22 June 2010

How not to handle the press...

My fellow bloggers back in the US have already tackled this issue last night, including Abu Muqawama, Spencer Ackerman (Parts 1 and 2), Kings of War, and Karaka Pend.  I really don't have much to add, save for my disbelief that Gen. McChrystal and his entourage would grant Rolling Stone--of all media outlets--nearly unlimited access, as they get drunk, curse and swear, and trash-talk ambassadors and the Vice President.  Did Rolling Stone seem like a reputable news source with no agenda?  (Okay, except for mentioning Small Wars Journal in their "Hot List 2009")    

Michael Hastings, author of "I Lost My Love in Baghdad", records these gems:

McChrystal is in Paris to keep the French, who have lost more than 40 soldiers in Afghanistan, from going all wobbly on him.
“The dinner comes with the position, sir,” says his chief of staff, Col. Charlie Flynn.
McChrystal turns sharply in his chair. “Hey, Charlie,” he asks, “does this come with the position?”
McChrystal gives him the middle finger.

 And this:

“Who’s he going to dinner with?” I ask one of his aides.
“Some French minister,” the aide tells me. “It’s fucking gay.”
Now, granted, we all know soldiers talk this way.  Still, no one thought to be on their best behavior with the press around?

Then we have the off-the-cuff remarks about the Vice President and other officials within the Obama Administration.  You know, one of those things you know specifically not to do.  Especially not in front of the press.
Then, unable to help themselves, he and his staff imagine the general dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner.
“Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal says with a laugh. “Who’s that?”
“Biden?” suggests a top adviser. “Did you say: Bite Me?” 

More as the story unfolds.  I highly suggest reading the article, as McChrystal is exonerated in some areas--namely, his willingness to go on patrol with soldiers in hostile areas, and how his rules of engagement are frequently warped by risk-averse subordinate commanders.  However, I should note that the author inserts these tidbits in spite of the ill-mannered drunken rhetoric on the part of the General and his staff.

The article is simply damning on many levels.  It's mind-boggling that someone as reportedly brilliant as Gen. McChrystal blundered into this PR nightmare.


Anonymous said...

Do you think there's any onus on Hastings to have been, say, less candid about what he witnessed?

Andy Kravetz said...

Over on my blog, I have an audio interview where he talks about how he had so much time with the general and things just flowed out. Apparently, Stan the Man knew what was happening, according to Hastings, and didn't act to correct his behavior.

Again, if you trust a reporter.