Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Loose Lips Sink Ships: Parallels and Connections

Stanley McChrystal was engaged in a pissing contest with Administration Officials. It’s worked for him in the past.

Surely, he knows that we can’t win in Afghanistan. “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.”

“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.” It is unlikely that after all the years the US has spent in Afghanistan we will even undo the damage done to the country by the Taliban after they received US aid during the Soviet occupation.

“The general's staff is a handpicked collection of killers, spies, geniuses, patriots, political operators and outright maniacs.” “…they pride themselves on their can-do attitude and their disdain for authority.”

Still, unless the magic of positive thinking results in the refutation of history, McChrystal would have been the general in charge of losing. Getting himself fired was a way out. Maybe that was his intent in giving access to Rolling Stone reporter, Michael Hastings.

Publicly criticizing Biden, Eikenberry, Holbrooke, Jones, etc. fit his macho image and would be consistent with any plan to get out of his position of “sure-to-fail Commander.” He may have strategized a “best case” scenario for himself.

Military personnel on active duty, at any level, do not have the luxury of engaging in this type of public criticism. This is not accepted military demeanor.

What is the connection of this story with the handling of non-combat military deaths and the experiences of surviving families?

First, there appears to be a total disregard for the lower ranking military personnel who are in Afghanistan, in danger of death by I.E.D., suicide, accident, or fratricide. While the “pissing contest” proceeds at the highest levels of authority, people are dying. In the light of the hopelessness admitted by McChrystal’s aides, they are dying for nothing.

Let’s not forget McChrystal’s very active role in the cover up of Pat Tillman’s “friendly fire” death. He was also involved in a prisoner abuse scandal at Camp Nama in Iraq. Although one would think that McChrystal surely deserved demotion for all this -- he received regular promotions in rank and no punishment worth mentioning. All of these risky projects just helped him climb the ladder of success in his career.

I’d nearly forgotten that I wrote to my US Senators from Virginia when McChrystal was up for the Afghanistan Command, protesting that he was not worthy of such a distinction. No one paid attention.

Some of us have had experience with commanders who deny families access to information and have covered up for malfeasance. On a personal level, I can comment on the unseemly behavior of McChrystal and his team and draw parallels from the time of my son’s death and the media coverage shortly afterwards. There seemed to be no consequences for such actions -- until today.

Planting false stories in the press is something Stanley McChrystal would appear to approve of if the end result was politically expedient. Disseminating disinformation is not a skill that I admire. Sacrificing lives for personal gain is not a skill that I admire. Manipulating grieving families and causing pain in order to achieve some political goal is not a skill that I admire.

I hope that there will be a carryover to the entire US Military organization at all levels.


Quotations are from the article, “The Runaway General”, by Michael Hastings which appeared in Rolling Stone:

Revisiting the Pat Tillman Story, and McChrystal's Role
Did Pat Tillman Reach Out From the Grave?
Tillman Mother Sought to Warn Obama of McChrystal
General McChrystal's Ties to Pat Tillman Cover-up
General McChrystal's Credibility Problem

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