11 07 2010

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



11 responses

11 07 2010
President Obama

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14 07 2010

The McChrystal story, as we know it thus far, is downright peculiar. I’ve read stories and blogs, left and right, civilian and military, and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, beyond the basics that he and his staff mouthed off to a reporter and McChrystal had to resign.

McChrystal is a deeply committed, deeply disciplined officer out of the special forces. Yes, he was good at his job, intelligent, and well-liked by his staff. It also seems that he did vote for Obama and was more liberal than many officers.

Why McChrystal thought it was a good idea to bring a Rolling Stone reporter aboard where the reporter could hear what he later reported remains mysterious. McChrystal isn’t stupid and he understands chain-of-command and discipline stuff as well as anyone. I think he sabotaged himself for reasons I can only speculate.

However, I see no possibility McChrystal could become a Republican presidential candidate. Some conservatives are sympathetic to McChrystal’s plight trying to run a war under Obama — who seems quite ambivalent about Afghanistan — but just about everyone on the right and in the military agrees that McChrystal’s judgment was poor and that he should have resigned or been fired. Plus, as I said, he voted for Obama!

McChrystal’s not the guy we are going to vote for.

However, I don’t think we’ve heard the last of McChrystal. Perhaps we will come to better understand his motives in this Rolling Stone business.

15 07 2010

Yes, it’s pretty obvious McChrystal had a pretty good idea of what would happen if he and his aides said those kinds of things to a reporter from Rolling Stone. Maybe he understands what a quagmire Afghanistan is and wanted out. It’s a lot less painful to do what he did than it is to fall on your sword.

I think McChrystal’s vote for Obama could be a big selling point….a conversion narrative, if you know what I mean….”I supported him but now I see the light!”

Well, I’ve been wrong before….it will indeed be interesting to see where this one goes!

15 07 2010

More likely IMO McChrystal saw what a quagmire Afghanistan would be under Obama’s command.

Democrats and their supporters are unreliable judges of military issues. For example, the surge in Iraq was successful with Bush’s unwavering support, but iberals and progressives from Obama on down called it wrong. Even when the surge was succeeding, they bitterly and dishonestly insisted otherwise.

And they never apologized for it. Now, ironically, General Petraeus (or Gen. Betray-Us as slandered him in an ad that the New York Times give them cut-rate to run) is Obama’s right-hand man in Afghanistan.

I think Afghanistan is important and, though a harder row to hoe than Iraq, winnable with realistic goals, but I have no confidence that Obama has the grit or competence, as Bush did in Iraq, to make that happen.

During the campaign Obama committed himself to Afghanistan because at the time it looked like the easy war and it was another way to criticize Bush while making Obama look centrist and tough.

But I think Obama is just going to dilly-dally around, as he did last year in deciding his course in Afghanistan, and get a lot of American soldiers and Afghani citizens killed for no good purpose. I say bring our boys home.

Brother Martin, you’re a good guy and all but I have to say you’ve got a superficial idea of who conservatives are and what they think. I suggest reading more conservative writers.

You could scarcely do better than Victor Davis Hanson, who has an admirably calm style of expression and, as a historian, a perspective that goes back over 2000 years. Here’s Hanson on the McChrystal affair:

18 07 2010

Haven’t had a chance to read Hanson yet, but it’s in my queue..will post comments here when I’ve checked him out….as for the rest, I have a hard time accepting your version of recent history.

The invasion of Afghanistan–a bunch of Saudi Arabians based in Pakistan flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, so Bush/Cheney invaded Afghanistan….(According to reasonably reliable reports, Bin Laden, who is/was dependent on kidney dialysis to stay alive, was in a Pakistani military hospital the day of 9/11)….Bush/Cheney limped along with this war for years, paying much more attention to their invasion of Iraq….from my view, Obama rode the tide of discontent with this conflict into office, but true to his Wall Street masters, has decided to ramp it up…except , given Afghanistan’s long tradition of blood feuds, about the only way to “win” would be to wipe out the entire population, because every Afghan we kill provokes a bunch of his/her family to get revenge…and why are we really there anyway? Well, there’s all those “newly discovered” mineral resources, plus building a pipeline through Afghanistan is potentially a way to get oil and gas out of central Asia without involving the Russians or the Iranians….if only those pesky natives would go away….so that’s why Goldman-Sachs has told Obama to “win” in Afghanistan…except it’s about impossible….any Republican who got elected would be having similar problems, but maybe spinning them better…

Iraq–again, a bunch of Saudis, financed from their home country, flew airplanes into the WTC and Pentagon, and so we invaded…Iraq, which had nothing to do with it. ..the Taliban are Waha’bist (sp?) Muslims and persona non grata in Saddam’s Iraq.

Sure, we got a UN resolution saying it was OK, but that was based on phony evidence and bullying. The invasion of Iraq was a war of aggression against a country that had done nothing to provoke us, just like the German invasion of Poland in 1939. Those who planned and implemented this criminal act are guilty of war crimes–in my mind, and given the legal precedent of the Nuremburg trials, this includes the war’s Democratic Party supporters as well as the Republicans who dreamed it up. Again, the reason for this naked act of aggression was–OIL. That’s even what they were going to call it, until somebody pointed out what an embarrassing acronym Operation Iraqi Liberation made…..Saddam Hussein had signed contracts that would have sent most of the country’s oil to Russia, and was rumored to be about to start accepting payment for Iraqi oil in euros, rather than dollars, which would have been the beginning of the end of the dollar’s hegemony as a world currency. Can’t have that–no, no no!

So, to me, talk of “winning” in Iraq and Afghanistan is like cheering the Germans on to subdue the Poles and the (insert name of small European country here.) Neither of these wars should ever have happened in the first place, and the only reason the US has gotten away with them is that we have more military force at our disposal than the rest of the planet put together, and have rigged the UN so that it can’t do anything we don’t want it to do.

The real tragedy of all this, to me, is that all the resources energy, and work that have been wasted in these wars could have been put to much more constructive purposes. Without these wars, we–the whole world “we”–could have been in a much better place with regard to climate change, resource depletion, world hunger, and any other problem you can name.

18 07 2010

We understand Iraq and Afghanistan rather differently. That’s clear. And that’s a long discussion that I’m not interested in rehashing tonight. It’s part of that “the real disagreement is several layers down” thing I keep talking about.

However, in this particular thread you don’t seem to be disagreeing with my version of history. What history I offered was that Democrats — most notably Obama — opposed the surge in the Iraq War. Democrats flip-flopped from their early support of the war to opposing it in general, but they were also against the surge because Democrats claimed it would fail.

Democrats were wrong about the latter. In the process they unfairly slandered General Petraeus, they undermined our soldiers at war, and they never acknowledged they were wrong.

And now, irony of ironies, Obama is depending on Petraeus to make good on Obama’s campaign commitment to the Afghanistan War, as the right war and the good war.

At this juncture you and I do agree, though our reasoning is different, that we should bring our soldiers back from Afghanistan.

18 07 2010

One of the key areas we disagree is your belief in Obama’s “Wall St. masters.”

I’m aware that Obama has a cozier relationship with Wall St than his populist rhetoric implies. To be sure Wall St was a big source of Obama’s astronomically high campaign funding. And to make changes in the economy, it’s helpful for Obama to do some horsetrading with Wall St.

But that’s the real world of politics and governing. Who is using who or who is mastering who are different questions. Doing deals doesn’t prove anything one way or the other.

During WWII FDR was allied with “Uncle Joe” Stalin — that didn’t mean that FDR was pro-communist or that Stalin was FDR’s communist master.

20 07 2010

Democrats and our war for oil? From my perspective, their “opposition” to those wars has been as lame and half-assed as you see their support being….so, if, from our two different perspectives, the same thing appears to be the case, (lame and alf-assed), the scientific method would tend to give credence to the observation.

On the other hand, your analogy between Obama’s relationship with Wall Street and FDR’s relationship with Stalin doesn’t, i think, hold water. FDR funded the Soviet War effort, to a limited extent, (which, if anything, would make FDR Stalin’s master, not vice versa), while Goldman-Sachs was one of the major funders of Obma’s campaign.

For a more general, well documented essay on the relationship between wealth and power in the US, see

22 07 2010

Obama the Socialist? Yeah, right…here’s the latest evidence to the contrary…fcourtesy of “Democracy Now”:

Fmr. Insurance Exec Tapped to Implement Healthcare Law

The Obama administration has appointed a former insurance executive and leading opponent of the public option to help implement the new healthcare law. Liz Fowler was a former executive for the insurance giant WellPoint before serving as chief health adviser to Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus. Fowler headed the group of staffers who helped draft the healthcare reform law that excluded the public option

2 08 2010

OK, Jack, I read the Victor Hansen piece you recommended to me (….he seems like a fairly levelheaded, reasonable guy, except for a couple of things…

1) remarks like this: “Is it smart to be in Paris within a mile of any creep from Rolling Stone? How dumb is that? Such tag-along groupie folk exist to trash the military.”

The “creep from Rolling Stone” spent years with CNN…he’s not just some old hippie like me, he’s a serious career journalist.

2) Hansen’s unquestioning acceptance of the rightness of both our attack on Iraq and our attack on Afghanistan, both of which were unprovoked acts of aggression launched for reasons that were not stated in the propaganda blitz that preceded them. I’ve said all this enough times before that I’m not going to go into greater detail on them here.

I’d also like to add that someplace along the way, I ran into Jonah Goldberg writing on the same subject (sorry, I can’t find the link for it) and, while I usually find Goldberg someplace between laughable and horrifying, I found his take on McChrystal quite reasonable–except, again, for that blind spot about the possibility that our middle east aggression might not be a “just war.”

Thanks for expanding my horizons, and please feel free to continue to do so.

7 08 2010

[…] of which, P.S. to Jack on the “McCHRYSTAL FOR PRESIDENT?” thread:  after reading Hansen, Jonah Goldberg, and a few other right-wing commentators, I see what you […]

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