Monday, May 18, 2009

McChrystal's Appointment Signals Obama's Adherence to Failed Bush Era Policies

President Obama recently appointed Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal to head up the U.S. military command in Afghanistan, replacing Gen. David McKiernan.

McChrystal's selection immediately raised red flags over questionable conduct that has surrounded him regarding prisoners that were tortured under his command in Iraq and his role in covering up the friendly-fire death of former Arizona Cardinals star turned military hero, Pat Tillman. From Registan:

General McChrsytal carries with him a dark side as well. One unit under his command, the now-notorious Task Force 6-26, which was assigned to find HVTs, or High Value Targets in Iraq, is credited with the ultimate death of Zarqawi. The problem is, along the way they faced accusations of running a secret camp that tortured prisoners, and they were implicated in at least two detainee deaths during torture sessions. Their camp, called Camp Nama, became something of a lightning rod after a “computer malfunction” destroyed upwards of 70% of their records and an investigation into their conduct stalled out.

More relevant to Afghanistan is GEN McChrystal’s involvement in the shameful coverup of Pat Tillman’s friendly-fire death. While he was named among the list of high-ranking military personnel believed to have covered up the circumstances of Tillman’s death, GEN McChrystal was “spared because he had apparently drafted a memo urging other officials to stop spreading the lie that Tillman died fighting the Taliban. He drafted that memo, however, after signing the award for Tillman’s posthumously-awarded Silver Star, the commendation for which claims, in part, that he was leading the charge against a Taliban assault. GEN McChrystal has never clarified why he signed an award for Tillman dying under enemy fire right before begging his colleagues and superiors to stop lying about Tillman dying under enemy fire.

As the Tailban continues to control various regions around the Afghanistan/Pakistan border and frustration grows in Washington over the effectiveness of airstrikes in the region, it is apparent with the appointment of McChrystal that the Obama Administration is turning the focus of the fighting to the type of covert operations that McChrystal is known for. James Petras uses language that is more blunt in his most recent piece:

McChrystal’s rise to leadership is marked by his central role in directing special operations teams engaged in extrajudicial assassinations, systematic torture, bombing of civilian communities and search and destroy missions. He is the very embodiment of the brutality and gore that accompanies military-driven empire building.

Petras goes on to say that the very point of these special operations teams is that they do not distinguish between civilian and military opposition. That the very purpose of these groups is to "terrorize communities, neighborhoods, and social movements" underneath the surface and work to disband all forms of opposition that may have a hand in feeding ideas and motives to those who actively take up arms.

This conscious choice by Obama to put McChrystal in charge of these operations should be understood within this context. It is fair to ask whether the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan will have a chance of improving under the leadership of a Lieutenant General who has been surrounded by allegations of torture, murder, and covering up the truth. It would seem as though the United States is "changing direction" by taking a step backward in putting the military operations of the region under the command of someone who was a favorite of former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. As Obama continues to embrace the failed policies of the Bush Era it is certainly necessary for the progressives who believed that they would get change by electing Obama, to voice opposition to the continuation and expansion of failed ideas and policies.

Jason Petras is correct in observing that:

By focusing all resources on successful military conquest, scant attention is paid to the costs borne by the people targeted for conquest or to the US treasury and domestic American economy. This has been clear from the start: In the midst of a major recession/depression with millions of Americans losing their employment and homes, President Obama increased the military budget by 4% - taking it beyond $800 billion dollars.

This continual foreign policy wheel-spinning will end up doing two things:

1. Continue to dig the United States into greater financial turmoil by spending dollars on a bloated military budget while domestic services continue to suffer and,
2. Continue to isolate populations of people who already view the United States as a country determined to solve issues through militarism.

These policies centered around militaristic objectives have shown their ineffectiveness in combating terrorism and extremism in the past and will continue to only re-enforce the viewpoints that the United States is trying to combat. It is a cycle of madness that fails to critically address any of the fundamental issues and can only result in more bloodshed for Americans and the Afghani people.

This piece is crossposted here.

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