Political Highlights June 23, 2010: Obama Fires Afghan General Stanley McChrystal for Controversial Rolling Stone Profile

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Obama, with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Gen. David H. Petraeus and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, announced his removal of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal as the top commander in Afghanistan on Wednesday and his appointment of General Petraeus to lead the war effort there.

THE HEADLINES….

  • Obama Relieves McChrystal of Command: President Obama removed Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal as commander of American forces in Afghanistan on Wednesday, and tapped as his replacement the general’s boss and the architect of the 2007 surge in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus.
    Mr. Obama, standing with General Petraeus and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in the White House Rose Garden to underline the continuity and solidity of his Afghan policy, said that he had accepted General McChrystal’s resignation “with considerable regret.”… – NYT, 6-23-10
  • McChrystal out, Petraeus in: Obama fires the top commander in Afghanistan after McChrystal makes disparaging comments about civilian leaders, published in Rolling Stone. ‘I welcome debate, but I won’t tolerate division,’ the president says…. – LAT, 6-23-10
  • General Sees Obama, Then Leaves Before War Meeting: Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal left the White House after meeting with President Obama for about 20 minutes, departing ahead of a meeting on the war in Afghanistan scheduled for later Wednesday morning, but there was no immediate word on whether he would keep his job as the top American commander there…. – NYT, 6-23-10
  • Stanley McChrystal’s fate unclear after Obama meeting: The top US military commander in Afghanistan has left the White House after meeting President Barack Obama to explain his criticism of leading officials. Gen Stanley McChrystal held a one-on-one meeting with Mr Obama which lasted about 30 minutes. It is unclear whether or not he still retains his position in the military. Gen McChrystal had agreed with Mr Obama that the statements in Rolling Stone magazine showed “poor judgement”. Gen McChrystal was also due to attend the monthly meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan and face some of those he and his aides criticised. It is unclear whether he will return for this 1535 GMT meeting…. – BBC, 6-23-10
  • McChrystal likely to resign over magazine comments, source says: America’s top military commander in Afghanistan is unlikely to survive the fallout from remarks he made about colleagues in a magazine profile to be published Friday, according to a Pentagon source who has ongoing contacts with the general. Gen. Stanley McChrystal will likely resign Wednesday, the source said. McChrystal’s fate is expected to hinge on a meeting scheduled Wednesday with President Obama, who was “angry” after reading the general’s remarks in Rolling Stone.
    The “magnitude and graveness” of McChrystal’s mistake in conducting the interview for the article were “profound,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said McChrystal had “made a significant mistake and exercised poor judgment.”
    “I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened,” McChrystal said in a Pentagon statement. “Throughout my career, I have lived by the principles of personal honor and professional integrity. What is reflected in this article falls far short of that standard.”… – CNN, 6-23-10
  • Obama ‘angry’ after reading McChrystal’s remarksCNN, 6-23-10
  • Afghan leaders voice strong support for McChrystal: Afghan officials said Wednesday that firing Gen. Stanley McChrystal would disrupt progress in the war and could jeopardize a pivotal security operation underway in Taliban strongholds in the south. At the end of a one-hour video conference Tuesday night with President Barack Obama, Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed his confidence in the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, Karzai spokesman Waheed Omar said…. – USA Today, 6-23-10
  • McChrystal speaks up one too many times: Gen. Stanley McChrystal was put in charge of a drifting war in Afghanistan in part because he wasn’t afraid to speak up. That quality may prove to be his downfall as President Barack Obama decides whether to fire him. Calm and introspective in public, if a bit brusque, the lanky four-star general, 55, has never been one to suffer fools gladly. But challenging the president and his team is another matter, so he was summoned to the Oval Office on Wednesday to explain remarks he made in a magazine interview…. – AP, 6-23-10
  • McChrystal to meet with Obama after deriding top civilian officials: The U.S.’ top leader in Afghanistan apologizes for ridiculing senior Obama administration officials in a Rolling Stone magazine article, calling his comments a ‘mistake reflecting poor judgment.’… – LAT, 6-22-10
  • Top U.S. General in Afghanistan Under Fire for Testy Magazine Profile: The top commander in Afghanistan, and his team, describe their diplomatic and political counterparts in robust terms in a Rolling Stone profile. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, has been summoned to the White House to explain comments made in a Rolling Stone magazine profile in whcih he airs insults against Vice President Joe Biden, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke and the president himself. National-security adviser James L. Jones is referred to as a “clown.”
    The profile, out this Friday, headlined “The Runaway General,” shows a bravado-filled, towel-flicking culture in the general’s inner circle—an aide describes French ministers as “f—king gay,” and McChrystal, whose favorite movie is Talladega Nights, flips an aide the bird…. – Newsweek, 6-22-10
  • AP source: McChrystal has no sign he’ll be fired: A senior U.S. military official in Afghanistan tells The Associated Press that Gen. Stanley McChrystal doesn’t know whether he’ll keep his job when he appears at the White House on Wednesday. The official says the general has been given no indication that he’ll be fired — but no assurance he won’t be….
    McChrystal has apologized for a Rolling Stone magazine profile this week in which aides mock other administration officials. Obama summoned the general to Washington to explain the remarks…. – AP, 6-22-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

  • Video and Transcript of President Obama’s Remarks on Gen. McChrystal: Today I accepted Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s resignation as commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. I did so with considerable regret, but also with certainty that it is the right thing for our mission in Afghanistan, for our military and for our country.
    I’m also pleased to nominate Gen. David Petraeus to take command in Afghanistan, which will allow us to maintain the momentum and leadership that we need to succeed.
    I don’t make this decision based on any difference in policy with General McChrystal, as we are in full agreement on strategy, nor do make this decision out of any sense of personal insult. Stan McChrystal has always shown great courtesy and carried out my orders faithfully. I’ve got great admiration for him and for his long record of service in uniform. Over the last nine years, with America fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has earned a reputation as one of our nation’s finest soldiers. That reputation is founded upon his extraordinary dedication, his deep intelligence and his love of country. I relied on his service, particularly in helping to design and lead our new strategy in Afghanistan. So all Americans should be grateful for General McChrystal’s remarkable career in uniform.
    But war is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general or a president.
    And as difficult as it is to lose General McChrystal, I believe that it is the right decision for our national security.
    The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general. It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system. And it erodes the trust that’s necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan…. – NYT, 6-23-10
  • Gen. McChrystal issued this short statement soon after the president spoke: This morning the President accepted my resignation as Commander of U.S. and NATO Coalition Forces in Afghanistan. I strongly support the President’s strategy in Afghanistan and am deeply committed to our coalition forces, our partner nations, and the Afghan people. It was out of respect for this commitment — and a desire to see the mission succeed — that I tendered my resignation.
    It has been my privilege and honor to lead our nation’s finest. – NYT, 6-23-10
  • The Runaway General: Stanley McChrystal, Obama’s top commander in Afghanistan, has seized control of the war by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House…. – Rolling Stone, 6-22-10
  • Excerpts from Stanley McChrystal’s Rolling Stone Interview: “McChrystal thought Obama looked ‘uncomfortable and intimidated’ by the roomful of military brass.”
    “Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was. Here’s the guy who’s going to run his (expletive) war, but he didn’t seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed.”
    “Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal tells an imaginary questioner. “Who’s that?” “Biden?” a top adviser says. “Did you say: Bite Me?”
    “if Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular.” USA Today

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • MAX BOOT, ROBERT DALLEK and DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN: General Uproar: Three writers on Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s remarks in a magazine profile that have put him under scrutiny and how it may affect his command in Afghanistan…. – NYT, 6-23-10
  • MAX BOOT: Judging McChrystal’s War: Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s ill-advised remarks shouldn’t overshadow the credit he deserves for putting in place the right strategy to turn around a failing war effort…. – NYT, 6-23-10
  • ROBERT DALLEK: The Other Truman Doctrine: President Obama must replace General McChrystal with a commander who will closely follow his orders…. – NYT, 6-23-10
  • DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN: What Would Lincoln Do?: If Abraham Lincoln’s experience is any guide, Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s fate will be determined by how his firing would affect the war in Afghanistan…. – NYT, 6-23-10
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