Ray McGovern: McChrystal Testing the Limits

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[Ray McGovern works for Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. He was an analyst at the CIA for 27 years, and is on the Steering Group of VIPS.]

It is not too late for President Barack Obama to follow the example of Harry Truman, who fired Gen. Douglas McArthur in 1951 for insubordination. Then, as now, the stakes were high. Then it was Korea; now it is Afghanistan.

No more slaps on the wrist for Gen. Stanley McChrystal. In my view, Commander-in-Chief Obama should fire him for cause.


In the Truman-McArthur showdown nearly six decades ago, the president and his senior advisers were preparing to engage North Korea and China in peace negotiations, when MacArthur, commander of the UN forces in Korea, issued an unauthorized statement containing a veiled threat to expand the war into China.

McArthur had been playing a back-channel game to win the support of like-minded Republican congressmen to widen the war when Truman faced him down. With the backing of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the secretaries of state and defense, he rose to the occasion and fired the distinguished "old soldier."


Today, General McChrystal is conducting a subtler but equally insubordinate campaign for wider war in Afghanistan, with the backing of CENTCOM commander David Petraeus. It is now even clearer in retrospect that the president should not have appointed McChrystal in the first place, given what was already known of his role in covering up the killing of football star Pat Tillman and condoning torture practices by troops under McChrystal's earlier command in Iraq.

Two months ago, when McChrystal became more and more outspoken about what he considered the best approach to the Afghanistan War, policy discussions were under way in Washington to help the president make enlightened policy choices among the various views and possibilities. Since decisions were (are?) still pending, and since McChrystal's private input was already part of the mix, he was clearly out of line in going public at so sensitive a time.

Senior generals know better than to do that; there is little doubt his outspokenness was deliberate. McChrystal should meet the same fate as McArthur, and "silently steal away." Obama should have taken the telegenic general to the woodshed instead of inviting him to confer quietly on Air Force One...
Read entire article at Truthout

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