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Today General Stanley McChrystal appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee to discuss his appointment as the senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan. The New York Times has published an editorial asking the essential questions that should be put to the general. His appearance will provide a good opportunity to gauge both the general and the ability of members of the Senate to do their duty of oversight. Here’s the Times:
Special Operations task forces operated in secret, outside the normal military chain of command and with minimal legal accountability, especially during the years Donald Rumsfeld ran the Pentagon. General McChrystal’s command substantially overlaps this troubled period. In 2004, for example, a Special Operations unit converted one of Saddam Hussein’s former torture centers near Baghdad into its own secret interrogation cell, where detainees were subjected to a range of physical and psychological abuses. This was not an isolated incident. In 2006, The Times reported on field outposts set up by Special Operations units in Baghdad, Falluja, Balad, Ramadi and Kirkuk where detainees were stripped naked and subjected to simulated drowning.
As Andrew Sullivan reminds us, some soldiers claimed that McChrystal had promised that those engaged in the misconduct would be shielded from investigations and accountability. If true, this makes the results of the Defense Department’s internal probes more troubling. But these are all points which should be covered very carefully with the general during his appearance.
What the United States has undertaken in Afghanistan is a classic counter-insurgency operation where the image of the U.S. and its military project is essential to the ultimate success of the mission. Treatment of prisoners is a key element in the overall plan, and on this point the unanswered questions of the last six years continue to mount.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm
Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Flor Arely Sánchez had been in bed with a fever and pains throughout her body for three days when a July thunderstorm broke over the mountainside. She got nervous when bolts of light flashed in the sky. Lightning strikes the San Julián region of western El Salvador several times a year, and her neighbors fear storms more than they fear the march of diseases — first dengue, then chikungunya, now Zika. Flor worried about a lot of things, since she was pregnant.
Late in the afternoon, when the pains had somewhat eased, Flor thought she might go to a dammed-up bit of the river near her house to bathe. She is thirty-five and has lived in the same place all her life, where wrinkled hills are planted with corn, beans, and fruit trees. She took a towel and soap and walked out into the rain. Halfway to the river, the pains returned and overcame her. The next thing Flor remembers, she was in a room she didn’t recognize, unable to move. As she soon discovered, she was in a hospital, her ankle cuffed to the bed, and she was being investigated for abortion.
Average duration of a Japanese prime minister’s tenure since August 1993, in months:
Brain shrinkage has no effect on cognition.
An Indianapolis fertility doctor was accused of using his own sperm to artificially inseminate patients, and a Delaware man pleaded guilty to fatally stabbing his former psychiatrist.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”