically, they could be convicted of the same crime, mishandling classified information for making a mistake. Most of them would do so accidently and with no malicious intent. Would we expect them all to be demoted and charged so much money? The difference is that General Petraeus was carrying documents that were the highest levels of classification.
It is not a question as to whether or not they could have been compromised, but that they in fact were compromised when he gave them to his biographer.
What the outspoken masses are right about is one simple thing – accountability is the highest expectation of a service member. General Petraeus violated this when he knowingly had an affair, gave classified information to his biographer, and then lied about it to investigators. He placed himself above the rest of the service. Not above enlisted, or above officers, but above those who would expect the standard to be upheld by all.
In selecting not to reduce his rank, the government is in fact saying that they hold his experiences and contributions above the actions. As a Company Commander, it is entirely within our ability to select appropriate punishments and we often try our best to do right by the service and the service member. Just because he was not reduced, does not mean that their choice was right, or even fair for another soldier who is reduced for missing appointments or losing a sensitive item.
All too often people lose sight that the world is not fair, but just because someone is only charged $100,000 (or nearly half of his yearly annual retirement), does not mean that no punishment was performed.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.