We’ll Always Have Kabul: Petraeus Unbound

Photo: Corbis

Welcome back to Celebrotica, in which the Cut’s resident romance novelist reimagines the news.

It had long been rumored that something was going on between Petraeus and Broadwell. Her book, co-written with Vernon Loeb, is widely regarded as a valentine to the general. When she was embedded with him in Afghanistan, they went on frequent 5-mile runs together. —“Petraeus Resigns Over Affair With Biographer,” Slate.com

The affair was a poorly botched operation, like so many in Iraq before General Petraeus got into the swing of things. He was taken by Paula’s confidence, her sleek form and effusive praise, and didn’t have a proper exit plan. Some would say that extramarital relations weren’t worth it, that they couldn’t end well, but some said the same thing about war, and no one listened once the first shots were fired.

He was smart enough to be discreet. You think a man rises to command the most expensive military force in the history of the world because he’s cute? When the general indulged, his dalliances were with women who had everything to gain by being with him, and everything to lose in revelation. No babies left in foreign seaside towns for David Petraeus.

But in the end, his power over Paula is what undid him. For it was the same focused passion that drove her to sing his praises and to lavish in his arms — that also drove her to seek vengeance on other women who neared him. Ultimately, it would destroy him.

And he was not an easy man to destroy. Though the press brayed in the wake of Petraeus’s resignation, he considered that Alexander the Great wouldn’t have put up with this shit. Patton would have put out a cigar in someone’s eye. These soft little people with their wiretaps and WikiLeaks would never understand, never know the heights of life and death and lust born from battle.

In Afghanistan, they had been as covert as could be arranged. As his biographer, Paula was granted unparalleled access, intimately embedded. She took meals with him in an open tent under the hot sun, which sergeants scampered to attend. They inspected the lines of mixed American and Afghan battalions together, wearing matching head-to-toe armor.

They explored newly reopened roads, driving out in a Humvee flanked by an endless sea of military units. They drove over picturesque mountain roads and saw plunging cliff-faces and the persistent smoke that was forever in the distance. They held hands, watching with pride the efficacy and speed with which the front teams swept the area clean for IEDs. They were like the nomadic royal warriors of yore; even Genghis Khan would have stuck to a mere three or four wives if he’d had those nattering nuisances from the Washington Post up his ass all the time, too.

The general and his scribe were both in prime physical condition, as trained as bodies could be, and when they made love, they were like two perfect killing machines engaged in the act. He came right on target and came back to his senses, but he’d gone too far to reverse course; Paula was underneath him on the desk with bits of a torn map of Pakistan in her hair, gasping approval at each incursion, so he gave her victories to remember.

“Did my men see you?” General Petraeus would ask when she snuck into his room late at night, past several layers of military personnel and personal security. And she would shake out her glossy brown hair, wearing only a standard-issue camo tank that showcased the toned lines of her shoulders.

“No one I couldn’t take care of,” she’d say with a confident swagger, shrugging her terrifically chiseled shoulders. Then they would couple ferociously, with the desperation of soldiers in foxholes, as though every time could be their last on earth.

For there were times when even a great warrior doubts himself. When he needs to be reminded that he still has “it,” when the weight of world affairs starts to nag. At those moments, he would tell his men to form a perimeter, and he would go to her. He stuck to the shadows in the green zone, skirting mercenaries and patrols, silently noting every unit that didn’t intercept him for future disciplinary action.

He could climb and hop a barbed-wire fence with the ease he had at 20, and he showed off, knowing she watched from behind the bulletproof glass and thick metal bars of her window. He’d scale her wall like the trained king of conquest he was. He’d use a bonesaw clenched between his teeth to break in. By the time he got in, they’d both be panting for it. One night, they were nearly discovered while she rode him raw, until all they were was skin and bone and obsessively toned torsos. She made him cry for mercy, loud and sustained as a suspected terrorist undergoing advanced interrogation techniques. When a guard came to investigate, they hit the floor and hid under the bed like a couple of cadets. Yes, Paula kept him young. Sex with her was like adding 200 crunches, four grams of protein, and 100 extra super-squats to his already rigorous fitness routine.

With Paula, lovemaking reflected both sides of the general’s inclinations: determined endurance spiked with the occasional recklessly heedless surge. She loved to be tossed over his shoulder, but she could bench-press him in return. She wrote a helluva book, and he told her they’d always have Kabul.

That was meant to be that, and frankly, he hadn’t thought about it in a while. He had a new job, arguably even more full of shit than overseeing security transition in Iraq, because none of these CIA spooks have any discipline whatsoever. A bunch of greasy college kids working wiretaps, mixed with cold-blooded assassins and doddering Cold War relics, none of them able to take a goddamned order.

Spies. He was done now with the whole useless lot of them, the CIA and the FBI both. Brats with fancy computers, putting an end to 40 years of international service with their Internet hacking games. He didn’t blame Paula for being unable to let him go — he knew the force of his charisma. Troops fought and died for him; she would hardly be the first or the last to adore him. No, he would forever blame the boys at the baby agencies, for playing politics when they should have come to him and had a cigar. This never would have happened if he’d stayed in the army where he belonged. Where no bad decision had ever stopped him.

Amelia Casey is a romance novelist. Her most recent book, Taken by the Highwayman, makes Lady Anabel Mayward quiver.

We’ll Always Have Kabul: Petraeus Unbound