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From all appearances, David Petraeus was in his element. It was the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 7, and the CIA director was the keynote speaker at a high-minded foreign-policy conference in Washington held by the World Affairs Councils of America. The audience of roughly 250 people crowded into a ballroom to hear what was billed as an off-the-record conversation with the legendary general–turned–spy chief.
Petraeus held forth on a vast range of global topics, including U.S. economic competitiveness, China, Afghanistan-Pakistan policy, and the turmoil in the Middle East. “He was thoughtful and methodical,” gushed one participant. “Wow, what an amazing mind.” It was the kind of virtuoso performance for which Petraeus had become known: an effortless, incisive tour of the world.
At that very moment, however, Petraeus’s own private world was cracking at the seams. Earlier that day, his boss, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, had confronted Petraeus about his affair with his 40-year-old biographer, Paula Broadwell. Clapper had urged his colleague to resign, and Petraeus agreed that he had no other choice. “It was,” says Shawn Turner, a spokesman for Clapper, “a difficult and wrenching conversation.”
Now as Petraeus wowed the audience at the World Affairs conference, Clapper was delivering the news of the CIA director’s affair to the White House. After the event, as the guest of honor sped off into the night, people still milled about the ballroom where the conference was being held. They had no idea that anything was amiss.
Soon enough, the people who attended the event, like the rest of America, would begin to learn about a different side of Petraeus. But even as details of the scandal have trickled out, some fundamental questions about the relationship between Petraeus and Broadwell have remained cloudy. What drove this most disciplined of men to be so reckless? What accounted for the bond that he formed with Broadwell? And above all: what might have caused these two particular people to have an affair at this particular time?
David Petraeus’s Life Crisis, Newsweek
We pulled together our favorite longreads about Scientology. Got any others we should check out?
Announcing: Our first-ever ebook!
Longreads: Best of 2011 includes seven of our favorite stories from the past year.
The ebook is a unique partnership with the writers and publishers—we want to help celebrate outstanding storytelling, and this is just another way for us to do it. Additionally, money from the ebook sales will be shared with the creators, and we’re excited to have them participating.
Longreads: Best of 2011 is available now and includes:
• “Travis the Menace,” by Dan P. Lee (New York magazine)
• “Vanishing Act,” by Paul Collins (Lapham’s Quarterly)
• “In Which We Teach You How to Be a Woman in Any Boy’s Club,” by Molly Lambert (This Recording)
• “What Really Happened Aboard Air France 447,” by Jeff Wise (Popular Mechanics)
• “Autistic and Seeking a Place in an Adult World,” by Amy Harmon (New York Times)
• “The Girl from Trails End,” by Kathy Dobie (GQ)
• “Inside David Foster Wallace’s Private Self-Help Library,” by Maria Bustillos (The Awl)
This we shall purchase (although that Air France story…man).
ZINA HASANOVIC TAKES OUT her most treasured possession, a picture of her husband, Haris. She smiles down at her year-old daughter, Lejla. “See, it’s Papa. Give him a kiss,” she says. The toddler grabs the photograph, kisses it and proudly says, “Papa.” Her grandmother weeps in the corner of their one-room home, which is shared by eight refugees from the Muslim village of Lehovici, outside Srebrenica. The women are teaching Lejla to say “Father” and “Uncle” and “Brother,” despite the fact that most of her male relatives are almost certainly dead.
They disappeared last July, when Bosnian Serb forces overran the Srebrenica enclave, which the United Nations had proclaimed a “safe haven.” The Serbs drove out the women and butchered the men, according to numerous eyewitness accounts, burying most of the bodies in mass graves. Officially, as many as 8,000 men from Srebrenica are still listed as missing. Zina Hasanovic is one of the few women to know exactly what happened to her husband. Haris was executed on a killing field in the village of Grbavci. As Serb bullets swept the tightly packed ranks of Muslim prisoners, Haris fell on top of Mevludin Oric, his first cousin and best friend. Mevludin lay there for hours, covered by bodies and blood, while the Serbs finished off the wounded. Then he escaped to tell Zina what had happened.
The beginning of Rod Nordland’s fascinating piece, “Death of a Village,” from the April 15, 1996 issue of Newsweek.