By now, Rolling Stone’s article about General McChrystal, and his consequent sacking, is old news. Michael Hastings has been excoriated by the mainstream media for doing honest reporting, the military has announced that they will be a whole lot more careful about interviews, and the general mood seems to be that “we’re not going to let anything like this happen again–all puff pieces, all the time!”
In a similar vein, the government (or BP–it’s hard to tell them apart) has further restricted public and media access to the Gulf of Mexico, making it a federal crime to come close enough to the cleanup effort to report on what’s really going on unless you’ve got an official minder. But that’s not what I’m going to talk about now. There are important pieces of the McChrystal story that have been largely ignored, and another story that intersects with it in a surprising and radical way, and I want to bring those together for you.
One aspect of Michael Hasting’s profile of General McChrystal that has been widely overlooked is that he actually paints a very positive picture of the General–who, by Hastings’ account, was well-liked by his subordinates, deeply concerned for the well-being of the troops in his command, personally courageous, and even tolerant of his own son’s decision to dye his hair blue and get a Mohawk. For a hired killer in the service of an exploitive empire, he is not a bad guy.
Another aspect of the whole flap that I have not seen much mention of is that an awful lot of people in this country agree very strongly with McChrystal’s dismissive opinions of his Commander-in Chief and the other civilians who are technically his bosses. My own view is that the US has no business in Afghanistan, but I can see that, if you accept the premise that it’s OK for us to be there, the Obama administration (following the precedent set by the Bush administration) has bungled the situation just about every way it could, and those who are hung up on the concept of “victory” are understandably feeling very frustrated and wishing they/we were free to turn the military loose to “kill them all and let God sort ‘em out,” as the old bumper sticker said.
So, McChrystal is out of a job, and a lot of people feel like he got a bum deal. That’s where the next element enters.
A few months back, there was a brief flap when New York Congressman Eric Massa was forced to resign amid allegations of sexual harassment, which he claimed was really retaliation for his opposition to the health insurance industry bailout. But, in Esquire Magazine, of all places, Massa had another, stranger tale to tell.
According to Massa, General David Petraeus met with Dick Cheney, who urged him to resign from the military and become the Republican candidate for President in 2012. Petraeus’ problem, as Massa sees it, is that in order to run successfully against his own commander, he would have to make sure the war in Afghanistan did not go well. A military commander plotting with the opposition party to throw a war so that he can replace the civilian commander as President is, in Massa’s view (and mine), essentially the opening move in a de facto military coup.
The tricky part of this scenario is “throwing” the war, although it has not been going well and probably won’t, no matter what strategy the US pursues, short of immediate and complete withdrawal. That, like most sensible solutions to the problems our culture faces, is “off the table.” But now General McChrystal has “just happened” to make some–apparently–unguarded, highly critical remarks about the conduct of the war to a reporter from Rolling Stone, and they were printed. No matter what the job, who the employer or the employee, badmouthing your boss in print is reasonable grounds for dismissal.
To digress for a moment, it’s similar to the situation in which the Pentagon decided that they would really like to shut down Julian Assange’s Wikileaks site, and then somebody “just happened” to release “top-secret” diplomatic cables and a video of US troops gleefully killing innocent Iraqi civilians. Now, the only reason such a video would be considered “top secret” is to conceal evidence of a shameful war crime, but that doesn’t matter–acquisition of these items hotted up Assange and he’s had to watch his back ever since. The point of this digression is to raise the possibility that everything is not as simple as it seems. Now for another aside.
The US government recently announced the discovery of vast stores of minerals in Afghanistan–gold, iron, copper, cobalt, copper, lithium, and other substances more important to highly industrialized societies than to Afghan peasants. Actually, the existence of these deposits has been known for thirty years, but there was a need for good news, so “discovery of Afghan mineral wealth” was trumpeted.
Mining and extraction are water-intensive, ecologically destructive processes. Traditonally, they produce wealth for a few and misery for many. There is little water in Afghanistan, most of it is claimed, and the ecosystem is fragile. The Chinese, not noted for their sensitivity to either ecology or local needs, are moving in to exploit these resources. Will we end up trying to kick the Chinese as well as the Taliban out of Afghanistan, so we can further destroy the ecology and what’s left of the local way of life in our own rush to suck up raw materials? Stay tuned….
So, there are serious stakes to be gained by securing Afghanistan as a mining colony,there is a disgruntled, charismatic former General looking for a job, and there are a lot of insecure people in this country psychologically inclined to accept a military man who will provide strong, disciplined leadership in a time of crisis, and the possibility that Dick Cheney is pulling strings from his undisclosed location.
“McChrystal for President?” Don’t say you weren’t warned….
music: Dr. Hook: “The Cover of Rolling Stone“