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Book illustration of General called 'surprisingly familiar'

books Updated: Jan 04, 2012 07:24 IST
The Washington Post
Highlight Story

Retired Gen. David H. Petraeus is probably the most photographed soldier of his generation. The pistol in his left hand and the whiskey in his right would definitely be a new look.

Michael Hastings, who vaulted to fame in 2010 when he penned a controversial profile of another top Army general, is out with a new book this week. While the publisher is promising new "shocking behind-the-scenes" details about America's military commanders, the book's cover might prove shocking enough.

The cover illustration of "The Operators" shows a four-star general with his tie askew, fingering a firearm and cradling a whiskey. The general's head is not visible, but he just happens to be wearing a uniform that looks exactly like Petraeus's.

It's a fitting image to illustrate a book that claims to reveal the "wild and terrifying inside story of America's war in Afghanistan." But is it supposed to be the same officer who commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan before retiring to lead the CIA?

The armed and apparently inebriated general on the cover boasts a French Parachutist Badge, a Master Parachutist Badge, a 101st Airborne Division Unit Insignia, a Combat Action Badge, an Air Assault Badge, and 10 rows of ribbons.

Petraeus's uniform when he was on active duty included the exact same decorations. A spokeswoman for Penguin USA said the general in the image was not Petraeus.

"The illustration . . . is in no way intended to portray anyone specifically," said Aileen Boyle, a spokesperson for the Penguin imprint Blue Rider Press.

The French Parachutist Badge, in combination with the other decorations, is unique to Petraeus. Like Penguin, Tim O'Brien, the artist behind the drawing, denied that the general portrayed on the cover was supposed to be Petraeus. "There was no intention to model any illustration on anyone in particular," he wrote in an e-mail.

Asked if he had used a picture of Petraeus's uniform when painting his inebriated officer, O'Brien said: "I really don't want to be drawn into an article about the artwork. . . . Any similarity to any real person is unintentional."

The CIA and Petraeus declined to comment on the illustration, but several of Petraeus's former military colleagues noticed the similarities.

Hastings made headlines in 2010 after an article he wrote for Rolling Stone magazine quoted Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal and his staff saying derogatory things about top Obama administration officials. Shortly after the article was published, McChrystal, who was the top commander in Afghanistan, was summoned to the White House and fired.

"The Operators" will go on sale Thursday.

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