Good Bye, McChrystal. Good Luck, Petraeus. “Thank You”, Obama- by Shiraz Paracha

The U.S President Barak Hussein Obama has removed a senior general who made mockery of the civilian leadership and democracy while talking to a reporter. The general was fired within 48 hours after the President learnt about the general’s remarks.

By dismissing a senior general, young Obama has sent a clear message to reckless men in Khaki that the military answers to civilian leadership. This incident reaffirmed the principal that democratically elected representatives should be in control, not generals and judges.

The disgraced head of the U.S military in Afghanistan General Stanley A. McChrystal used the media to disagree with his supreme commander, the President of the United States.

General McChrystal expressed his doubts about the Obama Administration’s ability to deal with Afghanistan in an interview to Rolling Stone magazine. Rolling Stone is a Bi-weekly U.S magazine that focuses on music, popular culture and politics.

When Michael Hastings, a reporter of the magazine, visited Afghanistan, General McChrystal and his colleagues spoke to the reporter openly about the inabilities of President Obama’s team.

The question is whether the men in uniform did it because of their disrespect for politicians and the elected president? Or may be they did not think the magazine was a serious publication since it dealt with music and popular culture.

The interview was to be published on Friday 25 June but Rolling Stone editorial team demonstrated professionalism when it sent a copy to General McChrystal’s press office for fact checking. That was when the general realized what he had done. Most generals think afterwards.

President Obama, too, was provided with an advance copy of the Rolling Stone magazine article on Monday 22nd of June. The President asked the Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, to call the general to Washington from Kabul. On Wednesday, General McChrystal met the President at the White House for 30 minutes and when he left the White House he was no more the Commander of the U.S troops in Afghanistan.

After the meeting President Obama said: “The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general,” the President said. “It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system.”

Whether the U.S can win the war in Afghanistan and if Obama will be able to clear the mess that was created by his predecessor George W. Bush is yet to be seen. But Obama is facing pressure from all sides since becoming the President. Republicans portrayed him as a dangerous socialist when Obama introduced his health reform bill. It was a small step towards bringing some equality to the United States where the rich have become richer and the poor have been ignored and pushed further down.

The gap between a few rich and a large number of poor in the United States has reached the alarming level. Ordinary Americans have been severely hit by the economic crisis and unemployment is increasing. But it seems that politicians, big businesses and the mainstream U.S media do not care about the poor. They are not interested to find the causes of America’s troubles. They do not offer honest solutions because by doing so they will have to change attitudes and policies, and the ruling elites in the U.S are not ready for such a change. The resistance to Obama’s health reform was so strong that the President was forced to water down the health reforms in order to protect interests of the powerful.

Obama’s campaign against fat cats in big businesses and his criticism of the CEOs’ bonuses earned him even more enemies. He is also having hard time while dealing with irresponsible and careless oil industry. Following the huge oil leak in the Mexican Gulf, when the Obama Administration announced a ban on deep sea oil drilling, he became a target of latest attacks from the oil industry and its supporters in the Republican Party. On the other hand, those who are affected by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico due to the collapse of a British Petroleum oil rig also blame the President for doing nothing to stop the oil disaster.

Obama’s policy towards Israel is controversial, too. The Jewish lobby and other stakeholders in the U.S foreign policy have forced Obama to ease the pressure on Israel regarding the construction of new settlements in the occupied Palestinian lands. However, Obama’s continuous criticism of Israeli policies has ringed bills in the power houses of the United States. Despite his public support of Israel and his assurances to the Jewish lobby, Obama is increasingly seen as the first post war U.S President who is not friendly to Israel.

President Obama also is accused of having a soft corner towards Iran because he has refused to follow the Israeli line on Iran. Instead of confrontation with Iran, Obama is interested in a dialogue. Recently, Turkey, a close ally of the U.S, has been active in opening new channels to negotiate with Iran. Israel and the Jewish lobby in the United States are not comfortable with the Turkey’s new role that can provide Obama an opportunity to engage with Iran and the wider Muslim world.

In fact, President Obama was not very supportive of sending more troops to Afghanistan but General McChrystal wanted a surge in troops in Afghanistan so he kept the pressure. An expert in psychological warfare, General McChrystal even used media leaks that suggested that Obama Administration was not listening to commanders on the ground in Afghanistan.  The Afghan Government may support General McChrystal because under his command the number of civilian casualties in the NATO attacks had gone down and McChrystal was careful in dealing with local population. However, one must not forget that General McChrystal believed in the use of force. Unlike Obama, the General wanted a longer and deeper military engagement in Afghanistan. He belonged to a school of thought that believes in total control and military solution. His successor General David Petraeus is the same. He was a favorite commander of the neo-con U.S President George W. Bush. General Petraeus has a PhD in psychology so his methods would be a little different. He may also effectively apply divide and rule tactics and play with Afghan minds but the imperialist ideology behind his strategy will remain the same.

Old god fathers of the Republic Party and former military generals are portraying Obama as an inexperienced and immature President. They imply that Obama is a disaster for the U.S long-term foreign policy goals. Obliviously, President Obama disagrees with that view.

The removal of General McChrystal could be the sign of a bigger conflict that is going on within the US establishment over the approach, strategy and even in the ideological direction of the U.S foreign and domestic policies under the Obama Administration. Barak Hussein Obama was sent to the White House in the name of change but now it appears that the change is resisted from within the US establishment and by the US establishment. In other words, peoples’ decision is not respected in the world’s most powerful democracy. It can be a symptom of a larger issue—-the US democracy itself.

Shiraz Paracha is an international journalist. His email address is:



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