Journalist Michael Hastings on the 2012 Campaign and Zero Dark Thirty

01/24/13 Robert Lorei
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Good morning, welcome to Radioactivity. I’m Rob Lorei. Coming up today we’ll talk with journalist Michael Hastings about his new book on the 2012 Presidential campaign. We’ll also discuss with him his criticism of the new film Zero Dark Thirty and its positive view of torture….

But first- two listener comments about yesterday’s program. Yesterday we spent some time talking about the President’s inauguration and gun laws. Here’s what two listeners had to say:

Some listener comments that came in after yesterday’s show.

First up today- journalist Michael Hastings. He’s the author of the critically acclaimed book The Operators- about the US military operation in Afghanistan. His reporting for Rolling Stone led to the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal- the commander of US forces in Afghanistan. He’s now out with a new book called PANIC 2012: The Sublime and Terrifying Inside Story of Obama’s Final Campaign. His writing has been compared to that of Hunter S. Thompson and PJ O’Rourke.

He’s also just written a scathing article about the new film Zero Dark Thirty—which some say glorifies the use of torture as a way of fighting terrorism.

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The book jacket for Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s new memoir, “My Share of the Task,” promises to “frankly explore the major episodes and controversies of his eventful career.” However, despite McChrystal’s vaunted “candor” his memoir whitewashes all the controversies of his career. McChrystal has said, “The one thing you can never, and should never want to dodge, is responsibility.” But, he has “dodged” responsibility for the use of routine torture from 2003-2005 by JSOC forces under his command, his strategically flawed Afghan War “surge,” for “Le’Affair Rolling Stan,” and for his central role in the cover-up of Pat Tillman’s 2004 friendly-fire. McChrystal whitewashed his command of the JSOC torture. In August 2003, as Vice Director of Operations (VDJ3) of the Joint Staff, it appears McChrystal sent Gen. Miller to “Gitmotize” Abu Gharib prison. As commander of JSOC, McChrystal did not “immediately” begin to reduce the use of JSOC torture techniques. Instead, he approved torture SOPs and oversaw its conduct in Iraq until he was ordered to stop in May 2004. However, it doesn’t appear that JSOC fully cleaned up its detainee operations in Iraq until late 2005. Senator Russ Feingold wrote, “…I am concerned about General McChrystal’s public [Senate] testimony … Given the full history of his approach to interrogations, this testimony appears to be incomplete, at best.” McChrystal only briefly describes the 2003 capture of Saddam Hussein. However, he failed to credit the Tikrit Delta team & interrogator Eric Maddox (“Mission Black List #1”) for their efforts which directly led to Saddam’s capture (perhaps because it would raise questions about the role of torture in the death of a key detainee who had a “heart attack” at the Baghdad HQ and resulted in Maddox “facing a dead end”). And, McChrystal’s portrayal of the interrogations that directly led to the 2006 killing of Abu Zarqawi totally contradicts the accounts of Marc Bowden in “The Ploy” (“the real story is more complicated and interesting”), Mark Urban (“multiple sources have confirmed to me the accuracy of Bowden’s article”), and interrogator Matthew Alexander in “How to Break A Terrorist” (“We found Zarqawi in spite of the way the task force did business”). In reality, Alexander got the key intel in a few hours that JSOC’s “best” interrogators had failed to get in three weeks! It appears that McChrystal also whitewashed the controversy around the Afghan War “surge” decision, and his firing by President Obama after a controversial profile was published in “Rolling Stone” magazine. For a more critical account, I would suggest Michael Hasting’s irreverent & entertaining (but honest) book “The Operators” and Bob Woodward’s “Obama’s Wars.” In April 2011, just after McChrystal was “cleared” by the Pentagon & NYT reporter Thom Shanker of “all wrongdoing” in the “Rolling Stone” case, President Obama appointed him to head up the “Joining Forces” program to support military veterans and their families. In response, Mary Tillman (Pat’s mother) said, “It’s a slap in the face to appoint this man” … “He deliberately helped cover up Pat’s death”… someone who has a heartfelt desire to help families would not have been involved in the cover-up of a soldier’s death…” McChrystal claims it’s a “misperception” that there was a cover-up of Tillman’s death. However, a close reading of his account shows it is a disingenuous account that doesn’t withstand informed scrutiny. In reality, General McChrystal played a central role in the Army’s cover up of Pat Tillman’s 2004 friendly fire death in Afghanistan. Although McChrystal was told of confirmed fratricide within two days, he intentionally failed in his duty to notify the family, he supervised and approved a fraudulent Silver Star recommendation, and it apparently directed others to conceal friendly fire from the medical examiner. This past Memorial Day, I spoke with Mary Tillman and she said seeing Gen. Stanley McChrystal on the news was “like rubbing salt in a wound.” Unfortunately, this old general just won’t fade away; now he’s making the rounds of the talk show circuit peddling his book. In the past, I used to have a grudging respect for McChrystal when he simply refused comment on the Pat Tillman story. But, if McChrystal won’t confess all, I feel he ought to take the advice of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who offered up a barbed assessment of how the White House had “spun” the Bin Laden raid: “I have a new communications approach to recommend … Shut … up.” Note: For more details, see the post, "Never Shall I Fail My Comrades" -- The Dark Legacy of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, at the Feral Firefighter blog.



Frohe Montag, Guy!