"It's Fun to Shoot Some People"
By BRIAN CLOUGHLEY
The recently sacked US commander in Afghanistan, McChrystal, was a special forces freak who was complicit in or actually caused the cloak-and-dagger deaths of an unknown number of people. He and his knuckle-dragging rabble were and are unaccountable to either man or morality. They kill at will.
McChrystal came to recent notice because his juvenile bar-room insults about his superiors were made public. This was one thing McChrystal couldn’t slime his way out of, but in the past he proved himself genius quality when defending himself after being deceitful.
Mary Tillman, the mother of Corporal Pat Tillman who was killed in what was eventually called a ‘friendly fire’ tragedy in Afghanistan, wrote a book called ‘Boots on the Ground by Dusk’ which provides insight as to how some members of the US military covered up unpalatable truth and cast aside all principle. McChrystal figured big in this sordid saga.
At the time of Pat Tillman’s death on April 24, 2004, McChrystal was the head of Special Operations in Afghanistan. He approved the award of a Silver Star to Tillman for heroism.
There was no doubt that Pat Tillman, a mega-tough football star and a really great guy, was a hero. He stood up in a hail of machine gun fire from a bunch of panic-stricken, ill-trained, incompetent US soldiers and bellowed at them to stop shooting at their own comrades. But they carried on firing and shot him dead.
Rumsfeld’s Pentagon needed a national hero in 2004. It wanted a story to deflect domestic and world attention from the Abu Ghraib torture revelations that were hitting the media. Some of the hideous treatment of scores of Iraqis by a bunch of slavering US psychotics had been recorded for posterity (although we haven’t seen half the repulsive pictures because politicians, including Hillary Clinton, forbade release of the worst ones), and Washington was desperate to deflect attention from the horrible disclosures.
The cock-and-bull story about special forces’ gallantry in the so-called ‘rescue’ of Jessica Lynch in Iraq was a squalid invention conjured up to grab headlines, in which it succeeded, and the death of Pat Tillman presented a similar opportunity. His Silver Star citation read in part that “Corporal Tillman put himself in the line of devastating enemy fire,” which was a trumped-up yarn concerning an own-forces’ clash that everyone involved knew had happened. And McChrystal was promoted major general nine days after his Corporal was killed.
Eventually, when it was no longer possible to maintain deceit, there had to be an inquiry, so McChrystal appeared in front of the usual smug and supportive bunch of politicians who hung on his words and didn’t give him the tongue-lashing he deserved. Senator McCain asked him about the falsified award recommendation and McChrystal replied that
“Now, what happens, in retrospect, is – and I would do this differently if I had the chance again – in retrospect they look contradictory, because we sent a Silver Star that was not well-written. And although I went through the process, I will tell you now I didn't review the citation well enough to capture – or I didn't catch that if you read it you could imply that it was not friendly fire.”
This was insolently confusing nonsense. Apart from the fact that in his ignorance he meant ‘infer’ rather than ‘imply’, the statement that the citation was “not well-written” was devious and intended to draw attention from the fact that it was a lie from beginning to end.
The Silver Star is awarded to a member of the US Army who has displayed gallantry “in action against an enemy of the United States while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force.”
Was McChrystal unaware of the terms of the award recommendation that he signed? Is it possible he didn’t know that the American victim of killing by US soldiers, however gallant he had been, did not meet the criterion of being involved in “conflict with an opposing foreign force”?
The man is a lying charlatan, unlike an unfortunately honest senior officer in the US army in recent times, one Major General Mario Taguba, who was tasked to investigate the sadistic atrocities at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
General Taguba was ordered to head the investigation because his senior officers and the Pentagon thought he would be compliant. He wasn’t one of the Club. He was of Philippines origin (his father fought at Bataan, survived the ensuing Death March, and escaped captivity to fight again; a true hero), and achieved general rank by displaying great competence. But competence isn’t enough in the US military system. Or in any country’s military system.
Ambitious military officers have to display conformity and compliance if they want to succeed and go onwards and upwards. Adherence to shifting political thinking is essential for advancement, and in this they are helped by bands of sycophantic toadies whom they handpick for their staffs. The McChrystal mob of lickspittle flunkies were typical of the breed and told their boss what he wanted to hear, which, by chance of inverse intention, helped cause his well-deserved disgrace.
When the political spin doctors of Washington – or Berlin, London, Delhi, Moscow, Beijing, or any capital, indeed – dictate that a particular line is to be adopted by the military, then that Line is Law. It isn’t Constitutional legal law, of course; but it’s much more easily enforceable. And the penalties for ignoring the political party line are harsher than those awarded for what the rest of us might imagine to be graver crimes.
In May 2004 Major General Taguba produced his findings on the Abu Ghraib outrages, writing that “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees.” He apportioned blame. So he was immediately posted to the Office of Reserve Affairs, which in any army is a professional graveyard.
He was then insulted face-to-face by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and humiliated by senior officers who jumped on the official bandwagon of Taguba-denigration, and told that he and his Report would be “investigated.” His treatment was proclamation to the entire military system that any officer who wants to rise to senior rank in the Profession of Arms should not upset the cradle of promotion by revealing uncomfortable truth. The cradle might rock (who remembers that great Broadway Show?), and truth can be manipulated.
In 2006 General Taguba was ordered to retire, and the army lost a loyal, decent, honorable and truthful officer. But the Pentagon doesn’t seem to want too many truthful officers who are loyal to the Constitution. It favors officers who are loyal to the Pentagon. Which brings us to General James Mattis, a Marine described by Defense Secretary Gates as “one of our military’s outstanding combat leaders and strategic thinkers.”
He was speaking of a man who in 2001 boasted that “The Marines have landed, and we now own a piece of Afghanistan,” which is one of the most stupid comments made by any general in recent years. If Mattis, the supposed “strategic thinker”, believed his words about “owning” a part of the country would be a positive contribution to US policy as regards Afghanistan, then he is a fool. If he spoke without thinking, then he is a fool. But being a fool doesn’t affect promotion, so long as you go the Pentagon way ; and Mattis went onwards and upwards.
Then in 2005, when the Afghanistan quagmire was becoming deeper, Mattis spoke in San Diego about the war and how it should be fought. His words were recorded by CNN as
Actually it's quite fun to fight them, you know. It's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up there with you. I like brawling . . . You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.
This stupid man has been placed in command of all troops in Afghanistan. His troops know he believes it is “fun to shoot some people” and who could blame them for acting accordingly, given such guidance? The stage is set for more of a “hell of a fun to shoot them”.
The insurgents’ propagandists know about Mattis, too. And they will spread the word that the new foreign occupation general thinks they have “no manhood”, which is the ultimate insult to a tribesman of any persuasion.
Although the consequences of the words of General Mattis can never be measured, it is obvious they are unbalanced to the point of being psychopathic. The man’s crass and barbaric tirade is not only alarming from the aspect of animal rabble-rousing, it demonstrates that the Pentagon appoints some extremely peculiar people to senior rank and command.
A person who believes that it is “a hell of a hoot” to kill people is seriously demented. The fact that such a person has been appointed to a major US military command is alarming, to put it mildly. But a country gets the military leaders it deserves. It’s a pity that some are psychotic morons.
Brian Cloughley’s website is www.beecluff.com