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How Petraeus betrayed us

June 29, 2012: Gen. David Petraeus testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington.AP

Mother always said the bigger they are, the harder they fall. If ever there was any doubt, the stunning case of CIA boss David Petraeus dispels it.

The most important and celebrated military leader of our time has fallen from the sky with a thud that is shaking all of Washington. His personal life and career are in tatters, but that is not the whole story. Not by a long shot.

Petraeus, once talked about as presidential timber, played a big part in the administration’s misleading narrative surrounding the murder of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya. That we now know he was under investigation by the FBI for an affair and a security breach when he told congressional leaders that the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others was a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video adds a level of intrigue that is extraordinary even for the spooky world of the CIA.

The most important and celebrated military leader of our time has fallen from the sky with a thud that is shaking all of Washington. His personal life and career are in tatters, but that is not the whole story. Not by a long shot.

Before that briefing, the State Department had evidence that the attack was carried out by an Al Qaeda offshoot, a fact that led some members of Congress to suggest Petraeus was parroting the White House political line. His confession of the affair and the FBI probe give that suggestion new meaning because he could have had an ulterior motive for being a team player.

The timing of his departure is also more than a little curious. How convenient for President Obama that, the White House says, he was “briefed” on the matter only Thursday — two days after he won re-election.

Is that when he first learned of it? Having a scandal of this magnitude emerge during the campaign would have been bad for the president, so he and his team had a motive for delaying the resignation.

Timing also figures into the matter of Petraeus’ scheduled testimony about the Benghazi attack to Congress next Wednesday. It’s unlikely that will happen now because he is so tainted that his credibility is shattered. Again, how convenient that he will be silenced.

Still, questions about his conduct could make the congressional probes into the Sept. 11 anniversary attack extra contentious. Before this, even some top Senate Democrats signed on to demands that the administration come clean about what it knew and when it knew it.

The Benghazi attack was already a major national security scandal, and the Petraeus bombshell could cast a shadow over the start of Obama’s second term.

“I believe everything. And I believe nothing. I suspect everyone. And I suspect no one.”

So said Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau. His zany approach turns out to be a perfect guide for getting to the bottom of the horror in Benghazi and the flameout of David Petraeus, former hero.

This column originally appeared in the New York Post. For more, click here 

Michael Goodwin is a Fox News contributor and New York Post columnist.