THE PETRAEUS AFFAIR: WHY IS THERE NO MALE EQUIVALENT FOR ‘MISTRESS’?

U.S. official says the Army has suspended the security clearance of the woman who had an affair with CIA Director David Petraeus, triggering his resignation.

Paula Broadwell, a West Point graduate, is a former Army intelligence officer and held a high security clearance. Because her clearance was issued through the Army, it was the service’s move to suspend it. It’s not unusual for someone’s clearance to be suspended if that person is under investigation, particularly in cases of possible security breaches. Officials say that an FBI investigation has revealed that Broadwell sent emails to another woman warning her to stay away from Petraeus. The FBI also found possibly classified documents on Broadwell’s computer.

The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the clearance so requested anonymity.

Whenever  was misbehaving as a young man, my late great Dad always threatened to send me away to military school. I had no idea that my father — a Naval officer back in the day — was thinking of ways for me to someday meet women. So here’s my playlist for General David Petraeus and his confusing personal life that even camouflage can’t cover up right now. As always, please add your own songs below — and please no cheating! WHOSE BED HAVE YOUR BOOTS BEEN UNDER – Shania Twain GENERALS AND MAJORS – XTC NOW I LAY ME DOWN TO CHEAT – David Allan Coe LOVE THE WAY YOU LIE – Eminem featuring Rihanna ANOTHER MAN’S VINE – Tom Waits YOUR CHEATIN’ HEART – Hank Williams BEFORE HE CHEATS – Carrie Underwood YOU, ME AND HE – Mtume CRY ME A RIVER – Justin Timberlake GIVE ME JUST A LITTLE MORE TIME – General Johnson MILITARY MADNESS – Graham Nash TRYING TO LOVE TWO – William Bell BACK DOOR MAN – The Doors BROKEN VOW – Josh Groban SPARE ME THE DETAILS – The Offspring O.P.P. – Naughty By Nature MISERY BUSINESS – Paramore WHO’S MAKING LOVE – Johnnie Taylor SHOULD’VE SAID NO – Taylor Swift TAKE IT ON THE RUN – REO Speedwagon COLD SHOULDER – Adela SHE DON’T HAVE TO KNOW – John Legend

There they go again — powerful men having illicit affairs while their apologists blame the women. Didn’t we just vote to reject these Mad Men mores in last week’s election? Apparently not everyone got the message.

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I have no idea what happened between the growing cast of characters in this unfurling drama. It could be that Broadwell was the aggressor and Petraeus her prey, or it could have been the other way around. Most likely it was much more complicated than either/or, because human entanglements usually are.

But the fact that we can’t possibly know, and yet so many of us apparently think we know is a testament to stereotype, language and a desire to find a morality play in what is mostly just a messy business. We have archetypes, we give them names, and then we construct our narratives around them. Maybe that’s why there are no words.

I have no idea what happened between the growing cast of characters in this unfurling drama. It could be that Broadwell was the aggressor and Petraeus her prey, or it could have been the other way around. Most likely it was much more complicated than either/or, because human entanglements usually are.

But the fact that we can’t possibly know, and yet so many of us apparently think we know is a testament to stereotype, language and a desire to find a morality play in what is mostly just a messy business. We have archetypes, we give them names, and then we construct our narratives around them. Maybe that’s why there are no words.

Oho! Love happens. And it has happened. That the love birds happen to be Bilawal Bhutto and Hina Khar, makes this particular ishq-vishq saga most riveting, especially to those of us across the border who have recently been exposed to Khar’s irresistible charms. So irresistible, in fact, that our dapper foreign minister, S M Krishna, who went totally latoo over the lovely lady, behaved like a smitten schoolboy, drooling in her alluring presence and forgetting all about the Indian agenda.

It’s possible he is nursing a broken heart even as young Bilawal (23) and Hina (34) deal with the storm that has been unleashed in Pakistan after a Bangladeshi tabloid ran a juicy expose on the scandal. Bilawal is a bachcha Majnu to Hina’s seasoned Laila. Reports suggest that President Asif Zardari is far from amused by his son’s dangerous liaison with his external affairs minister. Not only is Bilawal the chairman of the ruling Pakistani People’s Party, but he is also the nominated heir to his mother’s and father’s respective legacies. If the love-struck chap does indeed push off to Switzerland to begin a fresh chapter in his life with the begum he adores, the repercussions of such a decision could prove very costly to the government.

The buzz in Islamabad is that old boy Asif plans to rein in his handsome son, and perhaps sack the seductive Khar. Spoilsport! Really Asif miya, we expect you to be far more understanding, given your own personal history. Look at it this way – Bilawal is seriously cute. And loaded. Hina Khar is seriously gorgeous, and married to a loaded guy. Feroz Gulzar, Hina’s smart husband, has rubbished the scoop and called it ‘social media gossip’. Yes, there is an 11-year age difference between Bilawal and the luscious mother of two. So what? Some of the most enduring love stories in the world have been similarly scripted. Think about it – Hina is keen to take the relationship forward, as her love notes to Bilawal establish. Now that their secret is out, there’s no stopping this pyar ki jodi.

‘Dil Toh Pagal Hai’ is how we put it in Bollywood lingo. Hina has apparently told Asif to keep his nose out of her ‘personal matters’. This is remarkably gutsy of her, considering it was Zardari who found the two in a ‘compromising position’. Known for his fiery temper and happy relationship with guns, it’s a miracle that the president didn’t reach for his favourite weapon when he walked in on the lovers at his official residence. Instead, he tamely asked for Hinaji’s mobile phone records! No point in such a silly exercise, considering the lady has not bothered to deny anything!

The real fun starts now. Will Zardari have the guts to fire his minister-sahiba? What charges can he frame against her? Will he send Bilawal into exile? Where will that leave the PPP? More importantly, since Bilawal is the one with access to his mother’s considerable (but undisclosed) wealth, how can Daddyji kiss the impressive funds goodbye? Unfortunately, the most dispensable member of the cast is Feroz Gulzar. But blowing him away serves no purpose – it will be one more body in an overcrowded morgue.

There is, however, one solution: India could immediately step in and offer a safe haven to the lovebirds. Why go to Switzerland when there is India? We can create an attractive destination for their nikaah. Maybe throw in a luxury houseboat on Dal Lake for the honeymoon. Sarpanches in Omar Abdullah’s state may not be safe. But he’ll take good care of his mehmaans from across the border. After all, when it comes to matters of the heart, Omar knows a thing or two about unbridled passion.

Apart from asylum in India, we could make life a lot more fun for this couple. As neighbours, we owe them this much. Cross-border romanticism is so much more civilized than cross-border terrorism. Hina can happily shop for pearls and more Birkins in our luxury malls. We can get her to host a talk show and perhaps, design a signature fashion collection. Bilawal could consider Bollywood. This is a fabulous, heaven- sent opportunity to strengthen bilateral relationships between the two nations. Hina Khar has already charmed half the country, and reduced S M Krishna to putty. If India can manage to bag two for the price of one, it will rank as a major political coup.

The Haqqani network is still fighting against NATO forces in Afghanistan.

These are the facts: Generals David Petraeus and John Allen exchanged torrents of emails with women not their wives. Petraeus had a relationship with his biographer and Allen exchanged voluminous emails with his female friend while both generals were supposed to be waging war and defending our country in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and around the world. The FBI, CIA, Pentagon, House and Senate are all looking into the chain of events to see whether and how national security was breached and military codes of conduct violated.

Both men will pay with their jobs. Both men will be cautionary tales. But what is the moral of their stories? That smart people do stupid things? Yes. That some secret keepers can’t keep secrets? Yes. That the “e” in email stands for evidence? Yes. That there is no such thing as a private email on the “world wide web?” Yes. That human beings being human make lamentable mistakes? Yes. That the generals are victims of the women? Absolutely not.

Generals Allen and Petraeus are many things — but victims they are not. There are victims here — starting with the spouses and children and the children of the four consenting adults. There may be other victims as well — such as service members and security personnel sacrificing their lives under the command of men who were not 100% focused on the task at hand. But the generals are not the victims and their enablers need to stop blaming the women.

Young folks call it “slut shaming” — and Mother Jones reporter Kate Shappard has a pretty nasty compilation of the verbiage directed at Petraeus biographer Paula Broadwell: “Got her claws into him” “dressed in tight clothes” and “shared a story about women wanting to be sexually dominated” to name a few. And we now have General Allen’s friend depicted as “flirtatious” and “salacious.” Sigh. As if two of the most powerful men in the world were hapless victims to female sexuality. Please.

Didn’t we just have this discussion at the 2012 ballot box? Didn’t we just reject “binders full of women” and victim shaming in favor of women making our own decisions about our bodies, our families, and our futures? Didn’t a majority of voters just elect powerful women to work side by side along men to make the critical decisions about security and economic power? Apparently not everyone got the memo — because the minute this sex scandal was reported, people regressed without a second thought.

Enough with the Mad Men mores — the generals are not the victims. If you just voted to defend women’s rights, then don’t participate in blaming these women for what they and the men did — hold all four consenting adults Petraeus, Broadwell, Allen, and Kelley equally accountable for the facts. If you just finished thinking, “gee the Republican party needs to modernize its views of women” make sure yours are modernized too.

The larger point here is that Generals Allen and Petraeus held American blood and treasure in their hands. They decided the fate of hundreds of thousands of American service members and security personnel. Were the liaisons deadly distractions that put troops in harm’s way or prevented us from doing better in Afghanistan? The public deserves to know — and deserves new leaders who can give 100 percent focus to bringing our troops home safely honorably and soon.

This is 2012 not 1962. Here’s a thought — David Petraeus and John Allen ought to stand up and make clear that they the generals are not the victims here and that anyone suggesting otherwise should stand down.

Paula Broadwell was (apparently) David Petraeus’ mistress.

What, then, was David Petraeus?

Colloquial English language has no word for that — no label we use to describe the man with whom a married woman cheats. Gigolo doesn’t really cover it. Lover, perhaps, but no newspaper account would use it in a situation like this because their goal is to talk about sex without directly mentioning it. Paramour? That just sounds ridiculous.

Mister-ess? Maybe that will catch on.

But until it does we are left lopsidedly with “mistress” and, by extension, the implication that she is somehow his and not the other way around. “Paula Broadwell, David Petraeus’ Biographer and Alleged Mistress,” reads the TIME‘s “2 Minute Bio” on her. “FBI Search Petraeus Mistress Paula Broadwell’s Home,” says the BBC. “Petraeus’ ex-mistress Broadwell quipped in interview ‘I’m not in love’,” the New York Daily News tells us.

Language is a reflection of culture, which is why there are so many Inuit words for snow. Given that one can not be a mistress without a… someone… what does it say about our culture that we haven’t given that role a name?

Mostly it says that we still think of him as a bit of a stud at best, and a victim of her manipulation, at worst, while we think of her as defined in relation to him — something we can label. And label we do.

The former general and CIA chief is described as “a driven, focussed leader,” who “let his guard down,” according to the Washington Post.

Business Insider anonymously quoted one of Broadwell’s colleagues in a story headlined “Biographer Paula Broadwell ‘Got Her Claws Into Him’“: “You’re a 60 year-old man and an attractive woman almost half your age makes herself available to you — that would be a test for anyone.” And Pat Robertson so helpfully smirked on the Christian Broadcast Network: “A man is off in a foreign land and he’s lonely and here’s a good looking lady throwing himself at her. He’s a man.”

Broadwell, too, is being described as “driven,” but when applied to her the word becomes a condemnation. “Paula Broadwell Is the Classic Over-Achiever,” one Newser headline exclaimed, and went on to take the fact the she excelled at West Point, Harvard and King’s College in London, wrote a well reviewed book, and was an ironman triathlete who bested Jon Stewart at push-ups, and turn those into bad things. “Over …time, she went from someone very likeable to a shameless self-promoting prom queen,” the anonymous “friend” told the Business Insider

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