To amend a line made immortal by Walt Kelly, creator of the comic strip Pogo, we have met the evildoers and they are us. It would be nice to think that we managed to change the vector of American foreign policy with the 2008 elections, but the New American Century is still afloat and running full steam ahead. All we’ve done is trade Rumsfeldian arrogance for McChrystalline oiliness.
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld derided his critics as "Henny Pennys" who saw the sky falling every time they pulled their heads out of their heinies. Rumsfeld was, of course, an abject disaster, a micromanaging bully who single-handedly ensured the Iraq excursion would turn into a cluster bomb by threatening, according to Brig. Gen. Mark Scheid, who was one of the original Iraqi Freedom planners, to "fire the next person" who suggested the military needed to plan an endgame for the war. As obvious a calamity as he was from the outset to discerning observers, Rummy managed to hang on to the SecDef slot for nearly six years, partly by surrounding himself with sycophants and cronies, partly by bullying the wimpy mainstream media, but mainly through the sponsorship of the then most powerful public figure on earth, his old pal Dick Cheney. Rumsfeld was so firmly entrenched in the top Pentagon spot that he only tasted Kiwi Parade Gloss after the GOP took a paddling in the 2006 election.
Rummy’s collision with the doorknob that hit him on the way out supposedly marked the end of the bad old days. The generals who told young Mr. Bush what he wanted to hear when he wanted to hear that we had enough troops in Iraq transferred along with Rummy to Platinum Parachute Command. A new crop of generals lined up behind "King David" Petraeus, who told young Bush the new thing he wanted to hear, which was that the Iraq war could be won if we sent more troops there.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, hand-picked by Petraeus to take over the war in Af-Pak, is a galaxy-class survivor who has managed to thrive under both Rumsfeld and his successor, Robert Gates. During the Rummy regime, McChrystal commanded Special Operations Command, a secretive outfit that journalist Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker described as an "executive assassination ring" that reported "directly to the Cheney office." SOCOM’s functions, as Hersh put it, involved "going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them." McChrystal’s SOCOM hijinks also involved extensive torture, murky connections with mercenary outfits like Blackwater, and use of questionable intelligence gained by private interests who gained government contracts through their connections with Defense Department official Michael D. Furlong.
Whether any of McChrystal’s whack ops killed or even targeted an actual terrorist is moot. We never seem to quite know for sure if our air attacks or night ground raids actually get the suspected terrorist they were going after, and we have little idea at all whether the suspect was actually a terrorist. Suspects wind up on the list based on the say-so of locals who are as suspect as the characters they finger; nobody on either side of the equation would pass for a solid citizen. We’re even iffy on just what the accuser said about the accused, because you can count the number of people who speak both Pashto and English and are brave or stupid enough to work for us on the fingers and teeth of a mockingbird.
McChrystal is singularly responsible for a significant slice of civilian casualties created by our Long War, which has accounted for exponentially more human suffering, death, and privation than did the 9/11 attacks. Moreover, McChrystal’s machinations over the four-and-a-half-years of his tenure at SOCOM were every bit as illegal and unsanctioned as any terrorist acts. Neither Dick Cheney nor any other vice president of the United States has any constitutional or legal role in the military chain of command whatsoever. If you think it’s remotely possible that McChrystal didn’t understand this, rethink. The guy’s had a law firm’s worth of JAG officers working for him since he was a measly one-star. If they were unaware of the illegality of the JSOC’s actions, they belong in the same prison cell McChrystal should be locked up in.
Then again, Stan the Man only eats one meal a day and only sleeps a few hours a night – his public relations team made sure the major media told us all about that – so maybe his lawyers told him that what he was doing was illegal, but he was so hungry and sleep-deprived he forgot. He may have an even better excuse than that. James Petras, the widely published professor emeritus of sociology at Bingham University, describes McChrystal as "the most notorious of the psychopaths" in Delta Force, which is saying something. The Army’s elite special ops outfit is a veritable mental-case assembly line. I’m inclined to agree with Petras’ assessment, though I’m not certain how it distinguishes McManiac from the vast majority of the rest of our generals and admirals.
Another talent McChrystal shares with most of his fellow brass hats is his ability to talk out both sides of his mouth. At his confirmation hearing in June 2009 he told the Senate that "the measure of effectiveness will not be enemy killed. It will be the number of Afghans shielded from violence." Then, in his first act as commander of the Af-Pak theater of operations, he launched an offensive designed to kill the enemy. Ever since, he and his propaganda directorate have fed us the same line about trying to limit civilian casualties even as he orders strikes and offensives that have proven to be surefire formulas for wreaking death and destruction on civilian populations.
Even Rumsfeld, as bull-goose loony as he was, recognized at some level, if even only dimly, that our tactics and strategy were creating more terrorists than they were killing. It’s hard to say if McChrystal is aware of that, dimly or otherwise, or of any other aspect of reality, to be frank about it.
At a March video conference with troops in the field, McChrystal flat out admitted, "We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat." I’d love to have seen the McSmirk he had on his face when he said that.
Ultimately, whether he qualifies for a section 8 discharge or is merely an amoral leader of the world’s best-funded death squad, he’s ensuring that David Petraeus’ Long War keeps getting longer by creating an endless supply of enemy soldiers, and supposedly responsible, sane people in charge of the mightiest nation in the history of humanity – including the commander in chief who promised he would change things – are perfectly happy to sit by and let him do it. What’s more, the American public hasn’t risen en masse to demand an end to this madness, and there’s no sign it’s going to.
How McCrackers is that?