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Beverly Beckham

An affair isn’t the real disgrace

Susanne Muller with her son, Ian, who was killed in combat in Afghanistan.

Muller family

Susanne Muller with her son, Ian, who was killed in combat in Afghanistan.

I don’t care that David Petraeus had an affair with his biographer.

What I care about is that his infidelity diverts us once again. From the president on down — politicians, reporters, entertainers, commentators — people everywhere are talking about Petraeus and how incredible it is that someone so smart could be so stupid.

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In the meantime, Operation Enduring Freedom/Afghanistan continues. Total US fatalities in and around Afghanistan to date: 2,154.

There’s a list of the names of the dead on the website icasualties.org. There’s also a graph of the number of 17,674 men and women injured so far. These numbers are sobering because while we are consumed with one man, one woman, and their privileged friends, the sons and daughters of so many ordinary Americans aren’t getting a time out to put their feet up and their weapons down to watch this continuing soap opera.

Petraeus was, like all of these men and women who serve, a hero for most of his life. He fought. He led. He was respected.

Now he is disgraced.

But only for now.

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That’s the beauty of our culture. We can be shocked one minute, and angry and disillusioned and even disgusted, but in time, a very short time, we forget. And forgive. So Petraeus will be back, a sex scandal just a bump in the road for him. Hugh Grant. Tiger Woods. Bill Clinton. They’re proof.

But this bump in the road has a bigger and wider effect than a temporary fall from grace for one man. There’s the Benghazi terror attack, the whys and hows and who knew what, the investigation and testimonies, already delayed. So many unanswered questions.

I wonder what it feels like to be the mother of someone murdered and have your son’s death put on the back burner because of a story that is more pulp fiction than politics.

I wonder what it feels like to be a soldier on the ground in Afghanistan knowing that your country and the people you are fighting for every day are, once again, putting something else first — the economy, health care, the election. And now this.

General Petraeus is a four-star general with 37 years in the United States Army. He has certainly done more good than harm in his life. But he hasn’t just hurt his wife. He’s hurt all the men and women in the military who trusted that he would always put them first.

I read a story on Veterans Day about a 22-year-old Marine who was killed in Afghanistan on March 3, 2011. His name was Ian Muller and he lived in North Danville, Vt., and he had five brothers and one sister. His mother, Susanne, home schooled them all.  

The story was headlined “Sweet boy taken from her arms,” and there was a picture of a good-looking young man and his mother, their arms around each other smiling for the camera.

“They take our sweet boys from our arms and they train them to kill,” Susanne Muller told Brian Mockenhaupt, a writer who served two tours in Iraq as an infantryman. Her words were “not meant as a criticism of the Marine Corps but as a pragmatic assessment,” he added.

I think about her words and her sweet young boy and all our sweet young boys and girls and what we owe them.

A world at peace is the ideal. But, if not that, don’t we at least owe them our attention? Isn’t what they are doing and sacrificing every day, isn’t who they are and the stories they have to tell more important than another affair?

There’s been fighting in the Mideast for decades. We should all know everything there is to know about Iraq and Afghanistan by now. That we don’t is the real disgrace.

The Salon.com article, “Sweet boy taken from her arms,” is an excerpt of Brian Mockenhaupt’s Byliner ebook, “The Living and the Dead.”

Beverly Beckham can be reached at BevBeckham@aol.com.
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