Sunday, May 17, 2009

McChrystal and Pelosi (and Obama and Tillman and torture and Afghanistan)

First an introduction if you haven't met:

Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the ascetic who is set to become the new top American commander in Afghanistan, usually eats just one meal a day, in the evening, to avoid sluggishness.

He is known for operating on a few hours’ sleep and for running to and from work while listening to audio books on an iPod. In Iraq, where he oversaw secret commando operations for five years, former intelligence officials say that he had an encyclopedic, even obsessive, knowledge about the lives of terrorists, and that he pushed his ranks aggressively to kill as many of them as possible.

But General McChrystal has also moved easily from the dark world to the light. Fellow officers on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he is director, and former colleagues at the Council on Foreign Relations describe him as a warrior-scholar, comfortable with diplomats, politicians and the military man who would help promote him to his new job.


Most of what General McChrystal has done over a 33-year career remains classified, including service between 2003 and 2008 as commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, an elite unit so clandestine that the Pentagon for years refused to acknowledge its existence. But former C.I.A. officials say that General McChrystal was among those who, with the C.I.A., pushed hard for a secret joint operation in the tribal region of Pakistan in 2005 aimed at capturing or killing Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden’s deputy.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld canceled the operation at the last minute, saying it was too risky and was based on what he considered questionable intelligence, a move that former intelligence officials say General McChrystal found maddening.

When General McChrystal took over the Joint Special Operations Command in 2003, he inherited an insular, shadowy commando force with a reputation for spurning partnerships with other military and intelligence organizations. But over the next five years he worked hard, his colleagues say, to build close relationships with the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. He won praise from C.I.A. officers, many of whom had stormy relationships with commanders running the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. ...

As head of the command, which oversees the elite Delta Force and units of the Navy Seals, General McChrystal was based at Fort Bragg, N.C. But he spent much of his time in Iraq commanding secret missions. Most of his operations were conducted at night, but General McChrystal, described nearly universally as a driven workaholic, was up for most of the day as well.

Now from another fellow named Stan:

That was a P-4 ("personal for") Memo from General McChrystal passing along to POTUS (President of the United States) that the phony-baloney story about the circumstances of Pat Tillman's death could not hold up. The memo was sent less than a week after Pat was killed; and when you read it carefully -- if you can understand this bastardized legal-military-publicity-speak -- it says not only that the author had been involved in the concealment of the circumstances, that he had himself participated in the fraud as one of the approving-signatories for a Silver Star award with demonstrably false statements about the incident.


Obama has his sights on Pakistan -- nuclear Cambodia, for Vietnam-analogy fans -- and the nomination of McChrystal means that Special Operations will run the show (as they did in the early phases of Vietnam).


McChrystal ran Task Force 6-26, which became temporarily famous after the killing of Abu Masab al-Zarqawi, a boogyman figure cultivated by the US military and media complex. What made TF 6-26 infamous was their activity in Camp Nama, Iraq: torture. Massive, systematic, sustained torture, by special operators, under the supervision of Stanley McChrystal, this deceptively soft-spoken officer.

The camp in Baghdad was used almost exclusively for the torture of detainees. The torture went on before, during, and after the scandal at Abu Ghraib. Detainees were killed by their torturers, members of the most elite units in the US armed forces. Almost in celebration of the activity of the camp, placards were hung that said, "No Blood, No Foul," meaning if you don't make them bleed, you can't be charged with the crimes you are committing.

What's this about Camp Nama?

... This was Camp Nama, the home of Task Force 121, the Special Ops team that chased Osama bin Laden and caught Saddam Hussein and would ultimately locate and kill Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the self-described leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. It was Rumsfeld's baby, the Platonic ideal of his fast and mobile army. From its size to its mission, everything about it was and remains an official secret. Except for the concertina wire, Camp Nama was a nondescript cluster of buildings.

The only thing Jeff knew about Camp Nama was that he'd be able to wear civilian clothes and interrogate "high value" prisoners. In order to get to the second step, he had to go through hours of psychological tests to ensure his fitness for the job.

Nama, it is said, stood for Nasty Ass Military Area. Jeff says there was a maverick, high-speed feeling to the place. Some of the interrogators had beards and long hair and everyone used only first names, even the officers. "When you ask somebody their name, they don't offer up the last name," Jeff says. "When they gave you their name it probably wasn't their real name anyway." ...

It was a point of pride that the Red Cross would never be allowed in the door, Jeff says. This is important because it defied the Geneva Conventions, which require that the Red Cross have access to military prisons. "Once, somebody brought it up with the colonel. 'Will they 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."

Note the date on that article. Here's a bit from Andrew Sullivan. Keep in mind -- if you have read more than just the excerpts I have posted -- that both Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld were big fans of Stan McChrystal and TF 6-26 and 121 and the rest.

Its motto: "If you don't make them bleed, they can't prosecute for it." McChrystal appears to be the anti-Petraeus. No wonder Cheney loves him. But why then did Obama pick him for Afghanistan? In the wake of horrifying news of unintended civilian casualties, in a war where the US is already intensely unpopular, Obama has picked a leader who can be directly linked to the worst images and incidents of prisoner torture and abuse under Bush.

And one can't help but wonder at the same time: is McChrystal the reason for the sudden volte-face on the abuse photos?

Let's wrap this up with the moneyshot from Stan Goff ...

Impunity. McChrystal represents a culture of impunity.

Pelosi does, too. Be honest.


Obama's support for McChrystal will be matched by Pelosi's support for McChrystal, and they will be mixed up in all this, seeking non-accountability as relentlessly as any Rumsfeld or McChrystal.

Stanley McChrystal is mixed up in all this, and not necessarily as a proselytizer. He's just mixed up in it, because this tendency in the military and his personal career happen to correspond in time and space. What both of them are is killers. They have made professional careers out of killing, and their units were not the little Special Forces A-Detachments with their peculiar linguists and trainers. These guys -- Boykin, McChrystal -- worked in "direct action" units. Rangers. Delta. JSOC. Direct action is another euphemism. It means destroying something, someone, someones.

Now it seems we are training a generation of people to torture; and I wonder if the crazy ideas are leading people to torture others, or if torturing others is the perverted origin of the penchant for male death-cult thinking.

The practice in question here, finally, is torture.

That's where Boykin and McChrystal collaborated in Iraq. A torture camp.

That's what has Pelosi on the spot now, too. Or the CIA. Or both.


What does torture say about us; and what does what we say about torture say about us?

I already know the answer to that question, and so does Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama. The real question is why don't they give a damn.

And the answer to that is: impunity.

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