Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Runaway News

"We need every swinging dick in the field. You know that.” - Sgt. Barnes

Well, it’s been a big, big week for news. From Rolling Stone articles about “Runaway Generals” to our own scathing editorials here in Canada about “Runaway Spies”, there was almost too much news to adequately digest.

In between reading news about the Korean War anniversary and the fortress Toronto fiasco, I spent a good deal of time wading through Michael Hastings piece on General Stanley McChrystal, and devoted roughly the same amount of time reading up on CSIS chief Richard Fadden.

In total, I have skimmed though 19 editorials and 39 news reports on the McChrystal incident, while also reading 9 op-ed’s and a few other articles about our outspoken CSIS chief.

Yeah, I know what your thinking...I have too much time on my hands and maybe I should start a career or something instead. You’re right.

Truth of the matter is, I couldn’t help myself. For reporters, wannabe journos and news junkies everywhere, this last week was off the charts. To think that an entertainment magazine could engineer the sacking of a U.S. Army commander, during war time no less, or that a normally secretive and relatively unknown spook like Richard Fadden would inform CBC that some of our politicians were being controlled by foreign powers - well, it’s almost surreal.
Many are cheering over Obama’s firing of McChrystal and are equally jubilant about the impending downfall of our secret police boss, but I’m getting that “devils advocate” feeling again.

After reading the McChrystal piece the first time, and coming to grips with my sense of awe over Michael Hastings journalistic prowess (it really was a great read), I went over it again with a more critical eye. In all, I counted only 25 quotes (see here) directly attributable to McChrystal, the rest were quotes from the Generals advisers (many unnamed), classmate's, his wife, critic's, and a whopping number of assertions or opinions by Hastings.

Assuming we should not hold the good general responsible for what others say about him, but only what he himself has uttered, and assuming that his quotes were not taken out of context or otherwise manipulated, I came up with only 5 or 6 short quotes, more like snippets, that could be considered even remotely “controversial” or "derogatory" towards Obama and his administration.

Now, it seems to me that if I were Obama (and not blogger extraordinaire, hippie wannabe, non-president, Steve, who opposes the war) , I would want to have a little chat with the opinionated General, but the question is, would I fire him over the aforementioned remarks? Personally, I wouldn’t think so, or at least that’s my perspective as an armchair president. I would certainly rip McChrystal a “new one” regardless of any other consideration, although I'm not sure if I would be adequate for the job as Obama or if presidents can even do that.

In any event, I wouldn’t fire the guy. I would also ask him to discipline his big mouthed subordinates and I would make a big show of having McChrystal apologize and scurry around in front of the White House press corps, but I would keep him on the job, albeit with a tighter leash.

Now, before anyone accuses me of being an imperialist war monger, make no mistake, I think the AFPAK occupation is illegal, just like the Iraq invasion was, and neither war should ever have happened in the first place. But we are talking about Obama here, and from his perspective, he wants to continue the occupation and hopefully secure some level of success before he brings the troops home.

Doing that without McChrystal won’t be impossible, as General “Nerd with a Ranger tab” Petraeus helped write the COIN play book McChrystal was following, but just like the fictional Sergeant Barnes realized during his war, Obama needs all the help he can get to prosecute his stupid war and mitigate the disaster that is AFPAK, and losing a bright mind like McChrystal will not help that effort in the least.

From some of what I’ve read, I take it that McChrystal is tough a nails, super intelligent and a good combat leader, although many of the rank and file are questioning the COIN strategy and rules of engagement which hamper their efforts to “get their gun on”, in favor of protecting civilians.

I guess you could say McChrystal seems to be the Richard Marcinko , AKA Rogue Warrior, of his generation and if I were Obama, I would want a man like that hunting and killing things on my behalf.

Maybe I’m wrong about McChrystal and he’s more like “Pinky de Turd”, Marcinko’s former boss and arch nemesis who was super fit, looked great in a navy outfit complete with lots of medals, but was nothing short of useless as a “knuckle dragger”.

All in all, I have to wonder what prompted Obama to allow McChrystal's resignation. Was it pure political optics, did McChrystal himself want to bow out before things get ugly for the history books (doing what he accuses U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry of doing - protecting his "flank", which might explain why he started running his mouth in the first place) or perhaps he decided to fall on his sword to protect his subordinates, who Obama may have been hunting for. Then again, maybe he's planning to run for office himself in 2012? Who knows, who cares, I just think its weird that’s all.

If Obama had denounced McChrystal's COIN strategy and therefore decided not to appoint one of it's key architect's as his replacement, I might understand his reasoning. COIN may be doomed to fail, although it's hard to see what type of direction would succeed at this point, so if Obama had a better strategy in mind and chose someone outside of the "COINdinista" crowd, than that would make some sense at least.

As for the other big news story, the wayward CSIS spy boss who came out of the cold, I will risk losing my Zcommunications profile space, by saying Richard Fadden was probably right about his allegations. Of course, I question his motives (in particular the timing of his announcement), do not necessarily support his actions and I deplore any racist backlash his allegations might promote, but in a strictly factual sense, he was probably correct.

Furthermore, If I have to choose between trusting politicians like B.C. premier Gordon Campbell, who expressed outrage at Fadden's candid assessments, or a professional spook, I will go with the spook.

To be frank, I stand opposed to the ugly side of U.S. foreign policy (past, present and future, with few exceptions), and I detest how Canada trots along after "big brother Yankee" under our runaway Prime Minister Stephen Harper. I also think that neo-liberal capitalism should be replaced by a system of participatory economics (PARECON for short) or some other more sensible system that values people over profit and abandons the absurd notion that infinite growth is possible on a finite planet.

I think a lot of other ‘crazy’ things too, but I have no illusions about how corporate, political and military elite's of other nations, like China or Russia for instance, operate. For example, if you think its bad here in Canada for freedom of Speech, try being a dissenting journalist in Russia. Ruthlessness and cunning, the hallmarks of espionage, are not the sole domain of any single nation state.

I may rant and rave about our government, but that is because I’m Canadian and it makes more sense for me to discuss what my own leaders are up to, or what the U.S. is doing (as they pretty much run the show) and even try to influence their behavior, than it does to point fingers at North Korea or Iran for example, while safely ensconced behind Canadian borders.

I have no doubt in my mind that foreign intelligence services conduct operations in Canada, just like we do outside of our borders. I also think there exists several
nations, groups and individuals who may wish to spy, influence and/or inflict harm on Canada's populace and systems of governance. Not limited too but including the U.S. for starters. So therefore I think Fadden is correct about foreign influence in general, although I have no clue about the veracity of his claims against the individuals he reportedly suspects but does not name.

In that case, I support efforts to protect our nation, but the trick is to avoid fueling racism or causing divisions within our multicultural society, while making sure that our national security apparatus does not seek to squelch dissent or maintain “social control” in the name of national security, which they are currently doing. If you need any evidence of that, take a trip to downtown Toronto this weekend and find out for yourself.

Just please don’t mention my name when some goon with a badge demands to know why you’re tresspassing on corporate land :-)

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