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Gen. McChrystal's firing offense

By Sally Quinn

My father, a lieutenant general in command of the 7th Army in Germany at the beginning of the Vietnam War, had had dealings with President Johnson. To say that he loathed him was an understatement, as it was for many in the military. But the president was his commander in chief, and he believed the office should be honored. That was something we were raised with, something we all understood, and, though we may not have agreed with my father, it was something we accepted as being part of the military. Never was that belief more reinforced than the night before my sister Donna’s wedding in 1964, when my father asked everyone to stand and toast the president of the United States.

With that context, I was stunned this week by the portrayal of Gen. Stanley McChrystal in Rolling Stone. Not only did he reportedly give aides the impression that he was disappointed in his first Oval Office meeting with the president and considered Obama unprepared, he also dismissed Vice President Joe Biden with “who’s that?”

A fireable offense? Without question. What I don’t understand is: What’s the wait? President Obama should have fired him on the phone the moment he first heard about this. He should not be allowed to resign. He should be fired outright. It is insubordination of the worst kind.

Obama called it “poor judgment.” We already knew McChrystal had that capacity. He showed extremely poor judgment during a public appearance in London last year. When asked if he could support the Biden plan to send more drones to Afghanistan at a time when the general was pushing for more troops, he replied “no” and said it would lead to “Chaos-istan.” President Obama chewed McChrystal out on Air Force One. He should have fired him on the spot. Once the general realized he could be insubordinate and get away with it, he clearly thought he was indispensable. Nobody is indispensable. Even this “warrior god”, as he is known among his admirers.

He was an accident waiting to happen.

Now McChrystal has extended his “sincerest apology for this profile.” He went on to say: “It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and it should have never happened. 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.” This is a craven and unacceptable apology. McChrystal doesn’t deny or apologize or explain what he actually said. He’s simply sorry he got caught, and he’s apologizing for that bad judgment.

Here is a man who talks about “honor.” He has dishonored the presidency and his own profession. There are those who suggest it would be better to leave him in the job so as not to compromise the “mission.” The mission has already been compromised. McChrystal has broken the most sacred rule in the military. Without the respect and the obedience and duty of command, you will indeed have “Chaos-istan.” The example McChrystal has given to his subordinates all over the world, be they generals or privates, is that it’s okay to disrespect your commanders. That and that alone is enough to fire him. Some people have suggested that a firing would hurt troop morale. Rather, that morale would be destroyed if the troops understood that the person who commanded them did not believe in his mission or that of the United States.

Whether you agree or disagree with the war, the strategy or the administration is not the point. The point is that if you are in the military and cannot respect your commanders and follow their orders, you don’t belong there.

Clearly the general, by those standards, does not measure up. The question is: Will President Obama?

If he does not fire Gen. Stanley McChrystal, he will be showing very poor judgment.

By Sally Quinn  | June 23, 2010; 9:15 AM ET
Categories:  Quinn  | Tags:  Sally Quinn  
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Next: The key moment in Rolling Stone's McChrystal piece


Why the blazes does this idiot still get published?

Oh, right.

Posted by: thebump | June 23, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

great summary of why McChrystal has to go. To anyone who has ever served in the military what he did is not only unforgiveable but a violation of the oath he took when leaving West Point, you know that place which is supposed to instill the code of "duty, honor and country" into all of its graduates.

Guess Stanley McCrystal was in sick bay the day they taught all that duty, honor, country stuff.

Posted by: bobfbell | June 23, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Sally, were you drunk when you "wrote" this? Are you drunk right now?

Posted by: biffgrifftheoneandonly | June 23, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Military members are human beings, not automatons. Gen McCrystal is entitled to his own feelings and thoughts, as is every soldier, airman, seaman, and Marine. Thirty-odd years of honorable service is not erased by an embarassing interview.

That being said, he must be fired because his judgement appears to be clouded by his negative feelings towards his civilian bosses.

Honor his years of service, but fire him. He would do the same to a subordinate under similar circumstances.

Posted by: Alan4 | June 23, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

A good case has been made that the president should fire McChrystal. While I might be inclined to agree, my problem is that so many are making that argument by referencing Harry Truman's firing of Douglas MacArthur in 1951.

The two cases aren't even close.

In 1951 at the height of the Korean War, MacArthur was advocating to the press - against the wishes of his commander-in-chef - extending the conflict by invading China. Had that happened it may have started World War III. Had the General had his way in 1951, we'd STILL be fighting in Korea.

Old Harry made a wise and courageous decision and hindsight has shown, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he did the right thing.

Stanley McChrystal may be many things - Doug MacArthur he ain't.

Tom Degan

Posted by: tomdeganfrontiernetnet | June 23, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Like Sally Quinn's father I believe that a military officer must respect the elected officials they serve. Gen. McChrystal seems to have surrounded himself with a group of sophomoric officers who lack common sense and a sense of respect for their wider responsibilities. In this respect he seems somewhat like FM Montgomery, who isolated himself from reality surrounded by a group of young majors and captains, and ignored political direction. Hopefully President Obama will clean house, firing Gen. McChrystal and ALL his staff. I certainly don't want our Canadian troops serving under such a bunch of self centred jocks!

Posted by: kwbuggy | June 23, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

I am a career Army officer, now retired. I did not vote for Barack Obama in 2008, nor am I likely to in the next election. However, the President should have fired General McChrystal yesterday as soon as it became clear the facts were not in dispute and the general admitted his poor judgement. We cannot entrust a mission of this magnitude, or any mission for that matter, to an officer with poor judgment. Period. The President now only undermines his own command of the situation and our armed forces by dragging this situation out any further. There is no shortage of senior officers capable of commanding the mission in Afghanistan. What is the point of bringing General McChrystal to the White House; to grovel? To beg to keep his job? To show that the President is "remaining calm" and is "measured" in his response? The worst decision the President can possibly make at this point is to keep General McChrystal in command. He will forever lose what remaining confidence members of the Armed Forces have, if any, in the leadership ability of their Commander-in-Chief. The President needs now to act like a president, and not a community organizer. Not just this country, but the workd is watching.

Posted by: ecolivares2 | June 23, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

I really hope the culture in Gen. McChrystal's HQ hasn't spread down the ranks. I didn't read the Rolling Stone story and I'm a career civilian. But I know if the boss and his immediate posse have a bad, dismissive attitude toward their bosses and the tasks at hand, it can trickle down the line pretty fast all the way to the loading dock and the whole operation turns into Dunder Mifflin.
On a positive note, 'Vice President Joe Bite Me' will definitely stick with us.

Posted by: SoCal | June 23, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

This isn't the first time McChrystal has been hauled out on the carpet and if President Obama doesn't show him the door this time, he will never get respect from the rest of the brass.

McChrystal must go!

And if he fails to tender his resignation, the President should fire him, immediately.

Posted by: helloisanyoneoutthere | June 23, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Any service member who publicly disparages their superiors must be disciplined. The only possible discipline at this level is to relieve him of command.

What I don't understand is why "thebump" thinks it's idiotic to say that soldiers have to follow orders.

Do it, Mr. President. Harry Truman did it when he had to.

Posted by: ms_jenny_girl | June 23, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

He should be fired. He should never have given the interview. He should have given his opinion to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

That being said when he is fired the up side will be that we all now know we are in a lose lose situation. Afghanistan is no threat, lives and treasure are being wasted, just as they were in Vietnam. Sad!

Posted by: Billy1932 | June 23, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

well done, Ms Quinn, and to all apologists like Keith Olbermann who say he didn't say most of the stuff or he's indispensible, was it a coincidence everyone who was trashed disagreed with Gen McCrystal's tripling of troops the President went along with? Ungrateful, dumb, arrogant, not McCrystal, those who defend his right to run this war and as for us, let's get out Afghanistan now while we still can.

Posted by: rufkd | June 23, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Gen. Patton was repriminded many times because of his comments to the press during WWII. He was ordered by Eisenhauer to apologize in front of his whole command, he was evetually relieved of his command because of the politics that were rampant in the early 40s among the allies and he commented on them in front of the press.

Yet he was a warrior and knew how to prosecute a war and his resignation was never requested. Had it been, WWII may have taken a different disasterous course. He also had the respect of his men, something that is lacking of the Communist in Chief.

tomdeganfrontiernetnet stated:
"In 1951 at the height of the Korean War, MacArthur was advocating to the press - against the wishes of his commander-in-chef - extending the conflict by invading China. Had that happened it may have started World War III. Had the General had his way in 1951, we'd STILL be fighting in Korea."

Just in case you missed the memo, the Korean War never ended. Fighting ceased because of a truce which can be ignored by NK at anytime. In fact recent events has shown that is the case. MacArthur wanted to shut down China. Had he been allowed to, there most likely would be a unified Korea today and we wouldn't be faced with a rogue NK with potentially nuclear weapons. Was there a potetial for a conflict with USSR? Of course. That threat exists still today.

We should have engaged the USSR, as suggested by Patton, immediately after Germany and Japan surrendered. The USSR would have found it very difficult to confront the US since we were their prime supplier.

Posted by: captain3292 | June 23, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

LOL. Sally Quinn brings up her family -- again.

Posted by: brickerd | June 23, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

I don't agree with the argument here. Disrespect is a common problem in the military, for which the time-honored solution is to clearly assert the chain of command by obliging the insubordinate subordinate to abase themselves, typically with a punishment detail.

The question is not whether the general can show respect but whether he can follow orders. It's a simple question that the President should ask. If General McChrystal can carry out the plan, he should be able to say so. If not, he should be relieved of command.

I'm not impressed by the "thirty years of service"; if a younger commander can get the job done, they should be given the job. Certainly there are policy complications here. The job of the government and the military should be to protect the national security of the nation within the constraints of what is possible and practical. General McChrystal may be the wrong man for the job and the job may be very difficult, but sacrificing a scapegoat isn't going to change the stratetic situation. Someone has to figure out what's going on and then do what is needed. Media relations issues notwithstanding, if the general has the best understanding of the problem scope, he should be left to deal with it. (I don't know if he does or not.)

Posted by: lartfromabove | June 23, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I was appalled when McChrystal gave his speech in London trying to do an end-run around Obama to get what he wanted.

Now this.

So tired of generals tearing a president down whenever they don't get everything they want. In such cases, they call presidents wimps.

Come on, Obama. Re-establish the hierarchy of command principle that is essential for military effectiveness and for the effectiveness of your presidency.

Fire the idiot. Now.

Posted by: kim4 | June 23, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

I'm not going to disparage General McChrystal or his service because of the great and courageous things he has done.

But with respect to the general and his brilliant career, he should be relieved of his command. There is a chain of command and respect that must be followed from the top down and when that respect and order is not observed at the top, it can cause chaos throughout the ranks.

Posted by: playahatah | June 23, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Very well said.

Posted by: Macaholic | June 23, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

"Fire the idiot. Now."

For a second there I was certain you were talking about Sally Quinn. Then I figured naw, maybe you meant Obama. But no, you meant McChrystal! McChrystal is the brightest of the three, sadly. Let's fire the other two idiots first.

Posted by: charlesbakerharris | June 23, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Isn't sleeping with the boss a fireable offense too?


Posted by: chambers14 | June 23, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Gen. Patton was repriminded many times because of his comments to the press during WWII. He was ordered by Eisenhauer to apologize in front of his whole command, he was evetually relieved of his command because of the politics that were rampant in the early 40s among the allies and he commented on them in front of the press.

Yet he was a warrior and knew how to prosecute a war and his resignation was never requested. Had it been, WWII may have taken a different disasterous course. He also had the respect of his men, something that is lacking of the Communist in Chief.


One quibble: Patton was relieved of his command when he told a reporter that being a Nazi was no different than being a Democrat. Like GEN McChrystal, sometimes superiors can't let things like that stand.

Posted by: bbface21 | June 23, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

What about all of Obama's impeachable offenses?

Obama is the One—the one who should be removed from office for corruption and incompetence.

Posted by: Jerzy | June 23, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Excellent piece. It's unfortunate that those who never served in the military seem to offer the most vitriolic responses toward Obama and his duties as Commander in Chief. For those who served, as I did in the Marines, the responses most often echo your own: His comments were in direct violation of the UCMJ and he should be court-martialed accordingly.

It's also interesting to note that during the previous administration, those of us on the Left favored impeachment and trial to determine whether or not he and Cheney were guilty of treason and other offenses, but the Right, knowing the inevitable outcome, rejected our calls for Justice to have its day. With Obama, however, the vitriol is much more personal and biggoted in nature, with little appeal to either reason or fact.

Posted by: Byrd3 | June 23, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Byrd3: Your comments and observations are spot on. I was an advocate for a full throttle round up of these criminals and subsuquent prosecutions. The President, however, let these scumbags walk, and now they are free to continue to try to torment and tear him down. Moreover, the larger goal of the GOP is to try and regain the power of the pen at any cost, which is what this whole thing is really about. The Republicans simply want the power of the oval office to continue their agenda of dismantling government and privatizing everything that is not sacred or nailed down. These vitriolic attacks would probably be going on, regardless of the Democrat in power. The President, I am afraid, is not a natural born street fighter and he continually makes the same mistakes and assumes that he is dealing with rationale people when the evidence indicates otherwise. He may be right, in the long run and maybe these continual olive branch gestures towards the GOP may bear some fruit. I doubt it however. The GOP was absolutely power drunk for eight years and now they want the power that will allow them to again turn the public treasury into a personal feeding trough. The beast is very hungry, and he wants and needs to eat.

Posted by: ruthella10 | June 23, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

RE: "What about all of Obama's impeachable offenses?"
Which are...?

Posted by: EnemyOfTheState | June 23, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

There are two benefits from this whole sorry mess. The first is wider recognition of Rolling Stone's topnotch political reporting. The second is that it exposes the absurdity of the right wing today. We are all familiar with chain of command and the punishment for insubordination. I don't ever recall these iron-clad and necessary rules even being questioned until now. This is proof the right wing begins with hatred for Obama and works its way backward to baseless and ridiculous arguments.

Posted by: dnahatch1 | June 23, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Poor General McChrystal! With his bosses General David Petraeus and Admiral Mike Mullen as well as Defense secretary Gates justifying Pakistan’s ‘terrorist connections’, Mullah Mohammed Omar’s QST trail from Quetta to Kandahar is operating unimpeded.

McChrystal himself had warned about Pakistan’s sheltering of Taliban terrorists in his August 2009 report to Obama: Quetta Shura Taliban (QST) based in Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan, is the No. 1 threat to US/NATO mission in Afghanistan. At the operational level, the Quetta Shura conducts a formal campaign review each winter, after which Mullah Mohammed Omar (Afghan Taliban Chief) announces his guidance and intent for the coming year‘.

But US can not even use its drones to destroy QST that is causing daily deaths of US/NATO soldiers in Afghanistan since 2002! That shows Obama’s continuance of Bush’s mollycoddling of Pakistan.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates sought to justify Pakistan’s terrorist connections, alluding to a “deficit of trust” between Washington, DC and Islamabad. Mr Gates also said there was “some justification” for Pakistan's concerns about past American policies. Gen David Patraeus, rushed in with an apologia for his Pakistani friends, by claiming that while Faisal was inspired by militants in Pakistan, he did not necessarily have contacts with the militants. Both Adm Mike Mullen and Gen Patraeus fancy themselves to be “soldier statesmen” a la Gen Dwight Eisenhower. Adm Mullen has visited Pakistan 15 times and Gen Patraeus no less frequently. Both evidently have high opinions of their abilities to persuade Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to crack down on the Haqqani network in North Waziristan and the Taliban’s Mullah Omar-led Quetta Shura.

All American officers in southern Afghanistan know that they cannot prevail in the ongoing military operations, unless Taliban strongholds across the Durand Line in North Waziristan and Baluchistan are neutralized. Adm Mullen and Gen Patraeus evidently do not want to acknowledge that hard options have to be considered if their soldiers are not to die at the hands of radicals, armed and trained across the Durand Line.

With McChrystal’s hands tied by his bosses and Pakistani ISI financing Afghan Taliban insurgency from US financial aid as narrated by Matt Waldman on 6/13/2010 in a report titled 'The sun in the sky' published by London School Of Economics, US military’s Kandahar operation and Afghan mission is headed for failure.

Posted by: martymartel3 | June 23, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Quinn is spot on. The generalshouldn't have made it back to the White House. To do otherwise is to risk the ascendancy of the military in our system and that was the last thing our founding fathers wanted. Bring back the draft so everyone has a stake in these adventures.

Posted by: CAMM1 | June 23, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the article. The general has no business critizing the commander-in-chief in a public forum. That is insubordination. He can voice his concerns in a private manner, and if he disagrees strongly enough, should resign in protest.

I give you former USAF Chief of Staff Gen Fogleman who resigned after the Khobar bombing when the Pentagon was looking for a scapegoat..

While I don't feel that this is a court martial offence, he should be fired for his public comments along with those of his staff who were involved as well. No military person has the right to openly critize the President in a public forum and not suffer the consequences.

Posted by: dachief1 | June 23, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

She's right on this issue.

Posted by: NotClyde | June 23, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

The general shot himself in the foot. I don't think the president had much choice for precisely the reasons SQ stated. In addition to dishonoring the office of the president of the United States (no matter who occupies that position), he dishonored himself. The example he set for all levels of military personnel is deplorable. He is entitled to his personal feelings. But he showed loss of control (and a huge ego) because he couldn't control himself. He didn't show leadership.

Too bad - he sounds like a h*ll of a warrior. But he's responsible for his words and actions.

Posted by: itsagreatday1 | June 23, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

If you have ever been in the military you would understand chain of command and taking orders, whether you liked it or not. McChrystal seems to have forgotten that, as well as his aides, all of whom are career officers. There is no excuse. And to the reader named "Bump", you obviously have never served in the military. Just another armchair warrior who talks the talk but has never walked the walk. No different from Bush, Cheney and all the rest that avoided military service and then plays Gen. Patton from the safety of their confines.

Graduate Massanutten Military Academy 67'
U.S. Army 1968-1971

Posted by: jrussell1 | June 23, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Fired? Hah! How about some time in the stockade? An enlisted man who said what he said publicly about his CO would be cooling his heels for a few weeks.

Posted by: joebanks | June 23, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Excellent. I agree. Thank you.

Posted by: martymar123 | June 23, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Obama just drove the final nail in the coffin that is the American 'war' effort in Afganistan. I put 'war' in quotes because we haven't fought a legally DECLARED 'war' since WWII thanks to our gutless congress and corrupt POTUS !

We have been in Afganistan longer than Viet Nam and it is clear we are 'winning' nothing but a big hole in our national budget!

Posted by: killerm1 | June 23, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Although my inclination was to keep McChrystal on a short leash, the comments from ex-military personnel convinced me that Obama did the right thing in removing him from command. It is clear that the military mind would have interpreted any action short of firing an act of weakness that would have
led to total loss of respect, and that is something no president can afford. Replacing McChrystal with Petreaus was probably the best move Obama could have made and shows he is one who carefully weighs the consequences of his actions.

Posted by: serban1 | June 23, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Sally Quinn?

Posted by: chatard | June 23, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

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