My Share of the Task – Book Review

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

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I did not always agree with what General Stanley McChrystal said or did, but the man had an impressive military career and he did tick Obama off. Points for that. He’s a gentleman through and through, but he damns Obama in the handling of Afghanistan. No question about it and rightly so.

Obama’s promises concerning curtailing the war and his handling of it were bogus. Incompetence, arrogance and corruptness have shown through at every turn of his handling the war. In the end, he gave victory to the Jihadists and that was not by mistake or accident. It was planned for in my opinion. And Obama has surrounded himself with some of the creepiest, most corrupt and incompetent goons in history. The criminality is breathtaking.

McChrystal’s understanding of the war was to the point:

But his administration wasn’t quite up to the task. McChrystal recounts a meeting of the president and his senior staff, which the general joined via teleconference from Afghanistan. “I began the briefing by explaining the mission as I understood it: ‘Defeat the Taliban. Secure the population,’” he writes. “It prompted a participant on the other screen to ask why I interpreted our mission as requiring the destruction or eradication of the Taliban.” The following day, McChrystal presented “the sources from which we’d derived the mission we’d used for our assessment, including the president’s public speeches and the marching orders that flowed from the administration’s March strategy review” — which clearly mandated defeat of the Taliban. That information, he concluded, “seemed to surprise some of the participants in the session.”

There was an ongoing disagreement (if you can call it by that mild a term) on the number of troops deployed in order to win the conflict. Not having enough boots on the ground and the freedom to actually fight a war, guarantees the loss of any confrontation. Not even McChrystal is sure that we will prevail in Afghanistan. I’ll take it a step further – we won’t.

Having said that, I am deeply impressed with McChrystal’s career and his accomplishments. His book is very well written and those who enjoy military history and biographies will enjoy this memoir immensely. It is being passed around our household and it is jealously coveted. I salute and honor General McChrystal and his life. He served with honor and dignity. He was a renowned military leader and is an honorable man.

Here is a summary of the book from Penguin which sums up the book in grand style:

“Never shall I fail my comrades. . . . I will shoulder more than my share of the task, whatever it may be, one hundred percent and then some.” — from the Ranger Creed

In early March 2010, General Stanley McChrystal, the commanding officer of all U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, walked with President Hamid Karzai through a small rural bazaar. As Afghan townspeo­ple crowded around them, a Taliban rocket loudly thudded into the ground some distance away. Karzai looked to McChrystal, who shrugged. The two leaders continued greeting the townspeople and listening to their views.

That trip was typical of McChrystal’s entire career, from his first day as a West Point plebe to his last day as a four-star general. The values he has come to be widely admired for were evident: a hunger to know the truth on the ground, the courage to find it, and the humility to listen to those around him. Even as a senior commander, McChrystal stationed him­self forward, and frequently went on patrols with his troops to experience their challenges firsthand.

In this illuminating memoir, McChrystal frankly explores the major episodes and controversies of his eventful career. He delves candidly into the intersection of history, leadership, and his own experience to produce a book of enduring value.

Joining the troubled post-Vietnam army as a young officer, McChrystal witnessed and participated in some of our military’s most difficult struggles. He describes the many outstanding leaders he served with and the handful of bad leaders he learned not to emulate. He paints a vivid portrait of the traditional military establishment that turned itself, in one gen­eration, into the adaptive, resilient force that would soon be tested in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the wider War on Terror.

McChrystal spent much of his early career in the world of special operations, at a time when these elite forces became increasingly effective—and necessary. He writes of a fight waged in the shadows by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which he led from 2003 to 2008. JSOC became one of our most effective counterterrorism weapons, facing off against Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Over time, JSOC gathered staggering amounts of intelligence in order to find and remove the most influential and dangerous terrorists, including the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The hunt for Zarqawi drives some of the most grip­ping scenes in this book, as McChrystal’s team grappled with tricky interrogations, advanced but scarce technology, weeks of unbroken surveillance, and agonizing decisions.

McChrystal brought the same energy to the war in Afghanistan, where the challenges loomed even larger. His revealing account draws on his close relationships with Afghan leaders, giving readers a unique window into the war and the country.

Ultimately, My Share of the Task is about much more than war and peace, terrorism and counterin­surgency. As McChrystal writes, “More by luck than design, I’d been a part of some events, organizations, and efforts that will loom large in history, and more that will not. I saw selfless commitment, petty politics, unspeakable cruelty, and quiet courage in places and quantities that I’d never have imagined. But what I will remember most are the leaders.”

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2 thoughts on “My Share of the Task – Book Review

  1. “I salute and honor General McChrystal and his life. He served with honor and dignity. He was a renowned military leader and is an honorable man.”
    . . .
    I disagree. McChrystal’s sense of honor is a bit tarnished. His memoir promises to “frankly explore the major episodes and controversies of his eventful career.” However, despite McChrystal’s vaunted “candor,” he whitewashes or ignores all the controversies of his career.

    McChrystal has said, “The one thing you can never, and should never want to dodge, is responsibility.” However, he has “dodged” responsibility for his role in “Gitmotizing” Abu Gharib, for the routine use of torture by JSOC forces under his command, for his strategically flawed Afghan War “surge,” for the “Rolling Stone” profile that got him fired, and for his central role in the cover-up of Pat Tillman’s 2004 friendly-fire death in Afghanistan.

    McChrystal claims that detainee abuse was the work of a “few bad apples” and that he “never condoned mistreatment of detainees.” However, as Joint Staff VDJ3 it appears McChrystal was involved in importing torture to Iraq by sending Gen. Geoffrey Miller to “Gitmotize” Abu Gharib and by sending SERE instructors to teach torture techniques. After taking command of JSOC, instead of reducing torture, McChrystal approved more techniques until he was ordered to stop most of them after the Abu Gharib scandal (but JSOC didn’t fully clean up its act until the end of 2005). Senator Russ Feingold said, “I am concerned about General McChrystal’s public testimony, which sought to convey that he was ‘‘uncomfortable’’ with various interrogation techniques and sought to ‘‘reduce’’ their use. Given the full history of his approach to interrogations, this testimony appears to be incomplete, at best.”

    McChrystal only briefly describes the 2003 capture of Saddam Hussein. However, he failed to credit the Tikrit Delta team & interrogator Eric Maddox (“Mission Black List #1”) for their efforts which directly led to Saddam’s capture (perhaps because it would raise questions about the role of torture in the death of a key detainee who had a “heart attack” at Camp Nama which resulted in Maddox “facing a dead end”).

    McChrystal’s “inside story” of the interrogations that directly led to the 2006 killing of Abu Zarqawi totally contradicts the accounts of Marc Bowden’s article “The Ploy” (“the real story is more complicated and interesting”), Mark Urban’s book “Task Force Black” (“multiple sources have confirmed to me the accuracy of Bowden’s article”), and Matthew Alexander’s book “How to Break A Terrorist” (“We found Zarqawi in spite of the way the task force did business”). In reality, Alexander used rapport to get the key intel in a few hours that JSOC’s “best” interrogators had failed to get in three weeks using “old-school” methods!

    It appears that McChrystal whitewashed how President Obama was “boxed into” his Afghan War troop “surge,” the failure of his strategically flawed COIN strategy, and his firing by President Obama (he claims he “resigned’) after a controversial profile was published in “Rolling Stone” magazine (he still declines to “confirm or deny” the accuracy of the quotes and implies they were off-the record); for the reporter’s side of the story, see Michael Hasting’s book “The Operators”).

    In April 2011, just after McChrystal was “cleared” (the IG report is a joke) by the Pentagon’s NYT reporter Thom Shanker of “all wrongdoing” in the “Rolling Stone” controversy, President Obama appointed him to head up the “Joining Forces” program to support military veterans and their families. In response, Mary Tillman (Pat’s mother) said, “It’s a slap in the face to appoint this man” … “He deliberately helped cover up Pat’s death”… someone who has a heartfelt desire to help families would not have been involved in the cover-up of a soldier’s death…”

    McChrystal claims it’s a “misperception” there was a cover-up of Tillman’s death. However, his account is disingenuous and doesn’t withstand informed scrutiny. In reality, General McChrystal played a central role in the Army’s cover up of Pat Tillman’s 2004 friendly fire death in Afghanistan. Although McChrystal was told of confirmed fratricide within two days, he intentionally failed in his duty to pass on notification to the family, he supervised and approved a fraudulent Silver Star recommendation, and he apparently directed others to conceal friendly fire from the medical examiner.
    . . .
    This past Memorial Day, I spoke with Mary Tillman and she said seeing McChrystal on the news was “like rubbing salt in a wound.” Unfortunately, this old general just won’t fade away; now he’s making the rounds of the talk show circuit peddling his book.

    In the past, I used to have a grudging respect for McChrystal when he remained silent and simply refused comment on the Pat Tillman story. But, if McChrystal won’t come clean, I feel he ought to take the advice of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who (according to David Sanders on page 107 of “Confront & Conceal”) offered up a barbed assessment of how the White House had “spun” the Bin Laden raid: “I have a new communications approach to recommend … Shut … up.”

    Note: For more details, see the post, “Never Shall I Fail My Comrades” — The Dark Legacy of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, at the Feral Firefighter blog.
    . . .

  2. Pingback: Gen Stanley McChrystal, Oops, McKiller and I | elcidharth

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