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Is Obama's New Afghan Commander a Violator of the Geneva Conventions?

Allegations emerge that Gen. Stanley McChrystal oversaw secret prisons that violated human rights laws.

According to reliable intelligence sources in Washington, General Stanley McChrystal, slated to become the top American commander in Afghanistan, directed an entity known as the Terrorist Screen Center (TSC) in Iraq in 2003, which held Iraqi suspects in secret facilities in violation of the Geneva Conventions requirement that the Red Cross have access to all detainees.

The TSC existed before the Abu Ghraib prison scandal exploded in 2004, during a period when the United States, as an occupying power, fell under the Geneva obligation to provide Red Cross access.

McChrystal's appointment could be threatened if an investigation establishes his direction over the secret facilities. Under international law, delayed access for the Red Cross can be justified only due to a "military necessity," such as extreme battlefield conditions, a far different scenario from detaining and interrogating prisoners in secret locations.

McChrystal has been reprimanded by the Pentagon before. A 2007 Pentagon investigation found McChrystal responsible for falsifying a claim that blamed the 2004 death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman on "devastating enemy fire." Tillman died of friendly fire.

In addition, Bob Woodward's 2008 book The War Within describes McChrystal as responsible for running a "top secret" 2006 program of extra-judicial killings of alleged Iraqi insurgents. Nearly all of McChrystal's five-year tenure in Iraq was spent in clandestine operations.


Ed. Note: The following article by Gareth Porter from IPS offers background on McChrystal's troubling military career.

US choice hardly McChrystal clear
By Gareth Porter, IPS News

  WASHINGTON - The choice of Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal to become the new United States commander in Afghanistan has been hailed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and national news media as ushering in a new unconventional approach to counter-insurgency.

But McChrystal's background sends a very different message from the one claimed by Gates and the news media. His long specialization in counter-terrorism operations suggests an officer who is likely to have more interest in targeted killings than in the kind of politically sensitive counter-insurgency program that the Barack Obama administration has said it intends to carry out.

In announcing the extraordinary firing of General David McKiernan and the nomination of McChrystal to replace him, Gates said that the mission in Afghanistan "requires new thinking and new approaches by our military leaders" and praised McChrystal for his "unique skill set in counter-insurgency".

Media reporting on the choice of McChrystal simply echoed the Pentagon's line. The Washington Post said his selection "marks the continued ascendancy of officers who have pressed for the use of counter-insurgency tactics, in Iraq and Afghanistan, that are markedly different from the Army's traditional doctrine".

The New York Times cited unnamed "Defense Department officials" in reporting, "His success in using intelligence and firepower to track and kill insurgents, and his training in unconventional warfare that emphasizes the need to protect the population, made him the best choice for the command in Afghanistan."

The Wall Street Journal suggested that McChrystal was the kind of commander who would "fight the kind of complex counter-insurgency warfare" that Gates wants to see in Afghanistan, because his command of special operations forces in Iraq had involved "units that specialize in guerilla warfare, including the training of indigenous armies".

But these explanations for the choice of McChrystal equate his command of the special operations forces with expertise on counter-insurgency, despite the fact that McChrystal spent his past five years as a commander of special operations forces focusing overwhelmingly on counter-terrorism operations, not on counter-insurgency.

Whereas counter-insurgency operations are aimed primarily at influencing the population and are primarily non-military, counter-terrorism operations are exclusively military and focus on targeting the "enemy".

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