Our McMan in Bananastan

Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, our new Bananastan war chief, may be more dangerous and even crazier than his boss, Gen. David Petraeus of Central Command. McChrystal reportedly eats one meal a day and sleeps three hours a night. We can’t know for sure if that’s true, but we can assume McChrystal wants us to think it is because it comes from the New York Times, who almost certainly got it from the press kit McChrystal’s public affairs colonel gave them.

Unconfirmed rumor also has it that McChrystal only drinks rain water to avoid the effects of fluoridation on his precious bodily fluids, and that he takes acai berry purgatives to maintain his purity of essence. However much of this is true or merely legend-crafting, it’s all loony enough to make Petraeus’ one-arm pushup contests with teenage privates look dignified in comparison.

From the sound of McChrystal’s recent confirmation hearing testimony, the insanity is just leaving the station. He told the Senate Armed Services Committee "I believe [the Afghanistan conflict] is winnable, but I don’t think it will be easily winnable.” It won’t be easy to win because it will be impossible to tell when we’ve won. “The measure of effectiveness will not be enemy killed," McChrystal told the SASC, "it will be the number of Afghans shielded from violence." How many shielded Afghans will equate to victory? More importantly, who is going to shield them? Certainly not McChrystal.

As commander of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), McChrystal was directly responsible for the assassination strikes that have killed so many innocents in the Bananastans. Paradoxically, those strikes were the reason McChrystal’s predecessor, Gen. Mark McKiernan, got the ax. Compounding the irony is the way McKiernan came to be cast as the fall stooge.

Throughout our post-9/11 missteps, the JSOC has largely operated outside the established chain of command; the only authority it appeared to answer to was Dick Cheney. When the Dark Lord left office in January 2009, the JSOC became a free agent. By mid-February the mounting outrage over the collateral deaths from JSOC strikes forced Vice Adm. William McRaven, who had succeeded McChrystal as head of the JSOC in the summer of 2008, to put a temporary halt to them. McKiernan’s spokes-colonel Gregory Julian confessed that his boss had not ordered the stand-down, and a "senior military official" said Petraeus allowed as how throttling back on the baby killing for a couple of weeks was maybe a good idea. Those statements from the four-stars made it clear that the three-star McRaven was running his own program.

When the stand-down story hit the press in March, Petraeus likely determined someone would have to ride the rap for the collateral deaths the JSOC had caused, and he didn’t want it to be McRaven or McChrystal, whom he still had use for. So Petraeus quietly issued an order that put the JSOC under tactical control of McKiernan, which made McKiernan responsible for the McCluster bombs McRaven and McChrystal and their howling commandos had created. McKiernan’s transfer to Fort Palooka came through in short order, and McChrystal became the new McMan in Bananastan. The McHinations didn’t stop there.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he nominated McChrystal because he wanted "new military leadership" to go along with the "new strategy." The new strategy is the one National Security Adviser James Jones and his White House war wonks wretched together. It is a compendium of platitudes, aphorisms, and non sequiturs, a fusty heap of "realistic and achievable objectives" that are delusional and doomed to failure. We will never establish a "stable constitutional government in Pakistan" or a "capable, accountable, and effective government in Afghanistan." If by some miracle we manage to create "self-reliant Afghan security forces," all we’ll have done is organize another armed mob that doesn’t like us. We’re already "involving the international community" for reasons that are difficult to fathom. Gates has forged a hobby career out of alternately begging NATO for more help in Afghanistan and blaming NATO for everything that goes wrong there.

The strategy’s stated aim to "disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda and its safe havens in Pakistan" is as hallucinatory as it is poorly written. You can’t "defeat" a safe haven any more than you can climb a tennis ball; but even if you could, there would be no point in doing it. Modern evildoers can run their operations from the sanctuary of the pockets that hold their Blackberries. Averting "the possibility of extremists obtaining fissile material" is a snipe hunt. Evildoers are about as likely to convert Pakistani nukes into suitcase bombs as they are to find a cure for herpes.

Yet Stanley McChrystal has sworn to Congress that he can accomplish all these things and more if only he can shield enough Afghans from violence. The House and Senate Armed Services Committees had a golden opportunity to decapitate McChrystal and the Pentagon over their Bananastan plan and torture of detainees and the Pat Tillman cover-up and a host of other mortal sins, but they vaginalized it. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) made a show of growling at McChrystal for a few minutes before he rolled over and begged for a tummy scratch.

Nobody in the legislature had the baby-makers to oppose McChrystal’s nomination, because he enjoys the aegis of the most powerful man on earth. As military analyst Andrew Bacevich puts it, “McKiernan’s removal confirms that it’s now Petraeus’ army," and King David’s hand-picked "unconventional warriors" like McChrystal and McRaven are "in the saddle." In 2007, Petraeus purposely misled Congress into believing he was seeking a way to bring troops home from Iraq while he was actually using the surge as a stratagem to buy time to sell the "long war" to the public, and he got away with it. Now he and his protégés McChrystal and McRaven are poised to get away with the same shenanigans in the Bananastans.

And where does our commander in chief Barack Obama stand on all of this? He’s the one who blessed the resumption of the errant air strikes and who nominated McChrystal to take over in the Bananastans. Our self-anointed "agent of change" has changed into what his predecessor was: a fawning servant of America’s warlords.

Author: Jeff Huber

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (retired), was a naval flight officer who commanded an aircraft squadron and was operations officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the carrier that fought the Kosovo War. Jeff earned a master of arts degree in post-modern imperialism at the U.S. Naval War College. His weekly satires on U.S. foreign policy high jinks are archived at his blog, Pen and Sword. Jeff's critically applauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a lampoon of America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Jeff lives with dogs in a house by the beach on Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, and in the summer he has a nice tan.