In mid-September, just as General David Petraeus was scheduled to deliver testimony to Congress on progress in Baghdad and the state of the "surge" of U.S. troops in Iraq, a newspaper ad by the political group MoveOn.org became a touchstone of anger on the right, and a handy whipping tool again anti-war voices in and out of the Congress.
"General Petraeus or General 'Betray Us?'" the ad read, implying that the commander's testimony, heavily influenced by the White House, would not tell the whole truth about Iraq and the situation facing U.S. forces there.
The ad caused outrage in and of itself, and even more so when it was discovered that The New York Times had sold advertising space to MoveOn at a reduced rate.
It led to an unprecedented scene of, which overwhelmingly passed (and even a counter-resolution condemning similar attacks on military figures who had run on Democratic tickets, which Republicans filibustered).
But now the general has come under attack in print again, this time from the right flank. In the latest issue of The American Conservative magazine, a publication co-founded by Pat Buchanan, Gen. Petraeus is featured on the cover with the headline "Sycophant Savior."
In the article by Andrew J. Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, the General is faulted for telling the military's civilian leadership and politicians in Washington what they wanted to hear, instead of what they needed to hear, thereby providing them with political cover.
Bacevich's arguments against the General come from the opposite direction as that of anti-war protestors - he believes if the surge is in fact working at pacifying violence, as Petraeus suggested, then it should be followed by more, not fewer troops. He sees Petraeus's recommendation of a meager drawdown, while keeping most U.S. forces in Iraq longer, gives everyone - the president, Republicans up for re-election, and Democrats trying to satisfy their "bring 'em home now" constituents - something to tide them over. Everyone's, if not happy, then at least not roiling mad.
Bacevich sees this as a fatal flaw in the general:
"David Petraeus is a political general. Yet in presenting his recent assessment of the Iraq War and in describing the "way forward," Petraeus demonstrated that he is a political general of the worst kind - one who indulges in the politics of accommodation that is Washington's bread and butter but has thereby deferred a far more urgent political imperative, namely, bringing our military policies into harmony with our political purposes. …In other word, Bacevich is renaming him "General Betray Myself."
"This defines Petraeus's failure. Instead of obliging the president and the Congress to confront this fundamental contradiction - are we or are we not at war? - he chose instead to let them off the hook.
"Of course, if he had done otherwise - if he had asked, say, to expand the surge by adding yet another 50,000 troops - he would have distressed just about everyone back in Washington. He might have paid a considerable price career-wise."
One would think that after the brou-ha-ha on Capitol Hill about the MoveOn ad, a publication might think twice about making such broad-stroked attacks on a military figure, fearing a repeat of Senatorial condemnation.
The American Conservative cover appears, on its face, to run counter to the Senate resolution which "strongly condemn[s] any effort to attack the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all the members of the United States Armed Forces" and "specifically repudiate[s]" unwarranted personal attacks upon the General.
There has been no comment from the office of Sen. John Cornyn, the Texas Republican who brought the original resolution condemning MoveOn to the Senate Floor.