The general likes ‘Team America’ and hates Joe Biden: Seven things you didn’t know about Stanley McChrystal

Mike Riggs Contributor
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Washington is abuzz with news that President Obama has called Gen. Stanley McChrystal to the White House after reading an issue of Rolling Stone in which McChrystal made fun of Joe Biden and attacked his diplomatic counterpart in Afghanistan. The profile, written by Michael Hastings, is meaty and worth reading. We offer you these morsels to whet your appetite:

1. McChrystal likes South Park humor

“The general’s staff is a handpicked collection of killers, spies, geniuses, patriots, political operators and outright maniacs. There’s a former head of British Special Forces, two Navy Seals, an Afghan Special Forces commando, a lawyer, two fighter pilots and at least two dozen combat veterans and counterinsurgency experts. They jokingly refer to themselves as Team America, taking the name from the South Park-esque sendup of military cluelessness, and they pride themselves on their can-do attitude and their disdain for authority.”

In addition to a scene in which puppets copulate, “Team America” is famous for a retarded Matt Damon, a speech-impeded Kim Jong-il, and a theme song advocating behaviors that are still illegal in at least 13 states.

2. McChrystal holds grudges

“By far the most crucial – and strained – relationship is between McChrystal and Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador. According to those close to the two men, Eikenberry – a retired three-star general who served in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2005 – can’t stand that his former subordinate is now calling the shots. He’s also furious that McChrystal, backed by NATO’s allies, refused to put Eikenberry in the pivotal role of viceroy in Afghanistan, which would have made him the diplomatic equivalent of the general. The job instead went to British Ambassador Mark Sedwill – a move that effectively increased McChrystal’s influence over diplomacy by shutting out a powerful rival.”

McChrystal was most likely responding to a leaked document from Eikenberry’s office which criticized McChrystal’s relationship with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.

3. McChrystal hates Joe Biden

The two have been at odds for last year over the most effective approach to Afghanistan. After Biden called for withdrawing the troops and focusing on counter-terrorism, McChrystal publicly bashed his judgment. The move earned him a personal rebuke from the president. While preparing to deliver a speech to a French military academy and the inevitable questions about McChrystal’s relationship with Biden writes Michael Hastings, “[the general] and his staff imagine the general dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner. ‘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?'”

4. McChrystal isn’t very romantic

“The night after his speech in Paris, McChrystal and his staff head to Kitty O’Shea’s, an Irish pub catering to tourists, around the corner from the hotel. His wife, Annie, has joined him for a rare visit: Since the Iraq War began in 2003, she has seen her husband less than 30 days a year. Though it is his and Annie’s 33rd wedding anniversary, McChrystal has invited his inner circle along for dinner and drinks at the ‘least Gucci’ place his staff could find. His wife isn’t surprised. ‘He once took me to a Jack in the Box when I was dressed in formalwear,’ she says with a laugh.”

That is just sad.

5. McChrystal is an artist

“McChrystal wound up ranking 298 out of a class of 855 [at West Point], a serious underachievement for a man widely regarded as brilliant. His most compelling work was extracurricular: As managing editor of the Pointer, the West Point literary magazine, McChrystal wrote seven short stories that eerily foreshadow many of the issues he would confront in his career.”

6. McChrystal loves Kung-Fu

“He carries a custom-made set of nunchucks in his convoy engraved with his name and four stars, and his itinerary often bears a fresh quote from Bruce Lee. (‘There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.’)”

But has he seen the new Karate Kid?

7. McChrystal doesn’t stand by his own policies

“The general frequently finds himself apologizing for the disastrous consequences of counterinsurgency. In the first four months of this year, NATO forces killed some 90 civilians, up 76 percent from the same period in 2009 – a record that has created tremendous resentment among the very population that COIN theory is intent on winning over. In February, a Special Forces night raid ended in the deaths of two pregnant Afghan women and allegations of a coverup, and in April, protests erupted in Kandahar after U.S. forces accidentally shot up a bus, killing five Afghans. ‘We’ve shot an amazing number of people,’ McChrystal recently conceded.”