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Gen. McChrystal, Obama's Pick as Afghan War Commander

Guest Tom Scully

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Guest Tom Scully

(Reluctantly I have to disclose that an immediate family member currently serves under the commands of Pres. Obama and now, Gen. McChrystal...)


From the Los Angeles Times

A new U.S. approach expected in Afghanistan

Gen. David D. McKiernan, replaced as commander by Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, lacked bold, new plans, officers and officials say. McChrystal is expected to aggressively overhaul the war effort.

By Julian E. Barnes

May 12, 2009

....Gates said he consulted top military officials on the change, including Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. David H. Petraeus, chief of the U.S. Central Command. Military officials said it was Mullen who pushed the hardest for a change, concerned that otherwise the U.S. could muddle through the next year.

Gates also obtained approval from President Obama, who in outlining a new strategy six weeks ago said Afghanistan was becoming "increasingly perilous." Obama, who has ordered 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, agreed that the new strategy "called for new military leadership," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.....

....."The growth of the Afghan national security forces has been much too slow. And we have been unwilling to overcome some of the obstacles," said a former Defense official, discussing internal views on condition of anonymity. "But Gen. McChrystal will jump all over that."

The new commander is seen as a counterinsurgency war expert and is credited as the architect of U.S. Special Operations missions in Iraq, stepping up the use of highly trained troops and helping to undercut both Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias.

McChrystal, 54, was singled out for praise after the June 2006 operation that killed Abu Musab Zarqawi, the leader of the group Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Recently, McChrystal has been leading an effort for Mullen to examine ways of improving the Afghanistan war effort. On Monday, Mullen said that effort was designed to make sure the most experienced officers were being sent to Afghanistan, and to ensure their experience was not lost.

One blemish on his career involved an investigation of the aftermath of the 2004 friendly-fire death in Afghanistan of Army Ranger Pat Tillman.

A Pentagon inspector general investigation faulted McChrystal for his role in Tillman's Silver Star award citation, which suggested his death was from enemy fire. But investigators also credited McChrystal for trying to warn superiors that Tillman was killed by friendly fire.....


On Tuesday, July 31, 2007, the Army overruled a Pentagon recommendation that he be held accountable for his "misleading" actions. (AP Photo/Photography Plus via Williamson Stealth Media Solutions, FILE)

By Scott Lindlaw And Martha Mendoza, Associated Press Writers

SAN FRANCISCO — Just a day after approving a medal claiming former NFL player Pat Tillman had been cut down by "devastating enemy fire" in Afghanistan, a high-ranking general tried to warn President Bush that the story might not be true, according to testimony obtained by The Associated Press.

Despite this apparent contradiction, Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal was spared punishment in the latest review of Tillman's shooting. On Tuesday, the Army overruled a Pentagon recommendation that he be held accountable for his "misleading" actions....

....."Why did you recommend the Silver Star one day and then the next day send a secret back-channel message warning the country's leaders about using information from the Silver Star in public speeches because they might be embarrassed if they do?" an investigator asked McChrystal.

Despite numerous questions, the general never directly explained the discrepancies.

"That question seems to imply the fact that we were giving the award with one hand and then with the other hand saying it was something different," he protested. "But that's exactly the opposite of the way I felt and feel now."

McChrystal told the investigators that he believed Tillman deserved the award, and that he wanted to warn top U.S. military and political leadership that friendly fire was a possibility.

"Because I thought it was friendly fire I thought it was important that key attendees know that that theory could become the finding of the investigation, and if they were going to make a statement about 'killed by enemy fire,' it might not be certain," McChrystal said.

The "secret back-channel message" was a memo known as a P4 that McChrystal wrote on April 29, 2004, to Gen. John Abizaid, head of Central Command, and to two other generals.

The P4 noted rumors that Bush and other top officials "might include comments about Cpl. Tillman's heroism and his approved Silver Star medal in speeches." He warned that it "might cause public embarrassment" if the circumstances of Tillman's death were released.

In the Silver Star citation, McChrystal had praised Tillman for placing himself "in the line of devastating enemy fire."

Tillman's comrades who were nearby in the moments before he was killed have testified that fellow Americans were shooting at them. A few also have testified that the enemy may have been firing as well, but ineffectively. No enemy bullet, rocket or mortar appeared to come close to Tillman during his last minutes on a barren hillside in eastern Afghanistan.

McChrystal was then and remains commander of the covert Joint Special Operations Command, the military's clandestine "black ops" corps, which fights in the shadows of battles in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond.

Among those who work with him, McChrystal is respected and admired for his leadership and integrity. He also has the trust of Bush, who -- despite the secrecy of McChrystal's operation -- publicly praised him last year when al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike.

Attempts to reach McChrystal this week by telephone and e-mail were unsuccessful. Ken McGraw, a spokesman for US Special Operations Command, said in an e-mail Friday that it would be "inappropriate" for McChrystal to comment or speculate about the punishment decisions.

McChrystal also declined an invitation to appear Wednesday before a congressional committee investigating the misinformation given to Tillman's family and the American public following his friendly fire death in Afghanistan.

Tillman's parents have been critical of the military's punishments surrounding their son's death. The Army waited about five weeks after it suspected friendly fire was involved before telling Tillman's family the true nature of his death.

McChrystal testified in a previous investigation that he had decided not to tell the Tillman family of friendly fire "based on my thought that providing incorrect information before an initial investigation was complete was not in line with normal policies." However, Army regulations require that families be notified when such an investigation is under way -- not when it is completed.

Like several other officers involved in the case, McChrystal testified that he did not know about the rule.

After a year-long inquiry that ended in March, the Pentagon's acting inspector general found that McChrystal should be held "accountable for the inaccurate and misleading assertions" in the Silver Star award recommendation; and for failing to notify the officials processing the award that friendly fire was likely.

"The P4 message did not request or suggest any action to correct the information in the award recommendation package," wrote Thomas Gimble, then the Pentagon's top investigator.

Gimble recommended that the acting Army secretary "address and take action" against McChrystal and one subordinate for failing "to submit an accurate Silver Star recommendation." McChrystal was the highest-ranking of nine officers Gimble recommended be "held accountable" for their involvement in the aftermath of Tillman's death.

But the Army cast that aside Tuesday when it overruled the Pentagon's recommendation.

Another Army general, William Wallace, concluded McChrystal had behaved reasonably in assuming the supporting material presented to him for Tillman's Silver Star recommendation was accurate. The Army's statement Tuesday made no mention of McChrystal's acknowledgment under oath that he had known prior to approving the Silver Star that fratricide was a strong possibility.

Asked by a reporter at a news conference Tuesday why McChrystal did not simply call Tillman's family, Army Secretary Pete Geren said that was the job of another chain of command run by Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger Jr., who then led Army special operations forces.....


Stan Goff

Posted: May 16, 2009 06:22 AM

McChrystal & Pelosi













That was a P-4 ("personal for") Memo from General McChrystal passing along to POTUS (President of the United States) that the phony-baloney story about the circumstances of Pat Tillman's death [1] [2] [3] could not hold up. The memo was sent less than a week after Pat was killed; and when you read it carefully -- if you can understand this bastardized legal-military-publcity-speak -- it says not only that the author had been involved in the concealment of the circumstances, that he had himself participated in the fraud as one of the approving-signatories for a Silver Star award with demonstrably false statements about the incident.

McChrystal surely knew Rumsfeld personally; and according to one Rumsfeld biographer, Rummy's greatest talent was getting away with s***. Not getting caught was an art form for Rumsfeld. Working for a guy like that, you have to stay on your toes, because someone will get sacrificed when someone who gets away with xxxx all the time suddenly doesn't.

The Tillman case came into public consciousness alongside the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib. Rummy was busy those days, so the guys on the scene had to handle a few things themselves.

If I had been McChrystal, I'd have known by April 29th 2004 (the day of this memo) that an entire battalion of Rangers were due to rotate back to the States in four weeks. I'd have also known -- as a matter of some urgency -- that virtually every member of 2nd Ranger Battalion knew that Pat Tillman was killed by fratricide. Hundreds of Rangers were about to return to Tacoma, Washington, where they would talk to each other, to their families and friends, and to people in the bars where Rangers drink to "blow off steam."

If I had been Stanley McChrystal then, I'd have seen some hand writing on the wall; and I'd have constructed the most carefully worded memo I could to cover my own ass.

That's what you can read above, in that memo. And hey, Rumsfeld is gone; and McChrystal is on the rise.

Canny dude.

This is not the story I have to tell right now, but it's an important preface. Dannie herself has written a fine book on her own dogged investigations of the Department of Defense, and of her direct encounter with executive power. Boots on the Ground by Dusk, by Mary Tillman (with Narda Zacchino). Time to get that one out and read up before the Senate meets to give their blessing to Stanley McChrystal as the new dominant Militia Chief of Afghanistan.

I said "executive power," not Bush. Be clear.

Obama is cautious and fearful of being torpedoed by the military-paramilitary-clandestine services network. That's tactical. And that caution will cost him dearly.

But he's also Chief Executive.

Executives are loathe to surrender even a scrap of accumulated executive power.

Bush took the country into a debacle Iraq.

Obama has his sights on Pakistan -- nuclear Cambodia, for Vietnam-analogy fans -- and the nomination of McChrystal means that Special Operations will run the show (as they did in the early phases of Vietnam).

A simple truth that "leaders" never seem to get. Our actions have tremendous influences; and most of those influences are beyond our control. Instead they just keep on with their insane, grandiose, and lethal meddling.

New Rule: Strive to limit your influence to your actual capacity to control.

We all have a notion of the geostrategic influences. But this public discussion of torture has become so surreal (en-***(ing-hanced! interrogation techniques! Sheesh!), and here is this man McChrystal who ran torture camps in Iraq (Did I forget to mention that earlier?) who is about to prepare the military infiltration from Afghanistan into Pakistan... nuclear South Asia. (Bad idea, O! Bad bad bad idea.)

That's what Stanley McChrystal is being hired for if the Senate confirms. It will; and the cowardice inhering in the institution of Congress will be on full display... just as it was when Nanci Pelosi et al were banging the war drums out of abject fear for their careers.

And this man -- McChrystal -- represents a culture. The gunfighter culture of Special Operations.

There's a great deal more than gunfighting to that culture -- the culture of Special Operations embedded within the larger culture of the Army. Gunfighting is the practical skill that "operators" learn in direct actions Special Ops units. There were times during my stint with Delta when each one of us in my unit were -- on average -- firing a thousand rounds of ammunition in a day, and not on full automatic spraying down a range, but reaching for precision and speed at close range and from afar. Fighting with guns is a skill constellation, a form of practical mastery.

Cultures also include language, non-lingusitic signs, interpersonal norms, music, ideas, and so on. Practical training is just one aspect of culture; but it's an important one......


I did not say Cheney killed Benazir: Hersh

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

LAHORE: US journalist Seymour Hersh on Monday contradicted news reports being published in South Asia that quote him as saying a “special death squad” made by former US vice president Dick Cheney had killed Benazir Bhutto. The award-winning journalist described as “complete madness” the reports that the squad headed by General Stanley McChrystal – the new commander of US army in Afghanistan – had also killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafique Al Hariri and a Lebanese army chief. “Vice president Cheney does not have a death squad. I have no idea who killed Mr Hariri or Mrs Bhutto,” Hersh said. “I have never said that I did have such information. I most certainly did not say anything remotely to that effect during an interview with an Arab media outlet.” He said Gen McChrystal had run a special forces unit that engaged in “high value target activity”, but “while I have been critical of some of that unit’s activities in the pages of the New Yorker and in interviews, I have never suggested that he was involved in political assassinations or death squads on behalf of Mr Cheney, as the published stories state.” He regretted that none of the publications had contacted him before carrying the report. “This is another example of blogs going bonkers with misleading and fabricated stories and professional journalists repeating such rumours without doing their job – and that is to verify such rumours.” staff report


Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh describes 'executive assassination ring'

By Eric Black | Published Wed, Mar 11 2009 11:17 am

....At the end of one answer by Hersh about how these things tend to happen, Jacobs asked: “And do they continue to happen to this day?”

Replied Hersh:

“Yuh. After 9/11, I haven’t written about this yet, but the Central Intelligence Agency was very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state. Without any legal authority for it. They haven’t been called on it yet. That does happen.

"Right now, today, there was a story in the New York Times that if you read it carefully mentioned something known as the Joint Special Operations Command -- JSOC it’s called. It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. They did not report to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff or to Mr. [Robert] Gates, the secretary of defense. They reported directly to him. ...

"Congress has no oversight of it. It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on. Just today in the Times there was a story that its leaders, a three star admiral named [William H.] McRaven, ordered a stop to it because there were so many collateral deaths.

"Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us.

"It’s complicated because the guys doing it are not murderers, and yet they are committing what we would normally call murder. It’s a very complicated issue....

Edited by Tom Scully
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Guest Tom Scully

...continued from post #1:

Sobering and cause for great alarm and concern is THE FACT that the most powerful array of military forces t ever assembled in the history of the world, seems to still be in the command of a clueless, ambitious, "christianized" CIC, as Pres. Obama has been sent onto the field and appoints "leadership", at the Pentagon, in the person of Bob Gates, and in Afghanistan, in the person of Gen. McChrystal, in the same, deeply flawed mold, as his predecessor, Pres. Bush did. "Onward, christian soldiers":


In Secret Unit's 'Black Room,' a Grim Portrait of U.S. Abuse

Published: March 19, 2006

(Page 3 of 5)

The interrogation rooms were stark. High-value detainees were questioned in the Black Room, nearly bare but for several 18-inch hooks that jutted from the ceiling, a grisly reminder of the terrors inflicted by Mr. Hussein's inquisitors. Jailers often blared rap music or rock 'n' roll at deafening decibels over a loudspeaker to unnerve their subjects....

.........Task Force 6-26 was a creation of the Pentagon's post-Sept. 11 campaign against terrorism, and it quickly became the model for how the military would gain intelligence and battle insurgents in the future. Originally known as Task Force 121, it was formed in the summer of 2003, when the military merged two existing Special Operations units, one hunting Osama bin Laden in and around Afghanistan, and the other tracking Mr. Hussein in Iraq. (Its current name is Task Force 145.)

The task force was a melting pot of military and civilian units. It drew on elite troops from the Joint Special Operations Command, whose elements include the Army unit Delta Force, Navy's Seal Team 6 and the 75th Ranger Regiment. Military reservists and Defense Intelligence Agency personnel with special skills, like interrogators, were temporarily assigned to the unit. C.I.A. officers, F.B.I. agents and special operations forces from other countries also worked closely with the task force.

Many of the American Special Operations soldiers wore civilian clothes and were allowed to grow beards and long hair, setting them apart from their uniformed colleagues. Unlike conventional soldiers and marines whose Iraq tours lasted 7 to 12 months, unit members and their commanders typically rotated every 90 days.

Task Force 6-26 had a singular focus: capture or kill Mr. Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant operating in Iraq. "Anytime there was even the smell of Zarqawi nearby, they would go out and use any means possible to get information from a detainee," one official said.

Defense Department personnel briefed on the unit's operations said the harsh treatment extended beyond Camp Nama to small field outposts in Baghdad, Falluja, Balad, Ramadi and Kirkuk. These stations were often nestled within the alleys of a city in nondescript buildings with suburban-size yards where helicopters could land to drop off or pick up detainees.

At the outposts, some detainees were stripped naked and had cold water thrown on them to cause the sensation of drowning, said Defense Department personnel who served with the unit.

In January 2004, the task force captured the son of one of Mr. Hussein's bodyguards in Tikrit. The man told Army investigators that he was forced to strip and that he was punched in the spine until he fainted, put in front of an air-conditioner while cold water was poured on him and kicked in the stomach until he vomited. Army investigators were forced to close their inquiry in June 2005 after they said task force members used battlefield pseudonyms that made it impossible to identify and locate the soldiers involved. The unit also asserted that 70 percent of its computer files had been lost. .....

......Back at Camp Nama, the task force leaders established a ritual for departing personnel who did a good job, Pentagon officials said. The commanders presented them with two unusual mementos: a detainee hood and a souvenir piece of tile from the medical screening room that once held Mr. Hussein.

Early Signs of Trouble

Accusations of abuse by Task Force 6-26 came as no surprise to many other officials in Iraq. By early 2004, both the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. had expressed alarm about the military's harsh interrogation techniques.

The C.I.A.'s Baghdad station sent a cable to headquarters on Aug. 3, 2003, raising concern that Special Operations troops who served with agency officers had used techniques that had become too aggressive. Five days later, the C.I.A. issued a classified directive that prohibited its officers from participating in harsh interrogations. Separately, the C.I.A. barred its officers from working at Camp Nama but allowed them to keep providing target information and other intelligence to the task force.

The warnings still echoed nearly a year later. On June 25, 2004, nearly two months after the disclosure of the abuses at Abu Ghraib, an F.B.I. agent in Iraq sent an e-mail message to his superiors in Washington, warning that a detainee captured by Task Force 6-26 had suspicious burn marks on his body. The detainee said he had been tortured. A month earlier, another F.B.I. agent asked top bureau officials for guidance on how to deal with military interrogators across Iraq who used techniques like loud music and yelling that exceeded "the bounds of standard F.B.I. practice." .....

.....Maj. Gen. George E. Ennis, who until recently commanded the D.I.A.'s human intelligence division, declined to be interviewed for this article. But in written responses to questions, General Ennis said he never heard about the numerous complaints made by D.I.A. personnel until he and his boss, Vice Adm. Lowell E. Jacoby, then the agency's director, were briefed on June 24, 2004.

The next day, Admiral Jacoby wrote a two-page memo to Mr. Cambone, under secretary of defense for intelligence. In it, he described a series of complaints, including a May 2004 incident in which a D.I.A. interrogator said he witnessed task force soldiers punch a detainee hard enough to require medical help. The D.I.A. officer took photos of the injuries, but a supervisor confiscated them, the memo said.

The tensions laid bare a clash of military cultures. Combat-hardened commandos seeking a steady flow of intelligence to pinpoint insurgents grew exasperated with civilian interrogators sent from Washington, many of whom were novices at interrogating hostile prisoners fresh off the battlefield.

"These guys wanted results, and our debriefers were used to a civil environment," said one Defense Department official who was briefed on the task force operations.

Within days after Admiral Jacoby sent his memo, the D.I.A. took the extraordinary step of temporarily withdrawing its personnel from Camp Nama. .....

Admiral Jacoby's memo also provoked an angry reaction from Mr. Cambone. "Get to the bottom of this immediately. This is not acceptable," Mr. Cambone said in a handwritten note on June 26, 2004, to his top deputy, Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin. "In particular, I want to know if this is part of a pattern of behavior by TF 6-26."

General Boykin said through a spokesman on March 17 that at the time he told Mr. Cambone he had found no pattern of misconduct with the task force.

A Shroud of Secrecy

Military and legal experts say the full breadth of abuses committed by Task Force 6-26 may never be known because of the secrecy surrounding the unit, and the likelihood that some allegations went unreported.

In the summer of 2004, Camp Nama closed and the unit moved to a new headquarters in Balad, 45 miles north of Baghdad. The unit's operations are now shrouded in even tighter secrecy.

Soon after their rank-and-file clashed in 2004, D.I.A. officials in Washington and military commanders at Fort Bragg agreed to improve how the task force integrated specialists into its ranks. The D.I.A. is now sending small teams of interrogators, debriefers and case officers, called "deployable Humint teams," to work with Special Operations forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senior military commanders insist that the elite warriors, who will be relied on more than ever in the campaign against terrorism, are now treating detainees more humanely and can police themselves. The C.I.A. has resumed conducting debriefings with the task force, but does not permit harsh questioning, a C.I.A. official said.

General McChrystal, the leader of the Joint Special Operations Command, received his third star in a promotion ceremony at Fort Bragg on March 13.

On Dec. 8, 2004, the Pentagon's spokesman, Lawrence Di Rita, said that four Special Operations soldiers from the task force were punished for "excessive use of force" and administering electric shocks to detainees with stun guns. Two of the soldiers were removed from the unit. To that point, Mr. Di Rita said, 10 task force members had been disciplined. Since then, according to the new figures provided to The Times, the number of those disciplined for detainee abuse has more than tripled. Nine of the 34 troops disciplined received written or oral counseling. Others were reprimanded for slapping detainees and other offenses.

The five Army Rangers who were court-martialed in December received punishments including jail time of 30 days to six months and reduction in rank. Two of them will receive bad-conduct discharges upon completion of their sentences.

Human rights advocates and leading members of Congress say the Pentagon must still do more to hold senior-level commanders and civilian officials accountable for the misconduct.

The Justice Department inspector general is investigating complaints of detainee abuse by Task Force 6-26, a senior law enforcement official said. The only wide-ranging military inquiry into prisoner abuse by Special Operations forces was completed nearly a year ago by Brig. Gen. Richard P. Formica, and was sent to Congress.

But the United States Central Command has refused repeated requests from The Times over the past several months to provide an unclassified copy of General Formica's findings despite Mr. Rumsfeld's instructions that such a version of all 12 major reports into detainee abuse be made public




William Arkin, Washington Post June, 2006

.....And then there's probably the longest-serving officer in one assignment in bureaucratic history: Lt. Gen. William G. (“Jerry”) Boykin. He has deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence and warfighting support since July 23, 2003. Maybe Boykin is indispensable, maybe he is so good at his job that Rumsfeld can't stand to let him go.

More likely, Rumsfeld can't stand the battle that would ensue if he nominated the famous Boykin, known for his religious devotion (he was once a vociferous speaker on the Christian circuit) for another job or another star.

In other words, it's perfectly okay to keep Boykin in his job for three years -- a military eternity -- to avoid political trouble and oversight. When it comes to actually fighting the war -- if any of these generals and admirals can actually be labeled fighting -- on the other hand, year long or shorter assignments seem perfectly routine. What a way to run a railroad.


August 20, 2004

General Said to Be Faulted Over Speeches


WASHINGTON, Aug. 19 (AP) - A Pentagon investigation has concluded that a senior intelligence officer violated regulations by failing to make it clear that he was not acting in an official capacity when, in speaking at churches, he cast the war on terrorism in religious terms, a Defense Department official said Thursday.

In most instances the officer, Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, was wearing his Army uniform.

The inquiry, by the Defense Department's deputy inspector general, found that General Boykin, deputy under secretary of defense for intelligence, had also violated Pentagon rules by failing to obtain advance clearance for his remarks, which gained wide publicity through news reports last fall.

In one appearance, according to those reports, General Boykin told a religious group in Oregon that Islamic extremists hated the United States "because we're a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christians.''

Discussing a 1993 battle by American soldiers against a Muslim warlord in Somalia, he told an audience: "I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol."

He also declared in one of his speeches that the enemy in the antiterrorism fight was Satan and that God had put President Bush in the White House.

The report on the Boykin investigation has not been publicly released. Its findings were described Thursday by a senior Pentagon official familiar with its conclusions.

The report says that in considering possible action against the general, the Army should take into account that he consulted military lawyers in advance about the propriety of making the speeches and was not advised against doing so.

The Washington Post, which reported the conclusion of the investigation on Thursday, said the inquiry had determined that General Boykin discussed his involvement in the war on terrorism at 23 religious-oriented events beginning in January 2002 and that he wore his uniform while speaking at all but two. He spoke mostly at Baptist or Pentecostal churches.


The Holy Warrior

General Called a Religious Fanatic Finally Speaks Out

Sept. 15, 2004

.......But President Bush received so much heat about Boykin from Muslim leaders that even he took a shot at the general: “Gen. Boykin’s comments don’t reflect the administration’s comments. … He doesn’t reflect my point of view.”

“That was a painful moment, but I put it in perspective,” said Boykin of Mr. Bush’s comments. “What the president heard was what was portrayed in the media. The president didn’t hear my presentation.”

Boykin tried to end the controversy by asking for an investigation by the Pentagon’s inspector general. Ten months later, the investigation concluded that he had violated department regulations by failing to clear his comments in advance.

The secretary of the Army is expected to issue Boykin a letter of concern, which amounts to nothing more than a mild slap on the wrist. That closes the investigation, but doesn't address the central question of whether a senior officer, wearing his uniform, should speak so openly about his faith. And that leaves the controversy right back to where it began when this self-described holy roller took to the pulpit.

Why did he start speaking to church groups? “I was asked to come and talk to Americans, many of which had their sons and daughters mobilized and involved in this war,” says Boykin. “So my purpose was to be an encouragement to Americans while we were at war.”

In churches all across the country, Boykin told riveting stories of how God sustains Americans in battle. “Before we launched that first mission, we all prayed 'God go with us. God keep your hands on us,'” said Boykin in one speech.

He tells the congregation that when he was a young captain, God actually spoke to him, telling him to join the Army’s elite Delta Force: “There are times when God speaks to you in an audible voice. He spoke to me that morning because I said, ‘Satan is gathering his forces.’ He said, ‘Yes, son, but so am I.’ And I knew I was to be there.”

Boykin has been on the front lines of the battle against radical Muslims for a quarter of a century, ever since Islamic revolutionaries seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took Americans hostage. He was one of the Delta Force commandos who went in to rescue them. The mission ended in failure on a remote desert airstrip when a helicopter ran into a transport plane full of soldiers.

“It was a huge ball of fire. They could not survive,” recalls Boykin.

It was a disaster military, but in Boykin’s telling, it was also a miracle: “That aircraft was going to explode any moment. But as I prayed in the name of Jesus, the door of that aircraft opened and through those flames came 45 men running just as hard as they could.”

That’s not just a war story that gets better with each retelling. It’s exactly what happened...........

A former Jesuit priest, the son of Joseph Carroll, founding director of the DIA, attempts to "sort this out":


The peril of valuing celebrity over history

By James Carroll | July 30, 2007

The shallowness of contemporary public discourse, devoid of history, is everywhere visible -- from the "eternal now" of celebrity journalism to the absurdity of an "antiwar" rhetoric that assumes, in fact, a permanent US war machine in Iraq. In the emerging Democratic consensus, forged by Congressional leaders and presidential front-runners, supposedly in opposition to Bush's war, "out now" is becoming "out when conditions permit" -- which is, of course, Bush's exact position. Such conditions will never come; therefore -- Garrison Forever.

Yet, speaking of history, this conjuring of the appearance of opposition where none actually exists has been mandated by the American political system since the onset of the Cold War. The quadrennial political puppet show, highlighting not opposition but its appearance, is essential to keeping the captive-taking war machine running and to inoculating the American people from the viral knowledge that they themselves were first to be captured.....

......Upton Sinclair, for example, showed the rapaciousness of capitalism, the vampire-like appetite with which it feeds on the blood of human beings. Even with "reforms" ("The Jungle" led to the establishment of the Food and Drug Administration), the profit-worshipping economy to this day eludes controls that would protect majorities of citizens in this country and across the world. Sinclair Lewis, for his part, showed how the simultaneously banalizing methods of capitalist enterprise (false advertising, consumerism, pieties of affluence, amoral bureaucracy) are exactly what that enterprise created to keep from being criticized......

.......Therefore, it is certain that the staggering failures of Washington's current policy, so evident today, will be forgotten tomorrow, even as that policy is reaffirmed. Or, as they say, what's the dif?

(Obama's "appointment of Gen. McChrystal confirms James Carroll's recent prediction.....)


American Exceptionalism Meets Team Jesus

A Tomdispatch Interview with James Carroll

posted September 17, 2007

.....James Carroll: Well, embedded in that joke is a central idea: that what matters is not outcome, but purity of intent. A mark of a fundamentalist mindset is that one's own personal virtue is the ultimate value. The American fundamentalist ethos of the Cold War prepared us to destroy the world. In other words, a world absolutely devastated through nuclear war was acceptable as an outcome because it reflected the virtue of our opposition to the evil of communism. Better dead than red.

TD: A phrase I hadn't thought about in a long time...

Carroll: Better the world destroyed than taken over by communism. It's profoundly nihilistic, which is also one of the marks of the fundamentalist mindset. An irony, of course, is that so much, then and now, is done in the name of realism, but this is such a profoundly unrealistic way of thinking.

TD: It's in this sense, I suppose, that our President has been unable to learn. So, give me the basics on American fundamentalisms, as you see them.

Carroll: First of all, what is fundamentalism? The word itself was coined in the early twentieth century and applied to a particular brand of Protestantism. It comes from a determination to protect what were called, in foundational manifestos, the five fundamentals of Christian belief, particularly the inerrancy of scripture. Scripture can't make a mistake, right? It has to be read literally.

This was a counterattack against so-called liberal religion's embrace of the insights of the Enlightenment and the scientific age. Can you apply normal standards of historical criticism to religious belief? The fundamentalists said no, because normal standards might lead you to understand texts as having been composed in normal human circumstances, instead of inspired by God. So when you read the Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus through the lens of historical critical method you may conclude that the three kings never actually traveled to Bethlehem, that it's a mythical story created to make a point -- a genre that the people who wrote it were comfortable with.

Fundamentalists reacted against any mitigating of the literal fact of the three kings. To read texts for their theological meaning rather than for their historical literalness would undercut the whole affirmation of the religion. The next thing, you'd be saying that Jesus didn't rise from the dead on the third day. And if that didn't happen, where are you?

That was then. Today, fundamentalism remains a useful point of reference in understanding the human panic that can be engendered by the uncertainties attached to Enlightenment thinking -- when the worldview of science tells you that nothing is dependable, that everything has to be submitted to the test of experimentation, verification. ....

.......Roger Williams lost the argument in his own day, but he planted the seed of something. He was the first person to use the phrase, "wall of separation" between the magistrate and the religion. One hundred eighty years later, Thomas Jefferson picks up that phrase to describe the distinction between the church and the state.

The point here is that the initial city-on-a-hill impulse has never stopped being part of our self-understanding -- the idea of America as having a mission to the world or, in biblical terms, a mission to the gentiles. "Go forth and teach all nations," Jesus commands. This commission is implicit in George Bush's war to establish democracy -- or "freedom" -- everywhere. When Americans talk about freedom, it's our secular code word for salvation. There's no salvation outside the church; there's no freedom outside the American way of life. Notice how, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disappearance of the Soviet system, there is still something called the "Free World." As opposed to what?

A Special Mission to Iraq -- and the World

This missionizing in the name of freedom is a basic American impulse. Lincoln was the high priest of this rhetoric, "the last best hope of mankind." The United States of America is justified by the virtue of its mission. The entire movement of American power across the continent of North America was a movement to fulfill the "manifest destiny" of a free people extending freedom. Because this is understood as a profoundly virtuous impulse, we've seldom criticized it. As a nation, we have begun to reckon with the crime of slavery, but we haven't begun to reckon with the crime of genocide against the Native-American peoples. That's because we haven't really acknowledged what was wrong with it.

Think of that phrase -- "manifest destiny." A key doctrine in what I am calling American fundamentalism. It remains an inch below the surface of the American belief system. What's interesting is that this sense of special mission cuts across the spectrum -- right wing/left wing, liberals/conservatives -- because generally the liberal argument against government policies since World War II is that our wars -- Vietnam then, Iraq now -- represent an egregious failure to live up to America's true calling. We're better than this. Even antiwar critics, who begin to bang the drum, do it by appealing to an exceptional American missionizing impulse. You don't get the sense, even from most liberals, that -- no, America is a nation like other nations and we're going to screw things up the way other nations do.

TD: That kind of realism is in short supply here.

Carroll: It hardly exists even now.

Let me make one final point about that missionizing impulse, and the way it transcends right and left. One reason we're in Iraq today is because, in the 1990s, the left was split on the question of American violence, the proper use of American power. It was split over the issue of what was called "humanitarian intervention." There are times, it was argued, when the forceful exercise of American power is necessary for the sake of humanitarian causes. Human rights, beginning in Jimmy Carter's day, became a new form of American religion. If conservatives go abroad speaking the language of freedom; liberals go abroad speaking the language of human rights. And if we have to destroy a nation so that it can exercise human rights, so be it. That's why, in the early days of the Iraq war, so many surprising people supported it.

The liberal embrace of humanitarian intervention is part of what set loose this new phenomenon of the Bush moment -- an explicit appeal to religious motivation in the exercise of American power. Since George W. Bush came to power, the religious right has been set free to use overt religious language, missionizing language that actually moves from "freedom" to "salvation," as a justification for American power. We cast ourselves against Saddam Hussein entirely in terms of a binary evil-versus-good contest. Bush's appeals to evil were a staple of his speechmaking from the earliest days of this war. The purpose of his war was, he told us, not just to spread democracy, but to end evil. You see what's happening. We've moved into specifically religious categories and that was all right in America.

Tom, here's the thing that's important to acknowledge: If Americans are upset with the war in Iraq today, it's mainly because it failed. If we could have "ended evil" with this war, it would have been a good thing. It goes back to the joke you began with: If we have to destroy the world in order to purify it of evil, that's all right. It's the key to the apocalyptic mindset that Robert J. Lifton has written about so eloquently, in which the destruction of the Earth can be an act of purification. ....

.......We're going to withdraw from this war because they're not worthy of us.

That's the mainstream Democratic antiwar position! America is a city on a hill, exceptional; so, if we do it, by definition it must be virtuous. If we've gone to Iraq and all hell's broken loose, it may be a fiasco, but in origin it can't be our fault because we were motivated by good intentions.

Now, put all of that in the context of this astounding religious resurgence…

TD: It's the surge…

Carroll: (laughs): Yes, the surge of overt religious claims within the United States government, people who understand themselves as fulfilling their sworn oaths to uphold the United States Constitution in the name of religion. I interviewed the chief chaplain of the U.S. Air Force who said to me: "I have two commissions. One commission is to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the other is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and they go hand in hand with each other."

I grew up in the Air Force. I gotta tell ya, there was no chaplain in the Air Force in my day who would have said that. In fact, the chaplains I knew didn't see themselves as having a commission to preach the Gospel at all. You bent over backward not to do that when you were dealing with soldiers outside of the chapel.

A Christian Defense of the Nation

TD: You have a new film, based on your book, Constantine's Sword, in which you explore this change at, among other places, the Air Force Academy, right?

Carroll: Yes, what happened there was striking. Take just this example: A couple of years ago, Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ rendered in profoundly fundamentalist ways, most terribly, the death of Jesus as caused by "the Jews," not the Romans. In that movie, Pilate is a good guy; the Jewish high priest the villain. Gibson justified this by saying it was how the Gospels tell the story, which is literally true. A fundamentalist reading of the Gospel story ignores what we know from history and from scientific inquiry and analysis of the Gospels. It wasn't "the Jews" who murdered Jesus, it was the Romans, pure and simple. There were complicated reasons why the Gospels were written that way, but a fundamentalist reading of those texts is dangerous. Gibson demonized the Jews, while celebrating grotesque violence as a mode of salvation, as willed by God.

And then that film was featured at the United States Air Force Academy. Its commanders made it clear that every one of the cadets, over 4,000 of them, was supposed to see that movie. Repeatedly over a week, every time cadets went into H. H. Arnold mess hall, they found fliers on their dinner plates announcing that this movie was being shown. I saw posters that said: "See the Passion of the Christ" and "This is an official Air Force Academy event, do not remove this poster."

As a result of that film, there was an outbreak of pressure, practically coercion, by born-again evangelical Christians aimed at non-Christian cadets and, in a special way, at Jews. This went on for months and when the whistle was blown by a Jewish cadet and his father, the Air Force denied it, tried to cover it up. Yale University sent a team from the Yale Divinity School to investigate. They issued a devastating report. The commander at the academy was finally removed; the Air Force was forced to acknowledge that there was a problem.

In fact, the Academy had allowed itself to become a proselytizing outpost for evangelical Christian mega-churches in the Colorado Springs area. Chief among them were Ted Haggard's and James Dobson's, both men then in the inner circle of the Bush White House, involved in the sort of faith-based initiatives that marked the Bush administration.

In the Pentagon today, there is active proselytizing by Christian groups that is allowed by the chain of command. When your superior expects you to show up at his prayer breakfast, you may not feel free to say no. It's not at all clear what will happen to your career. He writes your efficiency report. And the next thing you know, you have, in the culture of the Pentagon, more and more active religious outreach.

Imagine, then, a military motivated by an explicit Christian, missionizing impulse at the worst possible moment in our history, because we're confronting an enemy -- and yes, we do have an enemy: fringe, fascist, nihilist extremists coming out of the Islamic world -- who define the conflict entirely in religious terms. They, too, want to see this as a new "crusade." That's the language that Osama bin Laden uses. For the United States of America at this moment to allow its military to begin to wear the badges of a religious movement is a disaster!

TD: What does this point to, when it comes to the future?

Carroll: Well, the best thing that's happened, when it comes to all of this, has been the near complete political and moral collapse of the Bush administration, but that doesn't mean this movement is going away. Bush was a sponsor of it. But look how it took off! Bush sponsored it, to take another example, in the Justice Department under Attorney General Gonzales -- all those born-again Christian lawyers coming from fundamentalist Christian law schools that have no history of excellence.

We must be aware that there's something much deeper than the Bush administration and a particular wing of the Republican Party at work here, however. This isn't just Karl Rove, though he was ingenious at exploiting it.

Let's go back to what kind of a nation the United States is. Here is something I read recently: Though we are officially a secular people, there are more self-identified Christians in this country than self-identified Jews in Israel in percentage terms. We commonly think of Israel as a Jewish state. Something like seventy-five percent of Israelis would identify themselves as Jewish. Eighty percent of Americans identify themselves as Christian! And we're not a Christian nation? We have to be wary of our Christian roots and of the city-on-a-hill impulse that still lives just an inch below the surface.

Our war against the Soviet Union was a religious war. [secretary of State] John Foster Dulles [under President Eisenhower] was practically explicit about this in his speeches, which were like sermons. Not just "communism," but "atheistic communism." Dwight D. Eisenhower was baptized while he was president -- part of a Cold War feeling that we were involved in a Christian defense of the nation against an atheistic enemy.

Huddling up for Team Jesus ....

Edited by Tom Scully
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