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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

[Update- Article Released]The McChrystal Bruhaha- McChrystal's Inner Circle Gives Hillary Clinton Good Reviews

[Update] The Rolling Stone's article "The Runaway General" has been released and can be found here. Commentary from the actual article will be at the bottom of the original post under "Update" [End Update]


General Stanley McChrystal, the top US war commander in Afghanistan, did a series of interviews with Rolling Stones for an article (which has not hit the newsstands yet) and had some very harsh things to say on a variety of subjects, including Barack Obama.

First off, bad form. An active General, in charge of a major war, just does not openly criticize the commander-in-chief, the president. Then again, from the massive amount of ink dedicated to this story already, the majority of damaging quotes seem to be attributed to others and not directly to McChrystal.

With that said, does it make the details from the initial press release which included direct quotes, untrue? Factually incorrect?

McChrystal is an expert on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, known to be very blunt and not known for his media savvy, yet he was put in charge of a war that requires his unique expertise and not given the tools to perform his mission by Obama.

Obama agreed to dispatch an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan only after months of study that many in the military found frustrating. The White House's troop commitment was coupled with a pledge to begin bringing them home in July 2011, in what counterinsurgency strategists advising McChrystal regarded as an arbitrary deadline.

Many are focusing on the bad form of the interview, the bad judgment of allowing the interview to be conducted, but what about those pesky details garnered from the pre-released portions of the Rolling Stone's article called "The Runaway General"?

---Even though he had voted for Obama, McChrystal and his new commander in chief failed from the outset to connect. The general first encountered Obama a week after he took office, when the president met with a dozen senior military officials in a room at the Pentagon known as the Tank. According to sources familiar with the meeting, McChrystal thought Obama looked "uncomfortable and intimidated" by the roomful of military brass. Their first one-on-one meeting took place in the Oval Office four months later, after McChrystal got the Afghanistan job, and it didn't go much better. "It was a 10-minute photo op," says an adviser to McChrystal. "Obama clearly didn't know anything about him, who he was. Here's the guy who's going to run his fucking war, but he didn't seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed."

So, the single most damaging quote came from an adviser, yet it speaks to a commander-in-chief, meeting with a General in charge of a major war, not having a clue as to who he was dealing with.


The article claims McChrystal has seized control of the war "by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House."

Asked by the Rolling Stone reporter about what he now feels of the war strategy advocated by Biden last fall – fewer troops, more drone attacks – McChrystal and his aides reportedly attempted to come up with a good one-liner to dismiss the question. "Are you asking about Vice President Biden?" McChrystal reportedly joked. "Who's that?"

Biden initially opposed McChrystal's proposal for additional forces last year. He favored a narrower focus on hunting terrorists.

"Biden?" one aide was quoted as saying. "Did you say: Bite me?"

Another aide reportedly called White House National Security Adviser Jim Jones, a retired four star general, a "clown" who was "stuck in 1985."

We have to wait until the article itself is published [- Update] Article release- found here] to see how many quotes are directly attributed to McChrystal himself and how many to unnamed aides and advisers, but the series of interviews themselves should never have been allowed, that is a given.

McChrystal is making the appropriate phones calls, apologizing for that lack of media judgment and has been summoned to meet with the president, who is being described as "furious" by The Politico.

His public apology:

“It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened. Throughout my career, I have lived by the principles of personal honor and professional integrity. What is reflected in this article falls far short of that standard. I have enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team, and for the civilian leaders and troops fighting this war, and I remain committed to ensuring its successful outcome.”

[Update- The Runaway General, via Rolling Stones has been released.

Snipping interesting tidbits:

Page #2-
The general's staff is a handpicked collection of killers, spies, geniuses, patriots, political operators and outright maniacs. There's a former head of British Special Forces, two Navy Seals, an Afghan Special Forces commando, a lawyer, two fighter pilots and at least two dozen combat veterans and counterinsurgency experts. They jokingly refer to themselves as Team America, taking the name from the South Park-esque sendup of military cluelessness, and they pride themselves on their can-do attitude and their disdain for authority. After arriving in Kabul last summer, Team America set about changing the culture of the International Security Assistance Force, as the NATO-led mission is known. (U.S. soldiers had taken to deriding ISAF as short for "I Suck at Fighting" or "In Sandals and Flip-Flops.") McChrystal banned alcohol on base, kicked out Burger King and other symbols of American excess, expanded the morning briefing to include thousands of officers and refashioned the command center into a Situational Awareness Room, a free-flowing information hub modeled after Mayor Mike Bloomberg's offices in New York. He also set a manic pace for his staff, becoming legendary for sleeping four hours a night, running seven miles each morning, and eating one meal a day. (In the month I spend around the general, I witness him eating only once.) It's a kind of superhuman narrative that has built up around him, a staple in almost every media profile, as if the ability to go without sleep and food translates into the possibility of a man single-handedly winning the war.

By midnight at Kitty O'Shea's, much of Team America is completely shitfaced. Two officers do an Irish jig mixed with steps from a traditional Afghan wedding dance, while McChrystal's top advisers lock arms and sing a slurred song of their own invention. "Afghanistan!" they bellow. "Afghanistan!" They call it their Afghanistan song.

McChrystal steps away from the circle, observing his team. "All these men," he tells me. "I'd die for them. And they'd die for me."

Hillary Clinton, the one Obama official that commands respect of McChrystal's inner circle

Out of the most high profiled, key administration officials mentioned, U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, Special Representative to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke, National Security Advisor Jim Jones and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Clinton is the one who receives good reviews from McChrystal's inner circle.

Hillary had Stan's back during the strategic review," says an adviser. "She said, 'If Stan wants it, give him what he needs.

Say what you will about Hillary Clinton, but she understands that when you send a General to lead a war, you back him, you listen to him, you stand behind him, you do NOT use him for photo ops and hinder his very mission.

Good for Hillary.

[Update #2] Another tidbit that tells quite a bit about McChrystal:

But however strategic they may be, McChrystal's new marching orders have caused an intense backlash among his own troops. Being told to hold their fire, soldiers complain, puts them in greater danger. "Bottom line?" says a former Special Forces operator who has spent years in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I would love to kick McChrystal in the nuts. His rules of engagement put soldiers' lives in even greater danger. Every real soldier will tell you the same thing."

In March, McChrystal traveled to Combat Outpost JFM – a small encampment on the outskirts of Kandahar – to confront such accusations from the troops directly. It was a typically bold move by the general. Only two days earlier, he had received an e-mail from Israel Arroyo, a 25-year-old staff sergeant who asked McChrystal to go on a mission with his unit. "I am writing because it was said you don't care about the troops and have made it harder to defend ourselves," Arroyo wrote.

Within hours, McChrystal responded personally: "I'm saddened by the accusation that I don't care about soldiers, as it is something I suspect any soldier takes both personally and professionally – at least I do. But I know perceptions depend upon your perspective at the time, and I respect that every soldier's view is his own." Then he showed up at Arroyo's outpost and went on a foot patrol with the troops – not some bullshit photo-op stroll through a market, but a real live operation in a dangerous war zone.

Read the whole 6 page article.... had the article been released first instead of the inflammatory soundbites, it would have been damaging, no doubt, but perhaps not the powder keg it has become overnight.

It would have been an excellent profile of a General out to win a war, despite a president and his administration trying to use it for political purposes, had it not been flavored by an obvious anti-war liberal reporter showing disdain in every line written.

No one will ever accuse General Stanley McChrystal of being media savvy, but nothing in this in-depth profile indicates that he is not the best man for the job of fighting a war, he just has no respect for politicians playing war games with his soldiers lives and that lack of respect should have been kept within his private circle, not on display for the public to see.