General Stanley McChrystal was the main liar in the Pat Tillman cover-up. General William Wallace headed one of the five official inquiries into the death and subsequent cover-up. Wallace recommended that McChrystal be disciplined for for misleading and impeding investigators. McChrystal should also have been disciplined—more commonly called court martialed—for his authorship of the Tillman Silver Star citation and the cable to CentCom General Abizaid about the Tillman death and what the president might say about it.

Instead of being disciplined, McChrystal was promoted—twice—from two stars to three then four. And he was given the most sought-after job in the Army: Commander in Afghanistan. I wrote an article titled “Is military integrity a contradiction in terms?” and said the answer was yes. The contrast between what the Army should have done to McChrystal an what they did do proves my point more eloquently than anything else I could have put in that article.

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Having reminded everyone of McChrystal’s lack of integrity and the lack of integrity of those who promoted him—Petraeus and Gates—I now move on to discuss two McChrystal policies.

Avoiding hurting civilians top priority

McChrystal has issued a policy that “orders U.S. and NATO forces [henceforth] to break away from fights with militants hiding in Afghan houses so the battles do not kill civilians.”

This just in: Taliban and al Qaeda fighters have just ordered their fighters to only fight Americans from houses with civilians in them. Henceforth, all Taliban and al Qaeda IED and small arms squads will include two civilians who will carry, and erect where needed, a portable house.

Civilian death history

You need a little history of civilian casualties in war to understand where we now are and how we got here. Prior to World War II, civilian casualties were avoided by the civilians getting out of the way. Civilians doing that were called refugees.

As militaries became more efficient at killing and wounding people, nations became more concerned about the deaths of civilians during wars. For example, 45 million Allied civilians and 4 million Axis civilians died during World War II (compared to 16 million Allied civilian personnel and 8 million Axis military personnel).

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the world was horrified an the civilian deaths and some rules were adopted to prevent a recurrence of unnecessary civilian war deaths.

The Nuremburg Charter defined war crimes as follows:

War crimes: violations of the laws and customs of war. A list follows with, inter alia, murder, ill-treatment or deportation into slave labour or for any other purpose of the civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, the killing of hostages, the plunder of public or private property, the wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity. [Emphasis added]

The Fourth Geneva Convention says,

Article 3 states that even where there is not a conflict of international character the parties must as a minimum adhere to minimal protections described as: noncombatants, members of armed forces who have laid down their arms, and combatants who are hors de combat (out of the fight) due to wounds, detention, or any other cause shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, with the following prohibitions:
(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation
, cruel treatment and torture;
[Emphasis added] (Note: the Geneva Convention only applies when both the occupying military force and the occupied country are signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention)

International law and the laws of war are murky and not generally agreed upon by all nations. But the general tone is thou shallt not hurt civilians unnecessarily.

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Military forces have generally also obeyed another rule: thou shallt return fire when fired upon. American military have usually tried to avoid civilians dying in resulting crossfires. In some cases, U.S. personnel have risked or lost their lives trying to save civilians. I read of one incident, apparently one of many similar incidents, where an Iraqi child, presumably 9 or 10 years old, deliberately walked into the American position during a firefight and began hand-signaling to the Iraqi fighters the number and locations of the American soldiers. The Americans took no action because of his age. I would have shot him dead, or at least I would hope I would have done that.

I think there needs to be a third rule: civilians will do everything in their power to flee the area of a firefight.

Military priorities

The U.S. military has long has these two priorities:

1. Accomplishment of the mission
2. welfare of the men

In that order.

The rule about avoiding civilian casualties would be third. McChrystal’s new rule seems to make avoiding civilian casualties the first priority.

I am well aware of the current prevailing wisdom that protecting the civilian populace is paramount in counterinsurgency. But I think that still comes third after accomplishment of the mission and welfare of the American troops.

Not a military mission

If McChrystal’s policy is the right one, then we need to remove almost all U.S. military personnel from Afghanistan. If making protection of the civilian population is paramount, it is a role for local police, not U.S. military. Local police are the ones who back off in hostage situations.

The U.S. military has been used as an all-purpose workforce in Iraq and Afghanistan engaging in nation building, diplomacy, construction, propaganda, local police work, and occasionally, true military actions.

Many have noted recently that the number of bandsmen (guys who play musical instruments) in the U.S. military exceeds the total worldwide staff of the U.S. state Department. I have two reactions to that: get rid of the bandsmen except for the two ceremonial units at West Point and the Old Guard and hire more State Department people. Put them in Iraq. Let them withdraw from areas where they get shot at by Afghan civilians in houses.

Ordering U.S. military to withdraw whenever the enemy manages to pick firing position in a house is absurd. It guarantees increased U.S. dead and wounded and makes it impossible to win the war.

Taliban who escaped dressed as women

After McChrystal announced his new policy, a group of Taliban were cornered in a house that also had civilians. The Marines let the women leave then went in to get the Taliban. There was no one there. They had departed earlier dressed as women.

Is this McChrystal’s fault? I suspect it might not have happened before his new policy. He said to be biased against civilian casualties. The enemy took advantage of that precisely as I predicted.

But the main issue is the Marine officer in command of the operation on the scene. He’s a @#$%^&* idiot. I predict his name will never be released and although he may lose his job for a while, if he manages to avoid another episode of public stupidity, he will have a long career in the Marines.

During the Korean War, a bunch of Americans were captured by the North Koreans. Two saw an opportunity to escape. They turned off the trail the other POWs were on but continued to walk at the same pace because they were visible in sparsely vegetated terrain and did not want to attract attention. They were about to reach a spot where they could hide on the other side of a hill when another American officer spoted them and yelled, “Hey guys! We’re going this way!” The North Koreans then spotted the would-be escapees and beat the crap out of them. After the war, one of the Americans who got beaten was reunited with the dumbest captain in earth. After being released at the end of the Korean War, he had stayed in the Army for a career and was then a colonel.

It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure—and made more so by the profound stupidity of many U.S. military officers.

Officers who specialize in Afghanistan

I have also seen a media report that McChrystal wants to have many, many officers specialize in Afghanistan so they will be more effective there. They would even be working on Afghanistan when they were in the U.S.

Well, duh. That’s only about a century overdue.

At many of my Web articles about the military, I have criticized the military’s practice of reassigning officers to a new location and job every one to three years. I said it belies their claim to be “professionals” by making them nomadic, intercontinental temps who are jacks of various bureaucratic chores but masters of none. It is also a horrific thing to do to the families of the military personnel in question. Here is a list of those articles

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Selfless warriors
Is there any such thing as military expertise?
John T. Reed's review of I love a Man in Uniform
John T. Reed's review of Question Of Loyalty by Douglas Waller
Should you go to, or stay at, West Point by John T. Reed

The military has been so in love with this nonsense for so long that they have regarded it as more important than winning wars since the Korean War. The prior approach during war time was that military personnel go “over there” and the “don’t come back until it’s over over there.” When we did that, we won all our wars. Since we started trying to rotate during wars as we did in peacetime, we have lost all our wars. Duh!

I wonder, though, if McChrystal is not exceeding his authority. What he proposes would radically change the way the Army operates.

The Afghan officers would be hitching their career wagon to McChrystal’s star. I can see where that would help McChrystal, but it would be a big gamble for all concerned. And what do the non-Afghanistan officers do? Become Iraq specialists? OK. But don’t we need some expertise in Bosnia, Europe, Asia, and Latin America, too? And what happens to those guys careerwise? Who gets picked for chief of staff and other top Pentagon positions in the future? Does a guy who devoted his career to Afghanistan get to be NATO commander? Would promising guys who got assigned to the Afghan beat leave the Army when we withdraw from Afghanistan?

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a good idea. It might also include moving families to a safe place near Afghanistan so they could visit more often.

What I am skeptical of is the vast Army bureaucracy becoming less process oriented and more results oriented. Career Army personnel, for all their talk about being “warrior”s and war planning, actually want the sinecure of the peacetime Army. At my article about whether one should go to West Point, I tell about the use of the phrase “the real Army,” as in when someone complains about their current military assignment in the Army, some career guy in the conversation always protests, “But this isn’t the real Army. This is the airborne, or Panama, or whatever. Once, I heard a lifer say, “But this isn’t the real army. This is war time.”


Also, when I analyzed West Point graduates getting out of the Army within five to ten years rather than staying for a 20 or more year career, I saw that the pattern was that West Pointers got out more in war time than in peace time.

Huh!? again.

What the Army needs to some real warriors who join during war time then get the hell out during peace time, like, uh, World War II, which we won in less than four years.

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If you’re wondering how the Army could be “professional” doing that, I conclude you must not have read the above article. How’s about we lose words like “professional” and “warrior” and start using words like “results” and “victory?”

I appreciate informed, well-thought-out constructive criticism and suggestions. If there are any errors or omissions in my facts or logic, please tell me about them. If you are correct, I will fix the item in question. If you wish, I will give you credit. Where appropriate, I will apologize for the error. To date, I have been surprised at how few such corrections I have had to make.