Who Is Stanley McChrystal?

May 15 2009 @ 3:38pm

MCCHRYSTAL1StefanZaklin:Getty

An interesting piece from someone who once served under him and clearly worships him. Read it all. Money quote:

Obviously writing from the seat of retirement, and with absolute respect and gratefulness for

LTG McChrystal’s aggressive leadership, personable demeanor, and unwavering mentoring, I envy the guys that are soon to find themselves sharing the same mess hall, weight room, and helicopter as The Pope. The man is unstoppable. Demonstrably more committed than most. More open, in fact insistent, on creative and innovative ideas from his subordinates to fight the war on terror. From my perspective, our rules of land warfare, our respect for human life, and our strategic constraints handcuff us to the point that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable. But, with LTG McChrystal at the helm now all bets are off.

That last sentence suggests that McChrystal disagrees with the customary "respect for human life" demanded of the US military. McChrystal's past is mysterious but there is little doubt that he was deeply involved in one of the worst torture outfits in Iraq, Camp "Nama", an acronym for "Nasty Ass Military Area". The key sources for what went on at Nama are a NYT story here, and a Human Rights Watch report here. Two prisoners were tortured to death in this place. It was extremely closely monitored, with records of all sorts of torture and abuse, and yet there are also extensive stories of abuse that went well outside even the torture techniques approved by Cheney and Rumsfeld. Remember also that Iraq was, even by the standards of the Bush administration, supposed to be under the Geneva Conventions. The camp's record has been shrouded in secrecy from the beginning.

Nama housed the "black room" – a torture cell:

The black room was 12 by 12 [feet]. It was painted black floor to ceiling. The door was black, everything was black. It had speakers in the corners, all four corners, up at the ceiling. It had a small table in one of the corners, and maybe some chairs. But usually in the black room nobody was sitting down. It was standing, stress positions, and so forth. The table would be for the boom box and the computer. We patched it into the speakers and made the noise and stuff. Most of the harsh interrogations were in that room. . . . Sleep deprivation, environmental controls, hot and cold, water.

There was also a yard for freezing and beating naked prisoners:

He was stripped naked, put in the mud and sprayed with the hose, with very cold hoses, in February. At night it was very cold. They sprayed the cold hose and he was completely naked in the mud, you know, and everything. [Then] he was taken out of the mud and put next to an air conditioner. It was extremely cold, freezing, and he was put back in the mud and sprayed. This happened all night. Everybody knew about it. People walked in, the sergeant major and so forth, everybody knew what was going on, and I was just one of them, kind of walking back and forth seeing [that] this is how they do things.

The abuse was so severe – two prisoners were murdered in the course of torturing them – in this camp that even Stephen Cambone tried to shut it down. And yet it remained functioning before and after the Abu Ghraib scandal, clear irrefutable evidence that Abu Ghraib was policy. At Nama, most of the torturers and soldiers were referred to by their first names, and anonymity was rampant. The Red Cross visited some camps in the Iraq war but not Camp Nama. Here is an excerpt from the interview Human Rights Watch did with a soldier who was an eye-witness to the torture and abuse at the camp:

HRW: Was there any discussion of the Red Cross coming?

Yeah, they said that the Red Cross would never be able to get in there at all.

Abuse.184 HRW: Why would somebody bring that up?

I think because the Red Cross and a couple other agencies were going around different places around Iraq, different facilities, and they were getting access. So somebody brought it up to somebody else. I think the colonel, or somebody in charge. You know, will they come here? It was the colonel, yeah. And he said absolutely not.

Jeff explained that the colonel told them that he "had this directly from General McChrystal and the Pentagon that there's no way that the Red Cross could get in." Jeff did not question the colonel further on how these assurances were given to those in command in CampNama.

He explained that they were told: "they just don't have access, and they won't have access, and they never will. This facility was completely closed off to anybody investigating. Even Army investigators."

This witness also saw McChrystal visiting Nama:

Jeff said that he did see Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. Joint Special Operations forces in Iraq, visiting the Nama facility on several occasions. "I saw him a couple of times. I know what he looks like."

What are the odds that McChrystal will be asked about his knowledge of Camp Nama in his confirmation hearings? And why would Barack Obama appoint someone whose line of command made him directly responsible for a place that made Abu Ghraib look like the Brookings Institution?