Accountability Missing in Official Reaction to McChrystal Comments
The reactions are coming in to the Rolling Stone piece on Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his entourage, and by and large the mood that leaps out to me is “incertitude.” They all seem to know that a protocol has been breached, though it’s little different than what McChrystal did before the decision to escalate in London, when he said Vice President Biden’s counter-terrorism mission would create “Chaosistan.” But the complete breakdown of the culture of accountability in Washington means that nobody wants to come out an say that a commanding general engaging in insubordination, or something pretty damn close to it, should be fired. Let’s examine the quotes.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer today dodged questions from reporters about whether Gen. Stanley McChrystal should be fired in light of a new Rolling Stone profile. “The person that needs to have faith in McChrystal is the commander in chief, the president of the United States,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer (D-MD) said Congress also must have faith in the general but he will withhold judgment until after McChrystal meets with President Obama to apologize and until he has all the facts. He added that most of the unflattering quotes in the piece are sourced to aides.
Short version: Ask the President, I don’t want anything to do with it.
Here’s the foreign policy hawk All-Star team of McCain, Graham and Lieberman:
“We have the highest respect for General McChrystal and honor his brave service and sacrifice to our nation. General McChrystal’s comments, as reported in Rolling Stone, are inappropriate and inconsistent with the traditional relationship between Commander-in-Chief and the military,” McCain said in a joint statement with Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) […]
“The decision concerning General McChrystal’s future is a decision to be made by the President of the United States,” the 3 said in the joint statement.
Shorter: Inappropriate, distressing, good thing it’s not my job to deal with it.
Robert Gates, via email:
“I read with concern the profile piece on Gen. Stanley McChrystal in the upcoming edition of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine. I believe that Gen. McChrystal made a significant mistake and exercised poor judgment in this case. We are fighting a war against al Qaeda and its extremist allies, who directly threaten the United States, Afghanistan, and our friends and allies around the world. Going forward, we must pursue this mission with a unity of purpose. Our troops and coalition partners are making extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our security, and our singular focus must be on supporting them and succeeding in Afghanistan without such distractions. Gen. McChrystal has apologized to me and is similarly reaching out to others named in this article to apologize to them as well. I have recalled Gen. McChrystal to Washington to discuss this in person.”
Shorter: We have scary people out there trying to kill us! Also, poor judgment. And basically every quote I’ve seen has been about the same. It’s a united front.
Ultimately, a good part of the discontent in America comes down to this simple fact: at a certain level above the masses, nobody gets held accountable for anything. Wall Street thieves, military brass, asleep-at-the-wheel regulators, corporate titans; they have no fear for their careers or their positions in the halls of power. Their fellow establishment figures will tut-tut and express mild disapproval when they fuck up, but they will ultimately cover for them. And they’ll make sure that nothing legitimate, like McChrystal’s handling of a failing war, ever gets discussed. This is the rot at the heart of modern America.
UPDATE: Robert Gibbs basically said “let’s wait and see” at the press briefing. Only anti-war Rep. David Obey, from what I’ve seen, has actually called for McChrystal’s resignation.