General Petraeus, one time world-accredited hero of Iraq and Afghanistan has resigned from his position as director of the CIA after just over one year in office. Reason given: an extra-marital affair of the kind European politicians would not bat an eyelid about. Is this about morality and the self-castigation of a four-star lover boy ashamed in front of his wife of 37 years who does not want to be mistaken for the US version of Dominique Strauss Khan?

Whatever else lies behind this sorry tale, it is about the disappearance of private space which henceforth, in the USA, deserves above all else public scrutiny and judgement. And, in true military fashion, the General chose pre-emptive action before the media went to town about it.

Why does n’t political activity in the public sphere generate as much passionate interest?
Petraeus, as one time chief of ISAF in Afghanistan (July 2010- August 2011), going much further than his predecessor General McChrystal, encouraged talks with Taliban and hosted reconciliation between Karzai and the insurgent forces. The latter, in the meantime, were busy blasting the country and terrorising local populations. This new-found respectability was not to be ladled out at any cost, the General hastened to add: after all the US and the coalition carpet-bombed themselves into Afghanistan, as retaliation against 9/11, Bin Laden and the Taliban treatment of women – in that order. Such a radical course of action still needs justification after thousands of deaths and wounded, both American and Afghan (and others), millions of displaced, trillions spent on military budgets. Other interests are obviously at stake, far more important than human issues and women’s rights. It is safe to presume that these could be about the fabulous mineral wealth of Afghanistan, up for grabs before the serious mining is underway all over the country.

It is interesting to note that in recent days, news has come out that never has violence against women in Afghanistan reached such peaks. Admittedly under-reporting until now is to blame for the paucity of figures. But nevertheless, Taliban and their sympathisers have been responsible for attempted and successful killing of women and girls through shooting, hanging, acid-hurling, stoning, beating, threats of every kind, both in Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan, that other heavily-funded ally of the US. Never mind the Afghan Constitution, never mind an obviously powerless Ministry of Women’s Affairs and countless human rights commissions and projects financed by the West.

Such criminal behaviour, flaunted as natural patriarchal privilege against women seems to be increasingly normalised in a society where negotiation with Taliban and their look-alikes is tolerated and indeed encouraged. Business deals serve as a form of legitimation of the morals of the signatories on either side. Perhaps one of the consequences of the normalisation of such unacceptable behaviour in one part of the world is that repression seems to be underway after (amongst others) the so-called revolutions in Northern Africa where measures threatening hard-won women’s rights are surging in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere.

Perhaps General Petraeus has indeed much to be ashamed of in front of his lady-wife. Is it is not for me to pass comment. However, this man may have even more to reproach himself when it comes to the dismal fate of Afghan women today.

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