The Age of Treason
The Anti-Constitutional Insubordination of General McChrystal
June 22, 2010
by Michael McFarland
Our military is an implement of our brand of democracy. It is designed to protect, yet sometimes used to project. It has often been used for good, and many times misused for unclear objectives. However, it has always been – as was always intended – to be subject to the control of a civilian representative government. It is structured such that military leaders are responsible to a civilian leader elected by the civilian population – the President of the United States. This ensures that our implement of democracy properly reflects our democratic principles through the voting process. It is not an autonomous, self-governing body.
Therein lays the problem with General Stanley McChrystal’s yet-to-be-released Rolling Stone article, ‘The Runaway General’ due out June 25, 2010, in which he lambastes several top officials within the civilian government – including the Vice President and the President.
McChrystal is certainly of dubious distinction. He supported former President George W. Bush’s assertion that major combat operations in Iraq had ended. He was involved in at best a horrifically mismanaged investigation into Pat Tillman’s ‘friendly fire’ death in Afghanistan in 2004 and at worst a straight up cover-up of his death. He was involved in a 2006 detainee abuse scandal at Iraq’s Camp Nama. He campaigned for his own military strategy, which differed from the preferred strategy of the administration, in a speech he gave in late 2009 in London, England. He called the Afghan town of Marja a ‘bleeding ulcer’. And now?
McChrystal gave seemingly unprecedented access to Michael Hastings, who also had wonderful access to McChrystal’s aides. Through this access, Hastings has written what amounts to fantastic reporting, but it also amounts to insubordination from America’s top general in Afghanistan – an ongoing theater of war.
The blowback from the early release of this article is already coming in fast and heavy:
-Rep. Alan Grayson has called for McChrystal to be fired.
-Rep. David Obey, the chair of the House committee responsible for the military purse, has deemed McChrystal “reckless” and “renegade”
-Sen. Susan Collins has called McChrystal’s comments are both “not appropriate” and “troubling”
-A bipartisan clutch of Senators – McCain, Lieberman and Graham – released a statement characterizing McChrystal’s statements as reported in the article are “inappropriate and inconsistent”
-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a cabinet member appointed by the President, has indicated that McChrystal has made a “significant mistake”
-White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs punted on a question put to him by the White House Press Corps by merely saying “wait and see” about McChrystal’s prospects of keeping his command
-President Obama has been characterized as “angry” and “furious”, has ordered McChrystal back to Washington, DC for a face-to-face meeting
Meanwhile, defense of McChrystal’s horrifying insubordination is a slow leak. Sen. James Inhofe and Rep. Eric Cantor are the only elected legislators to have defended him thus far. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has also come out in defense of McChrystal, which may soon prove to be suspicious. Karzai, after all, has recently indicated a warming to the idea of coupling with the Taliban.
It is yet to be seen how the defense of McChrystal unfolds, but it is reasonable to expect that the genesis of his defense will be from Right Wing radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and Sean Hannity. It is also reasonable to expect that lawmakers who derive their strategies and their Obama counter positions from talk radio will soon (within a day or two) adopt the same message and use this article, not for what it is, but as a battering ram against a duly elected government that they hold with such deep contempt.
There’s a grave danger in coalescing around the military at the expense of even the cordiality of respect for an elected government. It’s the danger of the military-industrial complex (MIC) that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about in his outgoing address to the nation when he said:
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted.”
It is among our civic duties to be vigilant against encroachments of our civil structures that define the very being of our Union. The first order of business is that McChrystal be fully and strongly punished. He should be removed from all duties and summarily court martialed for his blatant violations against the Constitution and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Beyond that, ‘We the People’ must forcefully rebuke those elements in our society – be they legislators, talking heads or neighbors – that would seek to be apologists and enablers of said encroachments. If military leaders are allowed to establish a precedent opposed to our elected civilian leadership, we not only risk a rogue military that would threaten a vital precept of our American Democracy, but we give way to the possibility of a quasi-junta, which itself is also anti-democratic. If a pernicious marriage between politicians whose only end is to upend the duly elected government and the MIC, with all its inherent faults, is allowed to come to fruition, we risk a malignancy that would upend that which defines us. It is imperative that McChrystal be handled swiftly and punitively, but it is of even greater imperative that the MIC be reminded that they are beholden to ‘We the People’, not the reverse. McChrystal, after all, is merely a contemptuous player in the MIC’s endgame.