s you know, I didn't say that,” Petraeus said, according to one e-mail to Boot timed off at 2:27 p.m., March 18. “It's in a written submission for the record.”
In other words, Petraeus was arguing that the comments were only in his formal testimony submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee and were not repeated by him in his brief oral opening statement. However, the written testimony is treated as part of the official record at congressional hearings with no meaningful distinction from oral testimony.
In another e-mail, as Petraeus solicited Boot’s help in tamping down any controversy over the Israeli remarks, the general ended the message with a military “Roger” and a sideways happy face, made from a colon, a dash and a closed parenthesis, :-) .
The e-mails were made public by James Morris, who runs a Web site called “Neocon Zionist Threat to America.” He said he apparently got them by accident when he sent a March 19 e-mail congratulating Petraeus for his testimony and Petraeus responded by forwarding one of Boot’s blog posts that knocked down the story of the general’s implicit criticism of Israel.
Petraeus forwarded Boot’s blog item, entitled “A Lie: David Petraeus, Anti-Israel,” which had been posted at the Commentary magazine site at 3:11 p.m. on March 18. However, Petraeus apparently forgot to delete some of the other exchanges between him and Boot at the bottom of the e-mail.
Morris sent me the e-mails at my request after an article by Philip Weiss appeared about them at Mondoweiss, a Web site that deals with Middle East issues. This week, I sought comment from Petraeus and Boot regarding the e-mails, specifically giving them a chance to deny their authenticity. Neither man has responded.
The e-mails also reveal Petraeus brainstorming with Boot regarding how to finesse the potential controversy over the Senate testimony.
At 2:37 p.m. on March 18, Petraeus asks Boot, “Does it help if folks know that I hosted Elie Wiesel and his wife at our quarters last Sun night?! And that I will be the speaker at the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps in mid-Apr at the Capitol Dome [?]”
Eight minutes later, Boot responded, “No don't think that's relevant because you're not being accused of being anti-Semitic.”
That’s when a relieved Petraeus responds, “Roger! :-) “
The e-mail exchange suggests a cozy relationship between Petraeus and Boot, who has often promoted the general in columns written for news outlets such as the Weekly Standard, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times.
In one article co-authored by Boot and two other prominent neocons Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, the trio reveals that they were brought to Afghanistan in late winter 2009 by Petraeus when the U.S. military was trying to boost public support for a troop escalation of the war.
“Fears of impending disaster are hard to sustain, however, if you actually spend some time in Afghanistan, as we did recently at the invitation of General David Petraeus, chief of U.S. Central Command,” they wrote.
“Using helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, and bone-jarring armored vehicles, we spent eight days traveling from the snow-capped peaks of Kunar province near the border with Pakistan in the east to the wind-blown deserts of Farah province in the west near the border with Iran. Along the way we talked with countless coalition soldiers, ranging from privates to a four-star general.”
Their extraordinary access paid dividends for Petraeus when they returned to the United States with a glowing report in the Weekly Standard about the prospects for success in Afghanistan – if only President Obama sent more troops and committed the United States to stay in the war for the long haul.
Boot himself is a staunch advocate for the so-called Long War against Islamic militants, arguing that the United States must curtail domestic programs, including health care, if necessary to sustain and expand the military budget so the projection of U.S. power around the globe can continue unabated.
“It will be increasingly hard to be globocop and nanny state at the same time,” Boot wrote last March 25 in a Wall Street Journal article opposing Obamacare. “Something will have to give.”
But Boot clearly views U.S. military power in the world as what does not have “to give.”
His writings reflect an imperialist attitude that at times borders on racism. For instance, in a Jan 18 commentary as Haiti was reeling from a devastating earthquake, Boot wrote:
“Unfashionable though it may be to say so, some of Haiti's best years - the years when it was most free of violence and turmoil - were between 1915 and 1934, when the country was occupied by U.S. Marines. They did not run Haiti directly, but they provided support for local elites who with American backing were able to impose more stability and freedom than Haiti has enjoyed before or since.”
However, very few Haiti experts would agree that the nation, while under U.S. military occupation on behalf of a wealthy few, was any kind of testament to “freedom.” Further, the “stability” primarily benefited the light-skinned Haitian elite, in effect cementing the rigid class structure that has doomed Haiti’s democratic movements to violent resistance ever since.
But Boot goes even further in his malign neglect for the black Haitian majority.
“We desperately need a way to place dysfunctional countries like Haiti into international receivership,” Boot wrote. “Until such a mechanism is invented, it appears, alas, that Haiti will continue to experience more of the lawlessness and tragedy that have characterized its history ever since the establishment of a French slave regime in the 18th century.”
The final sentence is striking – when he cites “the lawlessness and tragedy that have characterized its history ever since the establishment of a French slave regime in the 18th century” – because what existed before that was a brutal plantation society run by white Frenchmen who held African slaves in the cruelest bondage, literally working many to their deaths.
Disobedient slaves were sometimes executed in ceremonies that involved inserting explosive charges up their rectums and blowing them to pieces.
While many civilized people even at the time were disgusted by the barbarity of the French system, which extracted enormous wealth from Haiti, enough to build many of the beautiful palaces around Paris, Boot sees this era as something of a golden age, disrupted only by the troublesome slave uprisings at the end of the 18th century.
Similarly, Boot has little sympathy for the Palestinians locked in Gaza. After Israel’s devastating assault in late 2008 and early 2009, which killed an estimated 1,400 Palestinians including many women and children, Boot praised the military operation in language fitting an earlier imperial time, calling the attack “more like a punitive expedition really.”
In a Weekly Standard article, Boot continued, “It may not have been as satisfying as winning the enemy's unconditional surrender, but the Gaza war nevertheless can be counted as a victory for Israel. A highly limited and attenuated victory, to be sure, but one that nevertheless restored Israelis' self-confidence and Arabs' fear of provoking Israel. …
“Many Israeli officials expressed to us the expectation that after this war Israel's enemies will view it as a ‘crazy animal’ that they cannot afford to bait.”
To Boot, the Mideast peace process is almost not worth discussing. He wrote on Jan. 5, 2008, in the Wall Street Journal that “those who insist on pursuing the ‘peace process,’ notwithstanding the low probability of success, claim that we have no choice. ‘What is the alternative?’ they ask. ‘Perpetual war?’