Stanley McChrystal: torture, civilian deaths and cover-up of Tillman’s murder — A leader for our times.

With the announcement this week that Stanley McChrystal has been chosen to head the military effort in Afghanistan we now have reached a stage where the Senate has an opportunity to demonstrate its values.

Stanley McChrystal is a horrid choice to head anything in the US military. As Esquire reported in 2006:

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."

To this day, Jeff has no idea of the true names of his superior officers. His supervisor was a colonel who called himself Mike, although Jeff is sure that wasn’t his real name.

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."

And here is Gareth Porter on May 14:

Under that directive, McChrystal and JSOC carried out targeted raids and other operations against suspected Taliban in Afghanistan which were not coordinated with the commander of other US forces in the country. General David Barno, the US commander in Afghanistan, has said that he put a stop to targeted airstrikes in early 2004, but they resumed after he was replaced by McKiernan in 2005.

US airstrikes which have caused hundreds of civilian deaths have become a major political issue in Afghanistan and the subject of official protests by Afghan President Hamid Karzai as well as by the lower house of the Afghan parliament. Many of the airstrikes and commando raids that have caused large-scale civilian deaths have involved special operations forces operating separately from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization command.

Special operations forces under McChrystal’s command also engaged in raiding homes in search of Taliban suspects, angering villagers in Herat province to the point where they took up arms against the US forces, according to a May 2007 story by Carlotta Gall and David E Sanger of the New York Times.

After a series of raids by special operations forces in Afghanistan in late 2008 and early 2009 killed women and children, to mounting popular outrage, McChrystal’s successor as commander of JSOC, Vice Admiral William H McRaven, ordered a temporary reduction in the rate of such commando raids in mid-February for two weeks.

Porter continues:

McChrystal’s nomination to become director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon in May 2008 was held up for months while the Senate Armed Services Committee investigated a pattern of abuse of detainees by military personnel under his command. Sixty-four service personnel assigned or attached to special operations units were disciplined for detainee abuse between early 2004 and the end of 2007.

Captain Carolyn Wood, an operations officer with the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, gave military investigators a sworn statement in 2004 in which she said she had drawn guidance for interrogation from a directive called "TF-121 IROE," which had been given to the members of Task Force 121, a unit directly under JSOC.

However, the military refused to make that document
public, despite requests from the American Civil Liberties Union and other human rights groups, protecting McChrystal from legal proceedings regarding his responsibility for detainee abuses.

He was never held accountable for those abuses, supposedly because of the secrecy of the operation of the JSOC.

As if those horrible aspects of his past were not enough, McChyrstal also is behind the cover-up of the murder of Pat Tillman, and his parents have asked for accountability on that act before confirmation.

If Stanley McChrystal is confirmed to head military operations in Afghanistan before Dawn Johnsen is confirmed to head OLC, the Senate will have chosen torture over the rule of law, civilian deaths over the Constitution and secrecy over transparency.

I call on any Senator of good conscience to stand up and put a hold on McChrystal with the clear explanation that this hold will not be released until Dawn Johnsen is confirmed. Who has the moral conviction to do so?

Of course, McChrystal has no business being in charge of anything for our country, but at the very least, his confirmation should be held until after that of Dawn Johnsen. Does anyone in the Senate understand how horrible the symbolism would be if McChrystal is confirmed while Johnsen’s confirmation remains on hold?

Jim White

Jim White

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