One Year Ago: “McChrystal: Has Obama Simply Given Up on Winning ‘Hearts & Minds’?”

In all the tsk-tsking over the poor judgment shown by General Stanley McChrystal and what a shame it is that his fine military career has come to an end because of silly little comments said over a Bud Light (or two), I thought I’d refresh our memory of what kind of man Stanley really is. Because he ain’t no saint. From my post of May 12, 2009:

I find President Obama’s decision to place a new general in charge of the fighting in Afghanistan odd for several reasons. First of all, the current man-in-charge, General McKiernan, has only been in charge for 11 months. That hardly seems long enough to turn around a situation that has been mismanaged for years. Asking him to resign now implies his terrible management of the situation, and I have to wonder, really, is he a scapegoat for Bush here?

mcchrystalThe argument put out by the Obama Administration is that “fresh eyes” are needed in Afghanistan. Um, okay. But are these the eyes you really want?

Andrew Sullivan has linked to an older story from Esquire and rightly asks:

Stanley McChrystal: A History Of Condoning Torture?

As Fred Kaplan noticed, the man Obama has just selected to be his new commander in Afghanistan has a history. It appears to involve some pretty horrifying toleration of rampant abuse and torture of prisoners:”Once, somebody brought it up with the colonel. ‘Will [the Red Cross] ever be allowed in here?’ And he said absolutely not. He had this directly from General McChrystal and the Pentagon that there’s no way that the Red Cross could get in:

“they won’t have access and they never will. This facility was completely closed off to anybody investigating, even Army investigators.” …

During his first six or seven weeks at the camp, Jeff conducted or participated in about fifteen harsh interrogations, most involving the use of ice water to induce hypothermia …

Cold can be a serious torment to a naked man on a winter night; in Afghanistan, one prisoner died from hypothermia. Sometimes, to maximize the humiliation of the Iraqi men, American women would be brought in to watch them undress. Sleep deprivation was also used to an extreme extent, especially in Jeff’s early days at Nama.

They could keep a prisoner on his feet for twenty hours, and although the rules required them to allow each prisoner four hours of sleep every twenty-four hours, nowhere did it say those four hours had to be consecutive–so sometimes they’d wake the prisoners up every half hour. Eventually they’d just collapse. “This was a very demanding method for the interrogators as well, because it required a lot of staff to monitor the prisoner, and we’d have to stay awake, too,” Jeff says. “And it’s just impossible to interrogate someone when he’s in that state, collapsed on the ground. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Within the unit, the interrogators got the feeling they were reporting to the highest levels. The colonel would tell an interrogator that his report “is on Rumsfeld’s desk this morning” or that it was “read by SecDef.” “That’s a big morale booster after a fourteen-hour day,” Jeff says with a tinge of irony. “Hey, we got to the White House.”

I thought that when he was running for office, Barack Obama promised that things would be different. I thought he said we would never torture detainees. I thought he said we would be a world leader and that the fundamental principles of human rights would be on the forefront of our engagement with other nations.

Does President Obama know who this guy is? ‘Cause it sure seems to me that once the Afghanis figure out what General McChrystal was in charge of, this will do nothing more than empower the Taliban, who will use him as a symbol of American mistreatment of Muslims.

If I didn’t k now better, I’d say that Darth Cheney had a hand in this move ….



  1. Artois, I understand Obama’s desire for a change of tactic in Afghanistan. What I don’t understand is why he would put in charge someone who oversaw torture overseas and who knowingly provided false information about Pat Tillman, as the commenter above mentions. That was a high profile propaganda move by the BushCo that was an epic fail, and the Obama Administration should have nothing to do with it.

    BTW, I have always been a cynic. (Don’t you know me by now?! LOL!)

  2. A year ago we were questioning. A year later I would say the answer to the question is a resounding ‘YES’.

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