When (and why) the right turns on Petraeus

WHEN (AND WHY) THE RIGHT TURNS ON PETRAEUS…. About four years ago, Gen. David Petraeus’ most aggressive critics were on the left. He had an op-ed shortly before the 2004 presidential election that was widely seen as a partisan move to help the Bush/Cheney campaign, and as the war in Iraq deteriorated, MoveOn.org ran a very high-profile ad accusing the general of “cooking the books for the White House.”

Several years later, Petraeus, transitioning from Afghanistan to the CIA, still has his critics, but the bulk of the vitriol is coming from the right.

Frank Gaffney, founder of the Center for Security Policy and a prominent anti-Muslim activist, slammed Petraeus for having condemned a fringe pastor who sparked riots by burning a Quran. As Gaffney sees it, the general is guilty of “submission” to Sharia law.

Marc Thiessen, a former Bush speechwriter and now a Washington Post columnist, also isn’t happy with Petraeus, and insisted that the Obama administration refuses to allow the CIA to interrogate anyone, while expressing concern about having a CIA director with “restrictive views on interrogation.” (In other words, Petraeus is against torture.)

Adam Serwer sets the record straight.

During a Senate hearing in February, Senator Marco Rubio pressed Panetta on whether or not the CIA needed to employ the torturous interrogation techniques used by the prior administration in order to gather intelligence. Panetta responded: “I think right now, the process that we have in place…it brings together the best resources that we have to get the intelligence we need, and I think it works pretty well.”

So, yes, the Obama administration does have an interrogation policy, and the CIA is involved in crafting and implementing it. Thiessen’s problem is that the policy doesn’t involve enough torture. Whatever other concerns people might have about Petraeus’ move to head the CIA, for those of us who believe torture is both morally reprehensible and entirely counterproductive, Petraeus’ outspoken opposition to torture and his defenses of American values and the rule of law are a feature, not a bug.

There’s been some simmering tension between Petraeus and Republicans in recent years, with the general subtly blaming Bush for problems in Afghanistan, while siding with Democrats on everything from Gitmo to Iran to Israel.

But for the right to go after Petraeus on torture and Muslims is far more troubling, even by conservative standards.