“When it come to makin’ da rules, NUTHIN’ is understood!”

From WAPO, as if this makes a bit of difference:

Rolling Stone broke interview ground rules with McChrystal, military officials say


Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 25, 2010; 4:24 PM

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal has made no public comment since President Obama relieved him of his Afghan war command Wednesday, silently taking his lumps for disparaging remarks he and his aides made about administration officials in the presence of a reporter from Rolling Stone magazine.

But the command has concluded from its own review of events that McChrystal was betrayed when the journalist quoted banter among the general and his staff, much of which they thought was off the record. They contend that the magazine inaccurately depicted the attribution ground rules for the interviews.

Read the rest here. But it seems to be a post mortem of “how stupid could we be?” And still the point is missed. It isn’t that the disparaging of the General’s seniors was done on the record, the issue is that it was done AT ALL!

The General is quite fortunate that neither he nor any of his staff has been charged under Article 88.

Who knows? Maybe he can eat fifty eggs….



It seems the common question regarding this entire affair is “why”? Why did General McChrystal agree to such an interview/embed? Why did he find nothing objectionable when previewing the article? What did he hope to accomplish with such a commentary?

In discussions with a friend who deals daily with issues involving the “new social media”, blogging, Twitter, Tweet, non-traditional media sources (of which RSM could definitely be considered one), the phrase used that seemed to sum up such a major faux pas was this:

Old dudes trying to be hip.

Senior officers trying to embrace and use these new and wide-open forms of social media to accomplish traditional messaging tasks. Without understanding that these social media exist and are so popular and powerful precisely because there is very little control and exchanges are free and unregulated, with all of the good and bad inherent in such a platform. A blog ain’t a replacement for skillful strategic messaging. One might reach the intended audience, but will also reach everybody else, whose subsequent input, comment, distortion, agenda, and legitimate alternate viewpoints will dilute or even destroy the precise effects intended.

Sounds like my friend has something there. What does the MILBLOG mafia think? Was Sagst du?

Posted by UltimaRatioReg in Army, Foreign Policy, Homeland Security

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  • The page loaded.

    I saw the pic.

    I knew who the post author was.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    What’re you tryin’ to say, Maggie?

  • Charley

    Yup, it was the Rolling Stone for God’s sake.

  • you covered the crux of the issue with the statement “old dudes trying to be hip.”

  • Byron

    I’m not so sure. When I first heard the story (admittedly, while on vacation and only heard bits and pieces as I was seriously out of the loop, and wanted it that way)the first thing I thought was, “Wonder if McCrystal really wanted out of this goat rope, and figured he could kill two birds with one stone?”. Since none of us have a pipeline inside the 3 and 4 star offices, I suspect no one will ever know.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    I’m not sure either. Nobody is. I would give a bottle of Johnny Walker Black for twenty minutes of honest answers in a sound-proof room with the General.

  • A bottle of Johnny Walker Black????

    Speaking as the General’s agent, you will need to seriously up that ante.

    *note* he only just hired me…otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation “Maggie, should I give an interview to RS?” “Sir, that’s a bad idea.”

  • UltimaRatioReg

    If only he’d have listened to Maggie.

    So many of the world’s problems would be solved by that simple expedient!!!!


    Not to put to fine a point on it, but you really should read ART88 again. The only two lines in the entire Rolling Stones Article that could be considered to be considered to fall under the article are these two:
    “Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal says with a laugh. “Who’s that?”

    “Biden?” suggests a top adviser. “Did you say: Bite Me?”

    Ignoring the fact that it would be very hard to argue that either comment was, in fact contemptuous, especially given the background (rehearsing responses to possible questions (although it was probably meant that way)), from MCM description of ART88, “Similarly, expressions of opinion made in a purely private conversation should not ordinarily be charged.”

    Kind of hard to argue that a conversation between a general and his staff rehearsing possible questions before a speech is anything less than private. Of course, it also might explain the comments about the RS reporter violating the ground rules.

    Other comments about the NSA, Ambassedors, or others are not covered by ART88. So stupid, yes, but you would be real hard pressed to get a conviction for ART88. Being fired on the other hand, is much easier.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Entirely disagree that any conversation between a commander and his staff is “private” in that it is not official conversation in the line of duty. If those “private” conversations had been seditious or mutinous, they would be prosecutable offenses, same here.

    Were a JAGMAN to be opened, all of the transcripts that the RS reporter may have written down or recorded of each and every conversation between General McChrystal and any member of his command would be potential evidence.

    A commander makes no “private” statements to members of his command while executing his duties.


    I will disagree. First, only the two lines about possible questions concerning the vice president is a possible ART88 offence. ART88 is limited to specific positions, or in the case of Congress, the specific organization. I can make contemptuous remarks about a specific Congressman, just not Congress as an institution. Anyone not listed specifically in ART88 is free game.

    Internal deliberations of the staff would always be considered private unless it was specifically meant to be public. By your standard, every deliberation say, for performance ranking of personnel, would be public. Your statement that “If those “private” conversations had been seditious or mutinous…” is true but irrelevant. Private statements that are seditious or mutinous are prosecutable, where as contemptuous statements are not. Read the article.

    Further, are the two statements contemptuous? Given the context, I am not sure you could make a legal case.

    “Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal says with a laugh. “Who’s that?”
    How exactly does this qualify as being contemptuous? He is making a joke about the possibility of being asked a question, but does he show scorn or disrespect to the individual? That would be a pretty uphill battle in court.

    Just because something was unacceptable behaviour does not mean that it is prosecutable behaviour. In this case, I believe you would have a difficult time prosecuting for ART88. I am not defending the staff or the general nor am I arguing that firing him was not the right action, it was. I am merely pointing out you would face a significant uphill battle to take any legal action. Being stupid or an “old dude trying to be hip” is not grounds for a Court Martial.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    I understand you aren’t defending the actions of General McChrystal or his staff.

    But we will have to disagree that any statements a commander makes to his staff or anyone in his command while executing his/her duties would ever be “private”. The two statements you refer to regarding the VP would be more than enough in the eyes of many a CA to open a JAGMAN. And if these were the remarks that made it into print (and possibly grounds for punishment under 88) what other statements/comments would an investigation find?

  • Half a bottle of Johnny Walker Red nearly killed me, alone in my room the DC Sheraton, after I out-processed from the Academy in 1965. Fortunately, it was all soon jettisoned.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    I am sure how Gen McCrystal went down the primrose path to ignominius failure is complicated and irresistably fascinating to the sort of academic who spends a lifetime on the internal politics of the court of Byzantium.

    The central question is why did such a smart man make such a dumb mistake. As usual, there is no answer.

    Command is like that. Chancy. In the words of Sarah Conner: “There is no safe place.”

    Maybe he wasn’t as great as he was cracked up to be. Maybe he was. Reporters are kind like IED’s. Equally lethal to anybody who comes along.

    Doesn’t matter. He goofed and he’s done. So is Rolling Stone, as far as access to Flag and General officers is concerned.

    The reporter gets filed somewhere between the guys who got Yamamoto, the sentry who shot Mickey Marcus, and the pilot who flew RADM Lockwood’s (WWII COMSUBPAC) predecessor’s airplane into a cloud full of rocks. Only time will tell how badly the train has been derailed, if at all.

    It does kind of feel like rubbernecking at a single vehicle accident on a mountain road at this point, but this is early on.

    The young’uns can look forward to reading the blow by blow in about 30 or forty years.

    If they are interested in the opening phases of the 30 years counter jihad.


    Obviously we disagree on the meaning of private. From a legal standpoint, I believe there are numerous circumstance where a conversation between a commander and his staff would be considered private and joking while reheasing answers to possible questions to a speech in a hotel room in Paris is one of them. Perhaps not good leadership, but not criminal. Additionally, as the remarks appear to be intended to be a humerous referrence to the flap over the previous Chaosistan remarks, not an attack on the VP, I am not really sure you can consider them contemptuous unless you just don’t have a sense of humor. Was there ever a personal reference to the VP beyond his name? Any reference to his ability or his fitness for office? Any display of personal scorn or disdain? You could argue the jokes were in poor taste, but contemptuous? Given the context of the comments, historical precedent, the desire to avoid the appearance of a witch hunt, and the virtual impossibility to get a conviction, I doubt any GCMCA would want to touch it with a 10ft pole.

    Firing him was the right action but not because something he did was criminal but because he was stupid or failed at trying to be hip. Wasting time on some witch hunt trying to prove that being stupid or un-hip is somehow also criminal is just compounding the error.

    I will agree to disagree and leave it at that.


    Of note, clearly ART88 needs to be updated with the Secretary of Homeland Security replaceing the Secretary of Transportaion in the statute.

  • shkval2

    After I read the article the only thought I had was, “He WANTED to get fired”.