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The Runaway General
#1
The Rolling Stone interview that might send Gen.McChrystal packing.That is IF Obummer actually looks down to see if he still has a pair of stones.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/06/22-5
Published on Tuesday, June 22, 2010 by Rolling Stone
The Runaway General

Stanley McChrystal, Obama's top commander in Afghanistan, has seized control of the war by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House

by Michael Hastings


How'd I get screwed into going to this dinner?" demands Gen. Stanley McChrystal. It's a Thursday night in mid-April, and the commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan is sitting in a four-star suite at the Hôtel Westminster in Paris. He's in France to sell his new war strategy to our NATO allies - to keep up the fiction, in essence, that we actually have allies. Since McChrystal took over a year ago, the Afghan war has become the exclusive property of the United States. Opposition to the war has already toppled the Dutch government, forced the resignation of Germany's president and sparked both Canada and the Netherlands to announce the withdrawal of their 4,500 troops. McChrystal is in Paris to keep the French, who have lost more than 40 soldiers in Afghanistan, from going all wobbly on him.


[Image: mcchrystal_obaama.jpg](Official White House photo by Pete Souza)
"The dinner comes with the position, sir," says his chief of staff, Col. Charlie Flynn.
McChrystal turns sharply in his chair.

"Hey, Charlie," he asks, "does this come with the position?"
McChrystal gives him the middle finger.

The general stands and looks around the suite that his traveling staff of 10 has converted into a full-scale operations center. The tables are crowded with silver Panasonic Toughbooks, and blue cables crisscross the hotel's thick carpet, hooked up to satellite dishes to provide encrypted phone and e-mail communications. Dressed in off-the-rack civilian casual - blue tie, button-down shirt, dress slacks - McChrystal is way out of his comfort zone. Paris, as one of his advisers says, is the "most anti-McChrystal city you can imagine." The general hates fancy restaurants, rejecting any place with candles on the tables as too "Gucci." He prefers Bud Light Lime (his favorite beer) to Bordeaux, Talladega Nights (his favorite movie) to Jean-Luc Godard. Besides, the public eye has never been a place where McChrystal felt comfortable: Before President Obama put him in charge of the war in Afghanistan, he spent five years running the Pentagon's most secretive black ops.

"What's the update on the Kandahar bombing?" McChrystal asks Flynn. The city has been rocked by two massive car bombs in the past day alone, calling into question the general's assurances that he can wrest it from the Taliban.

"We have two KIAs, but that hasn't been confirmed," Flynn says.
McChrystal takes a final look around the suite. At 55, he is gaunt and lean, not unlike an older version of Christian Bale in Rescue Dawn. His slate-blue eyes have the unsettling ability to drill down when they lock on you. If you've fucked up or disappointed him, they can destroy your soul without the need for him to raise his voice.

"I'd rather have my ass kicked by a roomful of people than go out to this dinner," McChrystal says.

He pauses a beat.
"Unfortunately," he adds, "no one in this room could do it."
With that, he's out the door.

"Who's he going to dinner with?" I ask one of his aides.
"Some French minister," the aide tells me. "It's fucking gay."

The next morning, McChrystal and his team gather to prepare for a speech he is giving at the École Militaire, a French military academy. The general prides himself on being sharper and ballsier than anyone else, but his brashness comes with a price: Although McChrystal has been in charge of the war for only a year, in that short time he has managed to piss off almost everyone with a stake in the conflict. Last fall, during the question-and-answer session following a speech he gave in London, McChrystal dismissed the counterterrorism strategy being advocated by Vice President Joe Biden as "shortsighted," saying it would lead to a state of "Chaos-istan." The remarks earned him a smackdown from the president himself, who summoned the general to a terse private meeting aboard Air Force One. The message to McChrystal seemed clear: Shut the fuck up, and keep a lower profile

Now, flipping through printout cards of his speech in Paris, McChrystal wonders aloud what Biden question he might get today, and how he should respond. "I never know what's going to pop out until I'm up there, that's the problem," he says. Then, unable to help themselves, he and his staff imagine the general dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner.

"Are you asking about Vice President Biden?" McChrystal says with a laugh. "Who's that?"
"Biden?" suggests a top adviser. "Did you say: Bite Me?"

When Barack Obama entered the Oval Office, he immediately set out to deliver on his most important campaign promise on foreign policy: to refocus the war in Afghanistan on what led us to invade in the first place. "I want the American people to understand," he announced in March 2009. "We have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan." He ordered another 21,000 troops to Kabul, the largest increase since the war began in 2001. Taking the advice of both the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he also fired Gen. David McKiernan - then the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan - and replaced him with a man he didn't know and had met only briefly: Gen. Stanley McChrystal. It was the first time a top general had been relieved from duty during wartime in more than 50 years, since Harry Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur at the height of the Korean War.

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."

From the start, McChrystal was determined to place his personal stamp on Afghanistan, to use it as a laboratory for a controversial military strategy known as counterinsurgency. COIN, as the theory is known, is the new gospel of the Pentagon brass, a doctrine that attempts to square the military's preference for high-tech violence with the demands of fighting protracted wars in failed states. COIN calls for sending huge numbers of ground troops to not only destroy the enemy, but to live among the civilian population and slowly rebuild, or build from scratch, another nation's government - a process that even its staunchest advocates admit requires years, if not decades, to achieve. The theory essentially rebrands the military, expanding its authority (and its funding) to encompass the diplomatic and political sides of warfare: Think the Green Berets as an armed Peace Corps. In 2006, after Gen. David Petraeus beta-tested the theory during his "surge" in Iraq, it quickly gained a hardcore following of think-tankers, journalists, military officers and civilian officials. Nicknamed "COINdinistas" for their cultish zeal, this influential cadre believed the doctrine would be the perfect solution for Afghanistan. All they needed was a general with enough charisma and political savvy to implement it.

As McChrystal leaned on Obama to ramp up the war, he did it with the same fearlessness he used to track down terrorists in Iraq: Figure out how your enemy operates, be faster and more ruthless than everybody else, then take the fuckers out. After arriving in Afghanistan last June, the general conducted his own policy review, ordered up by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The now-infamous report was leaked to the press, and its conclusion was dire: If we didn't send another 40,000 troops - swelling the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan by nearly half - we were in danger of "mission failure." The White House was furious. McChrystal, they felt, was trying to bully Obama, opening him up to charges of being weak on national security unless he did what the general wanted. It was Obama versus the Pentagon, and the Pentagon was determined to kick the president's ass.

Last fall, with his top general calling for more troops, Obama launched a three-month review to re-evaluate the strategy in Afghanistan. "I found that time painful," McChrystal tells me in one of several lengthy interviews. "I was selling an unsellable position." For the general, it was a crash course in Beltway politics - a battle that pitted him against experienced Washington insiders like Vice President Biden, who argued that a prolonged counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan would plunge America into a military quagmire without weakening international terrorist networks. "The entire COIN strategy is a fraud perpetuated on the American people," says Douglas Macgregor, a retired colonel and leading critic of counterinsurgency who attended West Point with McChrystal. "The idea that we are going to spend a trillion dollars to reshape the culture of the Islamic world is utter nonsense.

In the end, however, McChrystal got almost exactly what he wanted. On December 1st, in a speech at West Point, the president laid out all the reasons why fighting the war in Afghanistan is a bad idea: It's expensive; we're in an economic crisis; a decade-long commitment would sap American power; Al Qaeda has shifted its base of operations to Pakistan. Then, without ever using the words "victory" or "win," Obama announced that he would send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, almost as many as McChrystal had requested. The president had thrown his weight, however hesitantly, behind the counterinsurgency crowd.

Today, as McChrystal gears up for an offensive in southern Afghanistan, the prospects for any kind of success look bleak. In June, the death toll for U.S. troops passed 1,000, and the number of IEDs has doubled.

Spending hundreds of billions of dollars on the fifth-poorest country on earth has failed to win over the civilian population, whose attitude toward U.S. troops ranges from intensely wary to openly hostile. The biggest military operation of the year - a ferocious offensive that began in February to retake the southern town of Marja - continues to drag on, prompting McChrystal himself to refer to it as a "bleeding ulcer." In June, Afghanistan officially outpaced Vietnam as the longest war in American history - and Obama has quietly begun to back away from the deadline he set for withdrawing U.S. troops in July of next year. The president finds himself stuck in something even more insane than a quagmire: a quagmire he knowingly walked into, even though it's precisely the kind of gigantic, mind-numbing, multigenerational nation-building project he explicitly said he didn't want.

Even those who support McChrystal and his strategy of counterinsurgency know that whatever the general manages to accomplish in Afghanistan, it's going to look more like Vietnam than Desert Storm. "It's not going to look like a win, smell like a win or taste like a win," says Maj. Gen. Bill Mayville, who serves as chief of operations for McChrystal. "This is going to end in an argument."

The night after his speech in Paris, McChrystal and his staff head to Kitty O'Shea's, an Irish pub catering to tourists, around the corner from the hotel. His wife, Annie, has joined him for a rare visit: Since the Iraq War began in 2003, she has seen her husband less than 30 days a year.

Though it is his and Annie's 33rd wedding anniversary, McChrystal has invited his inner circle along for dinner and drinks at the "least Gucci" place his staff could find. His wife isn't surprised. "He once took me to a Jack in the Box when I was dressed in formalwear," she says with a laugh.
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."

The assembled men may look and sound like a bunch of combat veterans letting off steam, but in fact this tight-knit group represents the most powerful force shaping U.S. policy in Afghanistan. While McChrystal and his men are in indisputable command of all military aspects of the war, there is no equivalent position on the diplomatic or political side. Instead, an assortment of administration players compete over the Afghan portfolio: U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, Special Representative to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke, National Security Advisor Jim Jones and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, not to mention 40 or so other coalition ambassadors and a host of talking heads who try to insert themselves into the mess, from John Kerry to John McCain. This diplomatic incoherence has effectively allowed McChrystal's team to call the shots and hampered efforts to build a stable and credible government in Afghanistan. "It jeopardizes the mission," says Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who supports McChrystal. "The military cannot by itself create governance reform."

Part of the problem is structural: The Defense Department budget exceeds $600 billion a year, while the State Department receives only $50 billion. But part of the problem is personal: In private, Team McChrystal likes to talk shit about many of Obama's top people on the diplomatic side. One aide calls Jim Jones, a retired four-star general and veteran of the Cold War, a "clown" who remains "stuck in 1985." Politicians like McCain and Kerry, says another aide, "turn up, have a meeting with Karzai, criticize him at the airport press conference, then get back for the Sunday talk shows. Frankly, it's not very helpful." Only Hillary Clinton 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.' "

McChrystal reserves special skepticism for Holbrooke, the official in charge of reintegrating the Taliban. "The Boss says he's like a wounded animal," says a member of the general's team. "Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he's going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous. He's a brilliant guy, but he just comes in, pulls on a lever, whatever he can grasp onto. But this is COIN, and you can't just have someone yanking on shit."

At one point on his trip to Paris, McChrystal checks his BlackBerry. "Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke," he groans. "I don't even want to open it." He clicks on the message and reads the salutation out loud, then stuffs the BlackBerry back in his pocket, not bothering to conceal his annoyance.

"Make sure you don't get any of that on your leg," an aide jokes, referring to the e-mail.

By far the most crucial - and strained - relationship is between McChrystal and Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador. According to those close to the two men, Eikenberry - a retired three-star general who served in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2005 - can't stand that his former subordinate is now calling the shots. He's also furious that McChrystal, backed by NATO's allies, refused to put Eikenberry in the pivotal role of viceroy in Afghanistan, which would have made him the diplomatic equivalent of the general. The job instead went to British Ambassador Mark Sedwill - a move that effectively increased McChrystal's influence over diplomacy by shutting out a powerful rival. "In reality, that position needs to be filled by an American for it to have weight," says a U.S. official familiar with the negotiations.

The relationship was further strained in January, when a classified cable that Eikenberry wrote was leaked to The New York Times. The cable was as scathing as it was prescient. The ambassador offered a brutal critique of McChrystal's strategy, dismissed President Hamid Karzai as "not an adequate strategic partner," and cast doubt on whether the counterinsurgency plan would be "sufficient" to deal with Al Qaeda. "We will become more deeply engaged here with no way to extricate ourselves," Eikenberry warned, "short of allowing the country to descend again into lawlessness and chaos."

McChrystal and his team were blindsided by the cable. "I like Karl, I've known him for years, but they'd never said anything like that to us before," says McChrystal, who adds that he felt "betrayed" by the leak. "Here's one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say, 'I told you so.' "

The most striking example of McChrystal's usurpation of diplomatic policy is his handling of Karzai. It is McChrystal, not diplomats like Eikenberry or Holbrooke, who enjoys the best relationship with the man America is relying on to lead Afghanistan. The doctrine of counterinsurgency requires a credible government, and since Karzai is not considered credible by his own people, McChrystal has worked hard to make him so. Over the past few months, he has accompanied the president on more than 10 trips around the country, standing beside him at political meetings, or shuras, in Kandahar. In February, the day before the doomed offensive in Marja, McChrystal even drove over to the president's palace to get him to sign off on what would be the largest military operation of the year. Karzai's staff, however, insisted that the president was sleeping off a cold and could not be disturbed. After several hours of haggling, McChrystal finally enlisted the aid of Afghanistan's defense minister, who persuaded Karzai's people to wake the president from his nap.

This is one of the central flaws with McChrystal's counterinsurgency strategy: The need to build a credible government puts us at the mercy of whatever tin-pot leader we've backed - a danger that Eikenberry explicitly warned about in his cable. Even Team McChrystal privately acknowledges that Karzai is a less-than-ideal partner. "He's been locked up in his palace the past year," laments one of the general's top advisers. At times, Karzai himself has actively undermined McChrystal's desire to put him in charge. During a recent visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Karzai met three U.S. soldiers who had been wounded in Uruzgan province. "General," he called out to McChrystal, "I didn't even know we were fighting in Uruzgan!"
Growing up as a military brat, McChrystal exhibited the mixture of brilliance and cockiness that would follow him throughout his career. His father fought in Korea and Vietnam, retiring as a two-star general, and his four brothers all joined the armed services. Moving around to different bases, McChrystal took solace in baseball, a sport in which he made no pretense of hiding his superiority: In Little League, he would call out strikes to the crowd before whipping a fastball down the middle.

McChrystal entered West Point in 1972, when the U.S. military was close to its all-time low in popularity. His class was the last to graduate before the academy started to admit women. The "Prison on the Hudson," as it was known then, was a potent mix of testosterone, hooliganism and reactionary patriotism. Cadets repeatedly trashed the mess hall in food fights, and birthdays were celebrated with a tradition called "rat fucking," which often left the birthday boy outside in the snow or mud, covered in shaving cream. "It was pretty out of control," says Lt. Gen. David Barno, a classmate who went on to serve as the top commander in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005. The class, filled with what Barno calls "huge talent" and "wild-eyed teenagers with a strong sense of idealism," also produced Gen. Ray Odierno, the current commander of U.S. forces in Iraq.

The son of a general, McChrystal was also a ringleader of the campus dissidents - a dual role that taught him how to thrive in a rigid, top-down environment while thumbing his nose at authority every chance he got. He accumulated more than 100 hours of demerits for drinking, partying and insubordination - a record that his classmates boasted made him a "century man." One classmate, who asked not to be named, recalls finding McChrystal passed out in the shower after downing a case of beer he had hidden under the sink. The troublemaking almost got him kicked out, and he spent hours subjected to forced marches in the Area, a paved courtyard where unruly cadets were disciplined. "I'd come visit, and I'd end up spending most of my time in the library, while Stan was in the Area," recalls Annie, who began dating McChrystal in 1973.

McChrystal wound up ranking 298 out of a class of 855, a serious underachievement for a man widely regarded as brilliant. His most compelling work was extracurricular: As managing editor of The Pointer, the West Point literary magazine, McChrystal wrote seven short stories that eerily foreshadow many of the issues he would confront in his career. In one tale, a fictional officer complains about the difficulty of training foreign troops to fight; in another, a 19-year-old soldier kills a boy he mistakes for a terrorist. In "Brinkman's Note," a piece of suspense fiction, the unnamed narrator appears to be trying to stop a plot to assassinate the president. It turns out, however, that the narrator himself is the assassin, and he's able to infiltrate the White House: "The President strode in smiling. From the right coat pocket of the raincoat I carried, I slowly drew forth my 32-caliber pistol. In Brinkman's failure, I had succeeded."

After graduation, 2nd Lt. Stanley McChrystal entered an Army that was all but broken in the wake of Vietnam. "We really felt we were a peacetime generation," he recalls. "There was the Gulf War, but even that didn't feel like that big of a deal." So McChrystal spent his career where the action was: He enrolled in Special Forces school and became a regimental commander of the 3rd Ranger Battalion in 1986. It was a dangerous position, even in peacetime - nearly two dozen Rangers were killed in training accidents during the Eighties. It was also an unorthodox career path: Most soldiers who want to climb the ranks to general don't go into the Rangers. Displaying a penchant for transforming systems he considers outdated, McChrystal set out to revolutionize the training regime for the Rangers. He introduced mixed martial arts, required every soldier to qualify with night-vision goggles on the rifle range and forced troops to build up their endurance with weekly marches involving heavy backpacks.

In the late 1990s, McChrystal shrewdly improved his inside game, spending a year at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and then at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he co-authored a treatise on the merits and drawbacks of humanitarian interventionism. But as he moved up through the ranks, McChrystal relied on the skills he had learned as a troublemaking kid at West Point: knowing precisely how far he could go in a rigid military hierarchy without getting tossed out. Being a highly intelligent badass, he discovered, could take you far - especially in the political chaos that followed September 11th. "He was very focused," says Annie. "Even as a young officer he seemed to know what he wanted to do. I don't think his personality has changed in all these years."

By some accounts, McChrystal's career should have been over at least two times by now. As Pentagon spokesman during the invasion of Iraq, the general seemed more like a White House mouthpiece than an up-and-coming commander with a reputation for speaking his mind. When Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made his infamous "stuff happens" remark during the looting of Baghdad, McChrystal backed him up. A few days later, he echoed the president's Mission Accomplished gaffe by insisting that major combat operations in Iraq were over. But it was during his next stint - overseeing the military's most elite units, including the Rangers, Navy Seals and Delta Force - that McChrystal took part in a cover-up that would have destroyed the career of a lesser man.

After Cpl. Pat Tillman, the former-NFL-star-turned-Ranger, was accidentally killed by his own troops in Afghanistan in April 2004, McChrystal took an active role in creating the impression that Tillman had died at the hands of Taliban fighters. He signed off on a falsified recommendation for a Silver Star that suggested Tillman had been killed by enemy fire. (McChrystal would later claim he didn't read the recommendation closely enough - a strange excuse for a commander known for his laserlike attention to minute details.) A week later, McChrystal sent a memo up the chain of command, specifically warning that President Bush should avoid mentioning the cause of Tillman's death. "If the circumstances of Corporal Tillman's death become public," he wrote, it could cause "public embarrassment" for the president.
"The false narrative, which McChrystal clearly helped construct, diminished Pat's true actions," wrote Tillman's mother, Mary, in her book Boots on the Ground by Dusk. McChrystal got away with it, she added, because he was the "golden boy" of Rumsfeld and Bush, who loved his willingness to get things done, even if it included bending the rules or skipping the chain of command. Nine days after Tillman's death, McChrystal was promoted to major general.

Two years later, in 2006, McChrystal was tainted by a scandal involving detainee abuse and torture at Camp Nama in Iraq. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, prisoners at the camp were subjected to a now-familiar litany of abuse: stress positions, being dragged naked through the mud. McChrystal was not disciplined in the scandal, even though an interrogator at the camp reported seeing him inspect the prison multiple times. But the experience was so unsettling to McChrystal that he tried to prevent detainee operations from being placed under his command in Afghanistan, viewing them as a "political swamp," according to a U.S. official. In May 2009, as McChrystal prepared for his confirmation hearings, his staff prepared him for hard questions about Camp Nama and the Tillman cover-up. But the scandals barely made a ripple in Congress, and McChrystal was soon on his way back to Kabul to run the war in Afghanistan.

The media, to a large extent, have also given McChrystal a pass on both controversies. Where Gen. Petraeus is kind of a dweeb, a teacher's pet with a Ranger's tab, McChrystal is a snake-eating rebel, a "Jedi" commander, as Newsweek called him. He didn't care when his teenage son came home with blue hair and a mohawk. He speaks his mind with a candor rare for a high-ranking official. He asks for opinions, and seems genuinely interested in the response. He gets briefings on his iPod and listens to books on tape. He carries a custom-made set of nunchucks in his convoy engraved with his name and four stars, and his itinerary often bears a fresh quote from Bruce Lee. ("There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.") He went out on dozens of nighttime raids during his time in Iraq, unprecedented for a top commander, and turned up on missions unannounced, with almost no entourage. "The fucking lads love Stan McChrystal," says a British officer who serves in Kabul. "You'd be out in Somewhere, Iraq, and someone would take a knee beside you, and a corporal would be like 'Who the fuck is that?' And it's fucking Stan McChrystal."

It doesn't hurt that McChrystal was also extremely successful as head of the Joint Special Operations Command, the elite forces that carry out the government's darkest ops. During the Iraq surge, his team killed and captured thousands of insurgents, including Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. "JSOC was a killing machine," says Maj. Gen. Mayville, his chief of operations. McChrystal was also open to new ways of killing. He systematically mapped out terrorist networks, targeting specific insurgents and hunting them down - often with the help of cyberfreaks traditionally shunned by the military. "The Boss would find the 24-year-old kid with a nose ring, with some fucking brilliant degree from MIT, sitting in the corner with 16 computer monitors humming," says a Special Forces commando who worked with McChrystal in Iraq and now serves on his staff in Kabul. "He'd say, 'Hey - you fucking muscleheads couldn't find lunch without help. You got to work together with these guys.' "

Even in his new role as America's leading evangelist for counterinsurgency, McChrystal retains the deep-seated instincts of a terrorist hunter. To put pressure on the Taliban, he has upped the number of Special Forces units in Afghanistan from four to 19. "You better be out there hitting four or five targets tonight," McChrystal will tell a Navy Seal he sees in the hallway at headquarters. Then he'll add, "I'm going to have to scold you in the morning for it, though." In fact, the general frequently finds himself apologizing for the disastrous consequences of counterinsurgency. In the first four months of this year, NATO forces killed some 90 civilians, up 76 percent from the same period in 2009 - a record that has created tremendous resentment among the very population that COIN theory is intent on winning over. In February, a Special Forces night raid ended in the deaths of two pregnant Afghan women and allegations of a cover-up, and in April, protests erupted in Kandahar after U.S. forces accidentally shot up a bus, killing five Afghans. "We've shot an amazing number of people," McChrystal recently conceded.

Despite the tragedies and miscues, McChrystal has issued some of the strictest directives to avoid civilian casualties that the U.S. military has ever encountered in a war zone. It's "insurgent math," as he calls it - for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies. He has ordered convoys to curtail their reckless driving, put restrictions on the use of air power and severely limited night raids. He regularly apologizes to Hamid Karzai when civilians are killed, and berates commanders responsible for civilian deaths. "For a while," says one U.S. official, "the most dangerous place to be in Afghanistan was in front of McChrystal after a 'civ cas' incident." The ISAF command has even discussed ways to make not killing into something you can win an award for: There's talk of creating a new medal for "courageous restraint," a buzzword that's unlikely to gain much traction in the gung-ho culture of the U.S. military.

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.

Six weeks later, just before McChrystal returned from Paris, the general received another e-mail from Arroyo. A 23-year-old corporal named Michael Ingram - one of the soldiers McChrystal had gone on patrol with - had been killed by an IED a day earlier. It was the third man the 25-member platoon had lost in a year, and Arroyo was writing to see if the general would attend Ingram's memorial service. "He started to look up to you," Arroyo wrote. McChrystal said he would try to make it down to pay his respects as soon as possible.

The night before the general is scheduled to visit Sgt. Arroyo's platoon for the memorial, I arrive at Combat Outpost JFM to speak with the soldiers he had gone on patrol with. JFM is a small encampment, ringed by high blast walls and guard towers. Almost all of the soldiers here have been on repeated combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and have seen some of the worst fighting of both wars. But they are especially angered by Ingram's death. His commanders had repeatedly requested permission to tear down the house where Ingram was killed, noting that it was often used as a combat position by the Taliban. But due to McChrystal's new restrictions to avoid upsetting civilians, the request had been denied. "These were abandoned houses," fumes Staff Sgt. Kennith Hicks. "Nobody was coming back to live in them."

One soldier shows me the list of new regulations the platoon was given. "Patrol only in areas that you are reasonably certain that you will not have to defend yourselves with lethal force," the laminated card reads. For a soldier who has traveled halfway around the world to fight, that's like telling a cop he should only patrol in areas where he knows he won't have to make arrests. "Does that make any fucking sense?" asks Pfc. Jared Pautsch. "We should just drop a fucking bomb on this place. You sit and ask yourself: What are we doing here?"

The rules handed out here are not what McChrystal intended - they've been distorted as they passed through the chain of command - but knowing that does nothing to lessen the anger of troops on the ground. "Fuck, when I came over here and heard that McChrystal was in charge, I thought we would get our fucking gun on," says Hicks, who has served three tours of combat. "I get COIN. I get all that. McChrystal comes here, explains it, it makes sense. But then he goes away on his bird, and by the time his directives get passed down to us through Big Army, they're all fucked up - either because somebody is trying to cover their ass, or because they just don't understand it themselves. But we're fucking losing this thing."

McChrystal and his team show up the next day. Underneath a tent, the general has a 45-minute discussion with some two dozen soldiers. The atmosphere is tense. "I ask you what's going on in your world, and I think it's important for you all to understand the big picture as well," McChrystal begins. "How's the company doing? You guys feeling sorry for yourselves? Anybody? Anybody feel like you're losing?" McChrystal says.

"Sir, some of the guys here, sir, think we're losing, sir," says Hicks.
McChrystal nods. "Strength is leading when you just don't want to lead," he tells the men. "You're leading by example. That's what we do. Particularly when it's really, really hard, and it hurts inside." Then he spends 20 minutes talking about counterinsurgency, diagramming his concepts and principles on a whiteboard. He makes COIN seem like common sense, but he's careful not to bullshit the men. "We are knee-deep in the decisive year," he tells them. The Taliban, he insists, no longer has the initiative - "but I don't think we do, either." It's similar to the talk he gave in Paris, but it's not winning any hearts and minds among the soldiers. "This is the philosophical part that works with think tanks," McChrystal tries to joke. "But it doesn't get the same reception from infantry companies."

During the question-and-answer period, the frustration boils over. The soldiers complain about not being allowed to use lethal force, about watching insurgents they detain be freed for lack of evidence. They want to be able to fight - like they did in Iraq, like they had in Afghanistan before McChrystal. "We aren't putting fear into the Taliban," one soldier says.

"Winning hearts and minds in COIN is a coldblooded thing," McChrystal says, citing an oft-repeated maxim that you can't kill your way out of Afghanistan. "The Russians killed 1 million Afghans, and that didn't work."
"I'm not saying go out and kill everybody, sir," the soldier persists. "You say we've stopped the momentum of the insurgency. I don't believe that's true in this area. The more we pull back, the more we restrain ourselves, the stronger it's getting."

"I agree with you," McChrystal says. "In this area, we've not made progress, probably. You have to show strength here, you have to use fire. What I'm telling you is, fire costs you. What do you want to do? You want to wipe the population out here and resettle it?"

A soldier complains that under the rules, any insurgent who doesn't have a weapon is immediately assumed to be a civilian. "That's the way this game is," McChrystal says. "It's complex. I can't just decide: It's shirts and skins, and we'll kill all the shirts."

As the discussion ends, McChrystal seems to sense that he hasn't succeeded at easing the men's anger. He makes one last-ditch effort to reach them, acknowledging the death of Cpl. Ingram. "There's no way I can make that easier," he tells them. "No way I can pretend it won't hurt. No way I can tell you not to feel that. . . . I will tell you, you're doing a great job. Don't let the frustration get to you." The session ends with no clapping, and no real resolution. McChrystal may have sold President Obama on counterinsurgency, but many of his own men aren't buying it.

When it comes to Afghanistan, history is not on McChrystal's side. The only foreign invader to have any success here was Genghis Khan - and he wasn't hampered by things like human rights, economic development and press scrutiny. The COIN doctrine, bizarrely, draws inspiration from some of the biggest Western military embarrassments in recent memory: France's nasty war in Algeria (lost in 1962) and the American misadventure in Vietnam (lost in 1975). McChrystal, like other advocates of COIN, readily acknowledges that counterinsurgency campaigns are inherently messy, expensive and easy to lose. "Even Afghans are confused by Afghanistan," he says. But even if he somehow manages to succeed, after years of bloody fighting with Afghan kids who pose no threat to the U.S. homeland, the war will do little to shut down Al Qaeda, which has shifted its operations to Pakistan. Dispatching 150,000 troops to build new schools, roads, mosques and water-treatment facilities around Kandahar is like trying to stop the drug war in Mexico by occupying Arkansas and building Baptist churches in Little Rock. "It's all very cynical, politically," says Marc Sageman, a former CIA case officer who has extensive experience in the region. "Afghanistan is not in our vital interest - there's nothing for us there."

In mid-May, two weeks after visiting the troops in Kandahar, McChrystal travels to the White House for a high-level visit by Hamid Karzai. It is a triumphant moment for the general, one that demonstrates he is very much in command - both in Kabul and in Washington. In the East Room, which is packed with journalists and dignitaries, President Obama sings the praises of Karzai. The two leaders talk about how great their relationship is, about the pain they feel over civilian casualties. They mention the word "progress" 16 times in under an hour. But there is no mention of victory. Still, the session represents the most forceful commitment that Obama has made to McChrystal's strategy in months. "There is no denying the progress that the Afghan people have made in recent years - in education, in health care and economic development," the president says. "As I saw in the lights across Kabul when I landed - lights that would not have been visible just a few years earlier."

It is a disconcerting observation for Obama to make. During the worst years in Iraq, when the Bush administration had no real progress to point to, officials used to offer up the exact same evidence of success. "It was one of our first impressions," one GOP official said in 2006, after landing in Baghdad at the height of the sectarian violence. "So many lights shining brightly." So it is to the language of the Iraq War that the Obama administration has turned - talk of progress, of city lights, of metrics like health care and education. Rhetoric that just a few years ago they would have mocked. "They are trying to manipulate perceptions because there is no definition of victory - because victory is not even defined or recognizable," says Celeste Ward, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation who served as a political adviser to U.S. commanders in Iraq in 2006. "That's the game we're in right now. What we need, for strategic purposes, is to create the perception that we didn't get run off. The facts on the ground are not great, and are not going to become great in the near future."

But facts on the ground, as history has proven, offer little deterrent to a military determined to stay the course. Even those closest to McChrystal know that the rising anti-war sentiment at home doesn't begin to reflect how deeply fucked up things are in Afghanistan. "If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular," a senior adviser to McChrystal says. Such realism, however, doesn't prevent advocates of counterinsurgency from dreaming big: Instead of beginning to withdraw troops next year, as Obama promised, the military hopes to ramp up its counterinsurgency campaign even further. "There's a possibility we could ask for another surge of U.S. forces next summer if we see success here," a senior military official in Kabul tells me.

Back in Afghanistan, less than a month after the White House meeting with Karzai and all the talk of "progress," McChrystal is hit by the biggest blow to his vision of counterinsurgency. Since last year, the Pentagon had been planning to launch a major military operation this summer in Kandahar, the country's second-largest city and the Taliban's original home base. It was supposed to be a decisive turning point in the war - the primary reason for the troop surge that McChrystal wrested from Obama late last year. But on June 10th, acknowledging that the military still needs to lay more groundwork, the general announced that he is postponing the offensive until the fall. Rather than one big battle, like Fallujah or Ramadi, U.S. troops will implement what McChrystal calls a "rising tide of security." The Afghan police and army will enter Kandahar to attempt to seize control of neighborhoods, while the U.S. pours $90 million of aid into the city to win over the civilian population.

Even proponents of counterinsurgency are hard-pressed to explain the new plan. "This isn't a classic operation," says a U.S. military official. "It's not going to be Black Hawk Down. There aren't going to be doors kicked in." Other U.S. officials insist that doors are going to be kicked in, but that it's going to be a kinder, gentler offensive than the disaster in Marja. "The Taliban have a jackboot on the city," says a military official. "We have to remove them, but we have to do it in a way that doesn't alienate the population." When Vice President Biden was briefed on the new plan in the Oval Office, insiders say he was shocked to see how much it mirrored the more gradual plan of counterterrorism that he advocated last fall. "This looks like CT-plus!" he said, according to U.S. officials familiar with the meeting.

Whatever the nature of the new plan, the delay underscores the fundamental flaws of counterinsurgency. After nine years of war, the Taliban simply remains too strongly entrenched for the U.S. military to openly attack. The very people that COIN seeks to win over - the Afghan people - do not want us there. Our supposed ally, President Karzai, used his influence to delay the offensive, and the massive influx of aid championed by McChrystal is likely only to make things worse. "Throwing money at the problem exacerbates the problem," says Andrew Wilder, an expert at Tufts University who has studied the effect of aid in southern Afghanistan. "A tsunami of cash fuels corruption, delegitimizes the government and creates an environment where we're picking winners and losers" - a process that fuels resentment and hostility among the civilian population. So far, counterinsurgency has succeeded only in creating a never-ending demand for the primary product supplied by the military: perpetual war. There is a reason that President Obama studiously avoids using the word "victory" when he talks about Afghanistan. Winning, it would seem, is not really possible. Not even with Stanley McChrystal in charge.

This article originally appeared in RS 1108/1109 from July 8-22, 2010.
© 2010 Rolling Stone Magazine
"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Buckminster Fuller
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#2
A senior Capitol Hill source tells me that General Stanley McChrystal had tendered his resignation to President Barack Obama and that the White House is actively discussing a replacement who could be quickly confirmed by the Senate.
The source said that among the names being touted as possible successors are General James Mattis, the outgoing head of the US Joint Forces Command and due to retire after being passed over as US Marine Corps commander, and Lieutenant General William Caldwell, commander of Nato’s Training Mission in Afghanistan.
Of course, offering to resign is not the same as actually resigning and it remains to be seen whether Mr Obama will accept the resignation. Donald Rumsfeld offered to resign as Pentagon chief on more than one occasion but President George W. Bush requested that he continue in post before eventually firing him in November 2006.
http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/tobyha...signation/
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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#3
Journalist Michael Hastings has given Rolling Stone magazine a graphic account of the arrogance, disarray and ineptitude that distinguish what passes for President Barack Obama’s policy on Afghanistan. For those of us with some gray in our hair, the fiasco is infuriatingly reminiscent of Vietnam.
In blowing off steam to Hastings, NATO/U.S. commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his top aides seem to have decided that, at this low point in the Afghanistan quagmire, political offense is the best defense for a military strategy sinking from waist to neck deep.
In interviews with Hastings, McChrystal and his team direct mockery at many senior-level officials of the Obama administration. For instance, one of McChrystal’s aides refers to Obama’s national security adviser James L. Jones as a “clown.”
Members of McChrystal’s inner circle also quote the general as saying he was “pretty disappointed” with an Oval Office meeting and describing Obama as “intimidated” by McChrystal and other generals.
Commenting on the controversy Tuesday, Obama said McChrystal and his team had shown “poor judgment” but the President added that he wanted to speak with McChrystal directly before making any decision on firing him.
Two administration officials who are spared harsh criticism from McChrystal’s team are Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who were considered key supporters of McChrystal’s insistence last year that Obama boost U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan to about 100,000.
In praise for Clinton, one of McChrystal’s entourage told Hastings, “Hillary had Stan’s back during the [last fall’s] strategic review.” Another aide added, “She said, ‘If Stan wants it, give him what he needs.’”
As for Gates, McChrystal spared his boss from criticism perhaps still expecting support from the chameleon-like Pentagon chief, who will first want to check the surrounding foliage before selecting the best camouflage color.
However, in a statement on Tuesday, Gates said McChrystal had committed “a significant mistake” in the handling of the Rolling Stone interviews.
In Hastings’s exposure of the backbiting over policy in Afghanistan, the bottom line is best articulated by a predicate adjective beginning with the letter “f” and ending with “…ucked-up.”
Some variation of that vulgarism is used repeatedly by the macho McChrystal and his pseudo-macho staffers, whom Hastings interviewed at length.
Hastings’s copious quotes make it seem as if everyone but McChrystal and his merry men are responsible for the fecklessness on Afghanistan.
But their comments also betray a realization that their particular brand of can-do, cut-and-paste counterinsurgency has brought what Thomas Henry Huxley defined as tragedy; namely, “the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.”
Defeat in Afghanistan
McChrystal and his supporters have failed miserably and they know it, but they lack any measure of being gracious — or honest — in defeat.
Worse still for McChrystal is the fact that his archrival, retired Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, now ambassador to Afghanistan, has been proven correct “beyond reasonable doubt,” so to speak, in challenging McChrystal’s adolescent views regarding how to turn the Afghan mess around.
Last year, Eikenberry told Obama that McChrystal’s whiz-bang counterinsurgency strategy was nonsense, and that Obama should look beyond a military solution.
Anyone with a modicum of experience can now see that it was Eikenberry who had it right during last year’s policy review. The texts of two cables he sent to Washington in early November were published in the New York Times. [For more on Eikenberry-McChrystal, see “Obama Ignores Key Afghan Warning.”]
The Rolling Stone article is also strike two for McChrystal's insubordination. His first strike came last fall when his recommendation for 40,000 additional troops was leaked to the press. He also publicly dismissed a more targeted approach toward attacking al-Qaeda terrorists reportedly advocated by Vice President Joe Biden.
The leak of McChrystal’s recommendation came well before Obama had decided on a course of action, but the timely disclosure cornered the President, who didn’t dare push back against his generals and remind them about the U.S. principle of civilian control of the military.
In an ironic twist – since the leak of his memo cornered Obama on the Afghan “surge” – McChrystal complained to the Rolling Stone's Hastings that he felt “betrayed” by the leak of Ambassador Eikenberry’s cables to Washington.
“Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books,” the general said. “Now if we fail, they can say, ‘I told you so.’”
Does that not suggest that McChrystal is fearful of failure — and of taking the blame?
What is clear is that there is not enough room in Kabul for both McChrystal and Eikenberry. One of them has to be given his marching orders, and I would not rule out the possibility it will be Eikenberry.
This would be bereft of all logic; rather it would be testament to Obama’s fear of McChrystal — not to mention the President’s apparent inability to understand that Afghanistan amounts to Vietnam Redux.
As for how McChrystal’s inner circle views Vice President Biden, the Rolling Stone article recounts a joke in which McChrystal mentions Biden’s name and one of the general’s top advisers replies, “Did you say ‘Bite me’?”
Obama is No Harry Truman
After publication of the Rolling Stone article, some pundits are predicting McChrystal will be fired — as he should have been last fall. [See, for instance, “Should Obama Fire Gen. McChrystal?”]

The general is now back in Washington to face the music. Reportedly, he has prepared a letter of resignation. But Obama might prefer a well-orchestrated minuet with the general rather than a requiem. Maybe McChrystal is even expecting a chorus of “he’s a jolly good fellow” from the “intimidated” President
That’s not how it’s always been. When Gen. Douglas MacArthur issued an unauthorized statement containing a veiled threat to expand the Korean War to China at a time when Truman was preparing to enter peace negotiations with North Korea and China, MacArthur was fired in place.
One strike and MacArthur was out — because Truman could take the heat. In contrast, Obama has shown himself to be an accommodating fellow on issue after issue. It seems far from certain he would fire the White House groundskeeper, even if caught urinating on the flowers in full view of summer tourists.
Little can account for Obama’s promotion of McChrystal to his current post, except for a strange blend of cowardice tinged with ignorance. McChrystal had been Vice President Dick Cheney’s right-hand man in running Special Forces hit-squad assassins and torturers in Iraq.
For these endeavors, McChrystal has accumulated a fearsome following of what might be called the “worst of the worst” among both the U.S. military and Blackwater-style mercenaries. Here is Hastings on McChrystal’s entourage:
“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 pride themselves on their can-do attitude and their disdain for authority."
For good measure, Hastings adds a troubling vignette. Someone apparently called his attention to what Hastings calls “a piece of suspense fiction” written by McChrystal for the literary magazine at West Point while he was studying there. Hastings includes a description of the short story:
“The unnamed narrator appears to be trying to stop a plot to assassinate the President. It turns out, however, that the narrator himself is the assassin, and he’s able to infiltrate the White House: ‘The President strode in smiling. From the right coat pocket of the raincoat I carried, I slowly drew forth my 32-caliber pistol…I had succeeded.’”
To be on the safe side, though, Obama may wish to put on a bulletproof vest before he meets with McChrystal on Wednesday.
The Unspeakable
Obama might be forgiven for fearing for his own personal safety, particularly if he has read James Douglass’s book, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died & Why It Matters.
Kennedy inherited a senior military that then-Under Secretary of State George Ball called a “sewer of deceit.” They lacked confidence in Kennedy’s steadfastness before the menace of Communism, and salivated over how to maneuver the young president into military confrontations. These included operations to provoke war with Cuba, the Soviet Union, China, North Vietnam — you name it.
The senior military and the CIA bitterly resented Kennedy’s adamant refusal to be mouse-trapped into ordering U.S. forces to rescue those Cuban counter-revolutionaries marooned on the beach of the Bay of Pigs and send in U.S. troops to get rid of Fidel Castro once and for all.
A lesser-known challenge to Kennedy came in early March 1962, when JCS Chairman Gen. Lyman Lemnitzer proposed a plan called “Operation Northwoods” to justify a U.S. invasion of Cuba. Working from declassified documents for his book Body of Secrets, James Bamford gave the following concise description:
“Operation Northwoods, which had the written approval of the Chairman and every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for innocent people to be shot on American streets; for boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba to be sunk on the high seas; for a wave of violent terrorism to be launched in Washington, D.C., Miami, and elsewhere.
“People would be framed for bombings they did not commit; planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus giving Lemnitzer and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international backing, they needed to launch their war.”
Kennedy rebuffed the JCS, creating still more bad blood that eventually would help seal his fate, in my opinion.
In his book, James Douglass lists some of the other grievances held against the young president by the super-patriot Joint Chiefs of Staff, who thought of themselves as self-appointed, authentic guardians of the United States against the Communist threat — not the Constitution they took an oath to defend, if it got in the way.
During the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, the top military were aghast at Kennedy’s unwillingness to risk war with the Soviet Union by invading Cuba. After Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev found a way to stop at the brink of nuclear catastrophe, both saw more clearly than ever a mutual interest in preventing another such occurrence.
This led to a sustained backchannel dialogue from which the Joint Chiefs were excluded, and of which they were highly distrustful.
The kiss of death — literally, I am persuaded — came when Kennedy ordered the withdrawal of 1,000 U.S. troops from Vietnam by the end of 1963 and the bulk of the rest of them by 1965.
To the senior military that was proof positive that Kennedy was soft on Communism, which — if you can believe it — was an even more heinous offense in those days that being soft on terrorism is today.
Kennedy Gone, Johnson Caves
President Lyndon Johnson knew no better than to let himself become captive to the same military leaders — the more so, since he was determined not to be the first U.S. president to lose a war. They assured him the war in Vietnam — sorry, I mean the counterinsurgency — could be won.
And they were sure they knew best how to do that. (As a result, young Army infantry officers like me were required to educate ourselves on the writings of Che Guevera and Mao Zedung, but, alas, not those of the more profound military strategist, Sun Tzu, from two and a half millennia earlier.)
There was a conventional side to the Vietnam War as well, and conventional provocations. A prime example is the U.S.-military-provoked incident in the Tonkin Gulf on Aug. 2, 1964.
Under severe pressure from the Joint Chiefs and other senior military, President Lyndon Johnson ordered Defense Secretary Robert “we-were-wrong-terribly-wrong” McNamara to use the faux-incident to deceive Congress into approving the fateful Tonkin Gulf resolution to “justify” seven years of additional war against the Vietnamese Communists.
William Fulbright, then chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, later said that the thing he regretted most during his tenure was letting himself be snowed by the military into pushing for approval of the Tonkin Gulf resolution.
And George Ball added: “There’s no question that many of the people who were associated with the war were looking for any excuse to initiate bombing [North Vietnam] … [T]he sending of a destroyer up the Tonkin Gulf was primarily for provocation."
Could Have Been Worse
Pentagon Papers truth-teller Daniel Ellsberg, of all people, has said that President Lyndon Johnson has not been given enough credit. For what, you might ask? Well, Johnson let himself be persuaded by the military, but only up to a point.
In a talk on the 30th anniversary of the publication of the Pentagon Papers, Ellsberg said he was convinced that Johnson and McNamara came to see their main task as protecting the country from the outlandish proposals urged on them by senior U.S. military officials, proposals fraught with the danger of widened war with China, perhaps even involving the use of nuclear weapons.
According to Ellsberg, Johnson saw a need to give the JCS just enough to satisfy them to the point where they would not resign and go public with their proposals for escalating – and “winning” – the war.
It was a difficult tightrope to walk. Johnson and McNamara lived in fear that the majority of Americans could be persuaded by arguments the administration knew to be dangerously crazy.
More sober and experienced advisers like George Ball, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and Assistant Secretary of State William Bundy were advising the President simply to get out of Vietnam.
Ellsberg indicated that this option was not even seriously considered by Johnson at the time. Rather, priority was given to a middle course, providing the military with just enough to keep them quiet.
And Today?
Am I suggesting that Barack Obama now faces a similar situation with respect to Afghanistan? I am. And I would cite the fawning adulation given Gen. David Petraeus, head of the Central Command, last week during his congressional testimony as, well, testimony to that.
Obama’s Afghan dilemma is this: Although the escalation that McChrystal demanded is in shambles, the general cannot be expected to leave quietly, nor with any graceful acknowledgement that he was wrong.
If he agrees to quit – and he and Petraeus blame the U.S. defeat on everyone but themselves – there will be considerable resonance. As the mid-term elections loom in November, Obama and his Democratic colleagues do not want to have to contend with charges of being soft on Communism — sorry, I mean terrorism.
It’s the same dynamic Johnson and Humphrey faced and were foiled by.
So hold onto your hats. McChrystal has given the President the unexpected opportunity to change course and leave behind the fool’s errand called Afghanistan. But the general has also thrown down the gauntlet.
I wish I were more confident that the President has the backbone to face into this critical challenge with some courage.
http://www.consortiumnews.com/2010/062210d.html
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
Reply
#4
Throw into the mix the fact the American geologists have also been busy in Afghanistan, discovering that the country holds potentially a trillion bucks in mineral wealth:


http://news.theage.com.au/breaking-news-...-yaju.html


Now I know why the neocons keep saying this is not the time to cut and run.
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#5
Mark Stapleton Wrote:Throw into the mix the fact the American geologists have also been busy in Afghanistan, discovering that the country holds potentially a trillion bucks in mineral wealth:


http://news.theage.com.au/breaking-news-...-yaju.html


Now I know why the neocons keep saying this is not the time to cut and run.

Yes. Thank you for mentioning that Mark. Have to wonder if they really just discovered the mineral wealth. The caspian pipeline and poppy crops may not have been the only reason to invade Afghanistan.

Of course there's always this reason, expressed with surprising bluntness by Michael Hastings at the end of the Rolling Stone article:

"So far, counterinsurgency has succeeded only in creating a never-ending demand for the primary product supplied by the military: perpetual war. There is a reason that President Obama studiously avoids using the word "victory" when he talks about Afghanistan. Winning, it would seem, is not really possible. Not even with Stanley McChrystal in charge."
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#6
I dunno. This isn't even a theory, just thinking out loud. But I have to wonder if this kerfuffle isn't orchestrated to make Obama look tough after everyone's seen him bend over for big business since his inauguration.

Just hard to believe this McChrystal joker would suddenly bite the hand that feeds him after (according to the Rolling Stone article) leading the cover-up of the Pat Tillman homicide (for which he was promptly promoted), serving as "White House mouthpiece" in repeating Bush's claim that major combat operations in Iraq were over, and spending a year at the Council on Foreign Relations. Hmmmm.

Now Obama will act all butch and fire the bad ol' general. Well let's see where the ol' general lands next. Maybe back at the CFR to claim his reward for taking one for the team? And let's see what happens in Mineral Valley Afghanistan next. Maybe a ramp up of the perpetual war allowing Obama to officially renege on his promise to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan in a year.
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#7
Termination Notice: McChrystal Sideshow Masks Murderous Reality
Posted: 23 Jun 2010 03:20 AM PDT
Some people seem to think that the question of which uniformed goober is in charge of the imperial bloodbath in Afghanistan is a vitally important issue, worthy of endless exegesis. It is not. It is a meaningless sideshow. What does matter, vitally, deeply, urgently, is the imperial bloodbath itself, and the fact that it will go on, and on, no matter what Barack Obama does or doesn't do about Stanley McChrystal.

What really matters is this:


Ten civilians, including at least five women and children, were killed in NATO airstrikes in Khost Province, the provincial police chief said Saturday.

And this:


“We have received five bodies of civilians in our provincial public hospital,” Khost provincial health director Amirbadshah Rahmatzai Mangal told AFP. “The dead include two female children of seven and eight years of age..."

McChrystal is in trouble for making disparaging remarks about fellow officers and civilian officials -- a military tradition that surely goes back to the armies of Hammurabi (and long before). Yet he faced no reprimand or remonstrance whatsoever for his admission, just a few months ago, that brazen war crimes were being carried out under his command:


“We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat,” said Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who became the senior American and NATO commander in Afghanistan last year. His comments came during a recent videoconference to answer questions from troops in the field about civilian casualties.

As I noted at the time:


Now, what would the authorities say if you or I shot "an amazing number of people who have never proven to be a threat?" Why, they would call us murderers -- even mass murderers. Yet this is precisely what "the senior American and NATO commander in Afghanistan" has just declared, on videotape. ...

Again, just think of it, let it sink in, attend to the word of the commander: “We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat." Again: “We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat." Again: “We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat."

Again: what do you call it when innocent, unarmed, defenseless people who "have never proven to be a threat" are gunned down in cold blood? What do you call such an act?

But such acts are not to be punished -- because they are an accepted part of the process of the military domination of foreign lands. Wanton murder of the innocent? No problem, no scandal, a one-day story. "Insubordination" toward a few imperial satraps whose hands are steeped in blood? Shock, horror, wall-to-wall coverage.

But again: McChrystal's fate does not matter. As Justin Raimondo notes (see the original for informative links):


Our empire of bases and global military presence has engendered a whole new subspecies of American, a class or caste that derives its income, its tradition, and in many cases its family history from the long record of US military intervention overseas. They are the knights of the American imperium, not only military but also civilians whose social, economic, and political interests are inextricably tied to the growth of the empire. This includes but is not limited to the military contractors, the administrators, the Washington policy wonks who come up with endless rationales for war – and, really, the entire political class in Washington, and their vassals among the coastal elites.

Indeed. If McChrystal goes, another bureaucrat of death will take his place. Until the militarist empire itself is rolled back and broken up, we will continue to see, month after month, year after year, "an amazing number of people who have never proven to be a threat" killed in cold blood -- such as the two little girls who were slaughtered last weekend in Khost.

There they are, their bodies torn, their slender limbs twisted and broken, their lifeless eyes staring into eternal nothingness ... and we're supposed to care about the professional fortunes and political fates of the depraved, power-drunk thugs who run this brutal war machine?
http://www.chris-floyd.com/
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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#8
AMY GOODMAN: The fallout from a controversial Rolling Stone profile of General Stanley McChrystal continues to intensify in Washington ahead of this morning’s meeting between President Obama and General McChrystal, the top US commander in Afghanistan. The New York Times reports McChrystal has prepared a letter of resignation, though President Obama has not made up his mind whether to accept it when they meet. ABC News reports Obama has asked the Pentagon to make a list of possible generals to replace McChrystal in case the President decides to fire him.

In the Rolling Stone article, McChrystal and his top aides openly criticize the President and mock several top officials. Joe Biden is nicknamed "Bite me." National Security Adviser General James Jones is described as a clown. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke is called a "wounded animal."

While McChrystal may soon be fired over his comments, less attention has been paid to his actual military record. Prior to his time in Afghanistan, McChrystal headed the Joint Special Operations Command, where he oversaw a secretive program to hunt down and assassinate suspected terrorists around the globe. As the top general in Afghanistan, McChrystal successfully lobbied President Obama to vastly expand the war last year. McChrystal also recently admitted US forces are killing innocent Afghans at military checkpoints. He said, quote, "We’ve shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat."

To talk more about General Stanley McChrystal, we are joined here in Detroit by Ann Wright.
She’s a retired Army colonel, former US diplomat. She served as deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Afghanistan, an embassy she helped open in 2002.

We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Colonel Ann Wright.

ANN WRIGHT: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the Rolling Stone exposé of General McChrystal.

ANN WRIGHT: Well, this Rolling Stone article will be read by every single person in the military, for sure. This is one of the stunning reports of the behind-the-scenes of the staff, the senior staff, of a senior war general. And tragically, it’s a very unflattering picture of the staff, a staff that seems to be fraternizing with the General, junior people, lieutenant colonels and colonels that seem to have a buddy-buddy access to the General, which, on one level, with the Special Forces background that General McChrystal has, that may be kind of the culture there. But in the general military forces, you have to have generals that have good order and discipline in their units and that require their senior officials to adhere to a code of silence, really, in public on any disagreements that you have within an administration. You do that behind the scenes. And to be talking with a Rolling Stone's reporter in the manner in which these senior advisers have been doing is something of great concern to the military itself.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the divisions between the military and the diplomatic end of what is going on, of dealing in Afghanistan.

ANN WRIGHT: Well, the military component of US involvement in Afghanistan is—it's just overwhelming. The State Department side, the diplomatic side, is minor, honestly, compared to what the military involvement is. As much as the State Department has tried to gear up for provincial reconstruction teams, it’s still a very small element of it all. And if you look at really who the senior leadership of US policy in Afghanistan, even the US ambassador is a military person, a three-star general, retired, Karl Eikenberry. And, of course, there’s the rivalry, really, between two military officers, one who now has the hat of a diplomat or the pinstripes of a diplomat, but essentially it’s two military officers there in charge of US policies on the ground in Afghanistan.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about McChrystal’s history. For example, there are times, as the Rolling Stone article points out, that this general would have lost his job, that he has had many lives. Among them, in the representation, in the dealing with the death of the football star Pat Tillman in Afghanistan and the lies that surrounded his death.

ANN WRIGHT: Yes. Well, General McChrystal was a part of the crew that decided that the death of Pat Tillman would be covered up, that the death by friendly fire of Pat Tillman would be portrayed as a heroic effort to protect his troops from Taliban and al-Qaeda attack, when in fact it was well known on the first day that they were killed by friendly fire. General McChrystal was a part of the cover-up, of awarding to Pat Tillman a Silver Star based on false information, and then later on it was McChrystal that warned President Bush that he should be careful in how he characterized Pat Tillman’s death.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the policy in Afghanistan. This is critical. For example, the division between McChrystal and Eikenberry, that famous moment when the cables came out, the secret cables that the ambassador, also a general, a retired general, Eikenberry, had sent to the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

ANN WRIGHT: Yes, and when the Obama administration was doing its lengthy look at what their policy should be on Afghanistan, General Eikenberry, now Ambassador Eikenberry, sent a series of three very, very pointed cables saying that increasing US military presence in Afghanistan was not going to be what was needed by the US government. And it came right at a time as the—virtually the decision was being made to go ahead and have more troops go in, and ultimately 30,000 were decided by President Obama. But that was after the leak of McChrystal’s recommendation that up to 40,000 people be put in, essentially trying to press the President by this leak to commitment to a large increase in military forces, and then Eikenberry weighing in toward the last of it with three very, very important cables saying the military forces are not going to be it, that the government of Afghanistan is not a strong government, and that President Karzai himself is not what was called a strategic partner.

AMY GOODMAN: Where does this leave McChrystal, Eikenberry, the whole diplomatic side? Who’s in charge of the strategy in Afghanistan? That’s the question we are left with.

ANN WRIGHT: Indeed. And by how the US government operates, it’s not the military commanders that are in charge of US policies. It’s the—they are a component of it, but in countries like Afghanistan, the US ambassador, although in wartime the military component certainly has a large element of play in it, but right now the diplomatic role seems to be very low. You report that the British ambassador is—another British ambassador is on the verge of resignation over it, and this will probably be the third British ambassador to Afghanistan that has had severe criticisms of US policies and, hence, NATO policies in Afghanistan. And McChrystal is the head of not only US forces in Afghanistan, but also of the International Security Assistance Force and the NATO forces that are there.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s not only British officials and military personnel that have criticism of the United States. In the Rolling Stone piece, they quote a senior US adviser, saying the war is going worse than we realize. Quote, "If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular." That was the quote. Reporter going on to say still Pentagon officials are hoping that, rather than a withdrawal of troops, the White House will approve a third surge, that it’s going worse than they thought.

ANN WRIGHT: Yes. Well, when you have the General himself saying that this much-touted offensive in Marjah is now a "bleeding ulcer," when you have McChrystal himself saying that the offensive that was to take place in Kandahar needs to be postponed, you can see that the military strategy is definitely being relooked, that things are being postponed, because there’s not the cooperation on the ground of Afghan forces.

AMY GOODMAN: You were in Afghanistan. You were a fierce critic of the war in Afghanistan. A lot of the discussion about this Rolling Stone article, about, you know, catching the criticism of calling Holbrooke a wounded animal, because he’s always afraid of being fired, no telling what he will do, calling National Security Adviser Jones a clown, Biden "Bite me," also talked about President Obama as being uncomfortable when he met with top generals and not being prepared when he first actually met with General McChrystal.

ANN WRIGHT: Well, that sort of analysis of your commander-in-chief and to have that coming out publicly is—you know, it is ultimately the criticism of a president that, while one might hold those views personally, you certainly don’t put them out to a reporter. You don’t put them out so that the troops in the field will read the uncomfortableness that the senior leadership of the military has with their commander-in-chief. I mean, it’s all based on good order and discipline of the military and being subordinate to civilian leadership. And this is really undercutting any faith and confidence that the military should be having in its leadership and how it relates to the commander-in-chief.

AMY GOODMAN: Colonel Ann Wright, you’re a former diplomat. You were the former deputy head of the Afghanistan mission. You opened the Afghanistan US mission in 2002.

ANN WRIGHT: Yes. And at that time, I thought there was a window of opportunity that the United States might be able to help the people of Afghanistan through a short program of help on civic assistance, humanitarian assistance, but knowing full well the history of Afghanistan, that invaders and occupiers, no matter what your national reason for being there, have a short shelf life. And with the Bush decision to divert the resources into Iraq, that window of opportunity closed very quickly.

And now we are nine years into being in Afghanistan, and we see that, as much as most Afghans don’t like the Taliban, they also don’t like warlords that are part of the Karzai government, the corruptness of the Karzai government. And while they really don’t want to be allied with the Taliban, at least there’s some order and structure, and you know what’s going on with them. That’s the real battle that General McChrystal and US foreign policies in Afghanistan are facing right now, that the Afghan people really have no faith in what the United States is trying to do, nine years later.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about another issue, aside from just coming off the flotilla that tried to get into Gaza, and we spoke to you about that when you were in Turkey, when you had been deported by the Israeli military. I also wanted to ask you about the oil spill, the BP oil spill.

A federal judge has struck down the Obama administration’s six-month ban on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The White House imposed the ban last month, as the BP oil spill spiraled into what many have called the worst environmental disaster in US history. On Tuesday, US District Judge Martin Feldman called the suspension, quote, "heavy-handed" and "overbearing." A Reagan appointee, Feldman has extensive stock holdings in energy companies, including Transocean, which owned the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, where the explosion took place, and Halliburton, which also performed work at the site. Feldman also owned stock in two of BP’s largest shareholders, BlackRock and JPMorgan Chase. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the Obama administration will appeal the ruling.

ROBERT GIBBS: We will immediately appeal to the Fifth Circuit. The President strongly believes, as the Department of Interior and the Department of Justice argued yesterday, that continuing to drill at these depths, without knowing what happened, is—does not make any sense and puts the safety of those involved—potentially puts safety of those on the rigs and safety of the environment in the Gulf at a danger that the President does not believe we can afford right now.


AMY GOODMAN: In a statement, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he’ll issue a new order reimposing the drilling ban. Salazar says he’ll detail the reasons for the ban to address Judge Feldman’s concerns.

But you were in a House—a congressional hearing room when Diane Wilson, a CODEPINK activist, got arrested, her hands covered in oil. Why were you there?

ANN WRIGHT: Yes. Well, I was there. I had been at the Congress all the night before. Diane and I stayed overnight in front of the houses of Congress to make sure that some citizens got some seats in that hearing room. Only ten citizens got in that room, one of whom was Diane Wilson, an environmentalist, a shrimper. She’s a boat captain. She’s been fighting for cleanup of oil spills and chemical spills in her bay in Texas for years and years and years. And so, I was there with Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK and Diane Wilson, who’s a co-founder of CODEPINK and also Unreasonable Women. And that’s where we have to be. We have to be very unreasonable. This whole thing of—I mean, a short-term ban on drilling is just a tiny drop in the water. We need to be out there saying a full-time ban on this deepwater drilling.

Also, Diane Wilson is in Taiwan right now. She’s going to a stockholders’ meeting of Formosa Chemicals, which polluted her bay in Texas. And stand by for news for that one. I’ll tell you what, Diane Wilson will be doing something in Taiwan that will be equally as dramatic as she did in the hearings in Washington, DC.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Ann Wright, I want to thank you for being with us, retired Army colonel and former US diplomat, served as the deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Afghanistan. She helped open that mission in 2002.
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
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#9
Quote:After Cpl. Pat Tillman, the former-NFL-star-turned-Ranger, was accidentally killed by his own troops in Afghanistan in April 2004, McChrystal took an active role in creating the impression that Tillman had died at the hands of Taliban fighters. He signed off on a falsified recommendation for a Silver Star that suggested Tillman had been killed by enemy fire. (McChrystal would later claim he didn't read the recommendation closely enough - a strange excuse for a commander known for his laserlike attention to minute details.) A week later, McChrystal sent a memo up the chain of command, specifically warning that President Bush should avoid mentioning the cause of Tillman's death. "If the circumstances of Corporal Tillman's death become public," he wrote, it could cause "public embarrassment" for the president.

McChrystal likes to style himself a man of honour, a soldier's soldier. In fact he craves power, and his actions show that he believes his own personal version of the End justifies whatever Means he, Stan Superman McChrystal, declares acceptable.

He has no honour.

McChrystal's "big philosophy", COIN, betrays the intellectual insight of a High School frat boy with a badass, I'm right even when I'm wrong attitude, and which can't understand why the Afghans don't want Yank puppets to run and "improve" their country. His comment that "Even Afghans are confused by Afghanistan," is deeply condescending and borderline racist.

Quote:When it comes to Afghanistan, history is not on McChrystal's side. The only foreign invader to have any success here was Genghis Khan - and he wasn't hampered by things like human rights, economic development and press scrutiny. The COIN doctrine, bizarrely, draws inspiration from some of the biggest Western military embarrassments in recent memory: France's nasty war in Algeria (lost in 1962) and the American misadventure in Vietnam (lost in 1975). McChrystal, like other advocates of COIN, readily acknowledges that counterinsurgency campaigns are inherently messy, expensive and easy to lose. "Even Afghans are confused by Afghanistan," he says.

Plus McChrystal is from the dark side of torture and assassination squads. Or perhaps we should use the proper term: death squads.

Unfortunately, McChrystal will now probably end up running a Blackwater/Xe/Manchurian Global operation, either off the books or sub-contracted through cutouts. He'll be happy. He can go back to pretending to be a soldier.
"It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...."
"Proverbs for Paranoids 4: You hide, They seek."
"They are in Love. Fuck the War."

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
The last words of the last Inka, Tupac Amaru, led to the gallows by men of god & dogs of war
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#10
Magda Hassan Wrote:Termination Notice: McChrystal Sideshow Masks Murderous Reality
Posted: 23 Jun 2010 03:20 AM PDT
Some people seem to think that the question of which uniformed goober is in charge of the imperial bloodbath in Afghanistan is a vitally important issue, worthy of endless exegesis. It is not. It is a meaningless sideshow. [U]...[/U]

Yes I think that says it nicely. This is a distraction, possibly an intentional distraction, from this particular perpetual war, not to be confused with the perpetual war in Iraq.

I still want to see where General Sideshow ends up next. Will he be rewarded for falling on his sword so that Obama can look resolute and tough?
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