As New Afghanistan Commander Sails Toward Confirmation, Key Torture Questions Go Unasked
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The Pat Tillman Case: "I would do this differently if I had the chance"
The second skeleton, completely overlooked in Tuesday's confirmation hearing, involves assassination legacies. The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), led by McChrystal, contained within it a distinctive assassination unit that reported directly to Dick Cheney. According to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh, this unit was responsible for the elimination of "high value" targets in a dozen countries. The day after McChrystal's appointment was announced, Hersh explained to Gulf News Cheney's method of rationalizing the killings. "In Cheney's view this isn't murder, but carrying out the "war on terror," " Hersh said. "And in the view of me and my friends, including people in government, this is crazy. The vice president is committing a crime. You can't authorize the murder of people."
"The former head of JSOC has just been named the new commander in charge of the war in Afghanistan, which is very interesting to me," Hersh added.
Unsurprisingly, George W. Bush told the Washington Post in 2008 that JSOC "is awesome."
As if that all weren't enough, McChrystal was responsible for mischaracterizing the death of Pat Tillman -- the Arizona Cardinal cum Army Ranger who died at the hands of fellow U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan in 2004. Just after writing a Silver Star citation for Tillman, who McChrystal claimed died "in the line of devastating enemy fire," McChrystal sent a secret memo to top generals in which he indicated the chances of Tillman's death by fratricide were high. In the memo, McChrystal warned of "public embarrassment" if the president publicly honored Tillman as a hero slain by enemy forces.
Tillman's father Pat Tillman Sr. recently criticized McChrystal for the mishandling of his son's death. "I do believe that guy participated in a falsified homicide investigation," Tillman told AP on May 12. Mary Tillman has also said it is "imperative" that McChrystal be rigorously questioned before his formal appointment.
In Tuesday's hearing, McChrystal apologized to the Tillman family for "confusion" surrounding the death of their son. "I'm very sorry for that," he said.
"I would do this differently if I had the chance again," he added later.
Occurring just days after President Obama vowed to block the release of Abu Ghraib rape photos he called "not particularly sensational," the confirmation of Stanley McChrystal represents the latest installment in a disappointing jumble of Bush-era policy inheritances. The brutalities that transpired under McChrystal's watch must be accounted for. If Obama refuses to acknowledge McChrystal's skeletons, they will end up in his closet.