The general's dispatches

November 14, 2012 

We should by now be on notice that any aura of immunity to the classic human foibles – call them the seven deadly sins if you wish – that accrues to our heroes in public service is largely an illusion. What the heroes are able to do, for the most part, is carry out their noble missions in spite of temptation, in spite of the occasional if not recurring lapse.

OK. But that’s no excuse for the commanding general in a theater of war devoting untold amounts of time and attention to a high-schoolish exchange of emails with a woman who had ingratiated herself with top figures at a military base in Florida, where the general had been stationed.

Marine Gen. John Allen, running the American effort in Afghanistan – where American troops continue to die, as U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, in his letter printed today, is among those reminding us – has had a difficult job.

Not so difficult, however, that it prevented him from becoming entangled in some fashion with 37-year-old Jill Kelley of Tampa, to the tune of some 20,000 emails and documents sent between the two. How are the Marines and soldiers out there in the Afghan badlands risking their lives every day to defeat the Taliban supposed to feel once they find out that what their top commander has been up to? Disgusted, to say the least.

Allen was unmasked as an email addict drawn into a questionable relationship with a woman not his wife shortly after his predecessor in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, was forced to resign as head of the CIA because his adulterous affair was exposed.

The stranger-than-fiction link: Jill Kelley ended up outing Petraeus’ mistress, biographer Paula Broadwell, by convincing the FBI to investigate anonymous emails that turned out to have been sent by Broadwell.

The FBI’s handling of the matter – yes, this is where we have to mention the agent who sent beefcake photos of himself to Kelley – must be among the matters probed by Congress.

But Congress should not have to concern itself with considering Allen’s pending nomination to become NATO’s top commander. President Obama should withdraw that nomination pronto for Allen’s lack of judgment. An email from the Oval Office would do just fine.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service