Runaway Lips: The Other Side of McChrystal’s Big ‘Oh Boy’
When the big Gen. Stanley McChrystal gaffe news just broke, experts across the globe were desperately scrolling past near-naked pics of Lady Gaga on the Rolling Stone Web site, seeking the offending piece.
But now it’s online and the very first sentence of the Michael Hastings’ piece makes me squirm.
‘How'd I get screwed into going to this dinner?" McChrystal asks at the start of the piece.
How did he get screwed granting Hastings such access?
Yes, yes, America’s top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s latest gaffe is a big “oh boy” even by McChrystal’s standards.
In the Rolling Stone article, “The Runaway General,” which portrays him as a lone wolf in typically testosterone-driven, pop-culture magazine prose, McChrystal takes on a slew of Washington bigwigs.
He will pay for his folly of course: the top US commander in Afghanistan has been summoned to the White House for a sound drubbing, no doubt.
In the past, McChrystal’s “oh boy” quotes and speeches have been forgiven and we’ve been given a “kiss-and-make up” moment. But this time, it seems serious.
Expect a lot of finger-wagging over loose lips and poor judgment granting such access to a freelancer commissioned by a pop-culture magazine. The admonishments are already pouring in fast and hard.
President Obama is, for the record, “angry” and has blasted McChrystal’s “poor judgment”.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has already expressed his “deep disappointment” over the article.
US Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, who is scathingly criticized in the article, has publicly stated that he is committed to “working together” with McChrystal.
But I have still to see what the classified cables are saying.
The last McChrystal-Eikenberry spat, back in Nov. 2009, was over two classified cables the US ambassador dispatched, advising Obama not to send more troops to Afghanistan just as McChrystal was pushing for a troop surge to the then-dithering president.
Commentators will draw parallels between the sound civilian-military coordination between then US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Cocker and then US military chief David Petraeus in Iraq back in 2007.
They will then bemoan the lack of similar chemistry between Eikenberry and McChrystal.
But frankly, when you read the incriminating text can you honestly fault the general for telling it like it is?
Here’s a man with the plan to redress the errors committed in Afghanistan when US attention and military resources got hijacked by the Iraq War after 2003. We all know this, we’ve read all about it. And yet, just when the surge strategy is being hammered out, senior Washington honchos apparently got cold feet.
Is it really surprising then that McChrystal, upon hearing IN THE MEDIA, that Ambassador Eikenberry was secretly dispatching cables undermining his military strategy, got a bit…uhm…mad?
“Here's one that covers his flank for the history books,” McChrystal told the Rolling Stone about Eikenberry. “Now if we fail, they can say, 'I told you so'."
Cover his flank for the history books – that’s a good one, Stan-the-man.
Biding his time
Or take the bite-in, bite-on issue: Remember US Vice President Joe Biden’s mince-no-words call for a limited counter-terror approach in those critical days when the world awaited word on Obama’s new Afghan strategy?
So when the Rolling Stone article quotes an unnamed McChrystal aide quipping, “Biden? Did you say: Bite me?” I find it funny.
And can you genuinely fault someone for not wanting to open Richard Holbrooke’s emails? I can’t.
Of course you can’t have loose-lipped military men. McChrystal is going to regret what he said – or more likely, the access he provided freelance journalist Michael Hastings. He’s already expressed his dismay over his conduct.
"It was a mistake reflecting poor judgement and should never have happened," he said in a statement earlier Tuesday, thereby attracting even more publicity for the much-awaited Rolling Stone issue.
So I’m going to give the man a break and wish him a chin-up before that meeting in Washington.